As the dotcom recession slipped into our rear-view mirror, who was to know that Amazon would mature into the place to buy almost anything. All supported by the finest logistics our planet has ever seen. They have evolved from selling books to delivering most anything the same day. Amazon’s growth is due not only to its huge selection and seamless checkout, it also makes sure the product arrives at your doorstep when you want it. Just like your local pipe and supply house. Yes?
I remember in the early twenty-teens when Amazon was opening Amazon Supply to go after builder trade customers. They were preparing to gain market share in segments successfully worked by Home Depot, Grainger and local building product supply houses. Amazon was focused and this market was going to be disrupted. Then simple physics intervened.
So, for giggles, I went to www.amazon.com and ordered an American Standard Estate elongated two-piece toilet. The order was processed just as my kindle e-book orders and it would arrive in three days.
On the third day, our local UPS driver, Pete, pulled up in front of our home and he did not look happy. In fact, he scowled at me as he ventured back into his truck to get my order. Pete emerged with one box on his dolly and it was clinking all the way to my door. Only the bowl arrived on this shipment and it was in many, many pieces. Pete looked at me and asked, what the *&#$! Why are you ordering a china toilet from Amazon? I explained myself, gave him a nice box of homemade chocolate chip cookies and we remained friends.
Over the next three days two shattered tanks arrived. It was a complete mess. The military have a term for it: A clusterf***. As great as Amazon was then, and is now, they still cannot and will not deliver a toilet. To my knowledge, if one orders a water closet, bathtub, cabinet or large ceramic sink, that order is handled by a local supply house. A local supply house that knows how to inventory, transport and deliver toilets, vanities, large bathtubs and all those fragile products that make our bathrooms and kitchens special.
With this crucial advantage, why do we not see supply house showrooms touting their amazing delivery services? A service that Amazon cannot do!
I constantly hear and see local appliance and furniture companies emphatically stating they offer their ultra-special white glove delivery service with every purchase. In fact, national brands such as Room & Board charge extra for their Full-Service Delivery.
Today’s consumers in the B2B and B2C worlds are obsessed with deliveries. Customers state that the cost, quality and versatility of freight are significant reasons they purchase from certain companies. Customers demand that their products arrive on time and in perfect condition. If a vendor cannot guarantee this, people will simply shop elsewhere. This is common knowledge in the growing e-commerce world and supply house showrooms have been handling special products successfully for decades. So why keep it quiet?
When was the last time you marketed that you offer personal delivery to a job site when the product is needed? Have you taken the time to proudly educate your entire target market that they can hold all their special ordered products for their custom, two kitchen, three bar, seven bathroom home until the builder is ready for each individual product? I dare you to order anything from Amazon and ask them to hold it for three to five months, and then make partial shipments as you request. Amazon can get it there fast but Amazon cannot hold a product then deliver it to your job site the day after its customer calls to release that shipment.
The last mile
Even with software eating the world, the last mile remains an expensive, labor intensive problematic customer demand. To date, all the software, algorithm and artificial intelligence gurus have not created a viable solution that replaces the system you have created for your business.
In the kitchen and bath industry, supply houses own the last mile. But, this point of pride and talent is rarely marketed and I think that it is a significant missed opportunity. Yes, your good plumbers and builders know you deliver but do they always factor that into the price equation when they are comparing prices from Flush.com? Does the design trade know you will hold and deliver individual products as needed? How would wealthy, design-conscious homeowners know?
Of course, some of your competitors offer similar storage and delivery programs but the first one to align their brand with best-in-class handling and delivery service will own the top spot. We humans have a number of biases built into our individual firmware and Anchor Bias tells marketers that people wholeheartedly believe and trust their first successful encounter with a brand. Why should I change if the company I am working with is delivering products on time and in pristine condition? It takes an incredible amount of energy and an extra special program to change a customer’s mind.
Now is the time to remind and educate your market as to your fabulous, industry-best product handling and delivery service. Collect testimonials from your good clients raving about your on-time delivery. Share images on social media sites of your fleet of trucks and inventories being stored at no cost for upcoming and ongoing jobs. Post pictures of your drivers delivering packages to jobs. In many ways your drivers are the face of your brand on the job. Celebrate that service and those patient people. There is marketing gold int he last miles, and you own it. Please, do not keep it a secret.
As Max Bialystock screams. “That's it baby, when you got it, flaunt it.”
Jeffrey Valles is a Decorative Plumbing and Hardware Association Lifetime Fellow. If you would like to discuss this in more depth, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.