At a time when competition to win business is great, keeping abreast of new product innovation and understanding the benefits for customers is crucial to ensuring that value added service. Here, Lee Dunderdale, Product Manager at Aggregate Industries, discusses why, in terms of maximising sales of packed cement, a diverse product range supported with informed consultancy are key to success.
When it comes to cement, it might be all too easy to assume that there is little in the way of scope for innovation. How different, after all, can one bag of cement be from another?
However, the reality can, in fact, be rather a lot of difference. In recent years the global cement industry has continued to reinvent itself. From the use of better materials to fulfil more sophisticated specification requirements, through to the emergence of low-carbon options to deliver optimised sustainability, and more, the sector is evolving rapidly to meet the needs of a changing world – and to disregard this means missing out on beneficial innovations.
Here in the UK, one of the challenges is that the cement market can be quite traditional. Typically, a builder or contractor will turn up to their local merchant and tend to ask for the same type or brand of cement that they have used time and time again, safe in the knowledge that it will effectively get the job done.
However, while standard staple buys may take up a majority share, it is equally important that merchants also stock and actively recommend a wide range of application or solution-based products too. For the customer, benefits can include improved performance, ease of application and general added value while, in turn, merchants can benefit from a boosted revenue stream.
The good news is that in pre-empting the need for greater product diversification, recent years have seen leading manufacturers invest in new cement products designed to fulfil niche issues. Take, for example, the introduction of sulphate resistant cement specifically developed to negate the impact of increased sulphate exposure in underground and marine environments, through to the beautiful white pigment cement designed to seamlessly blend in with architectural cast stone. The list goes on.
At Aggregate Industries this year alone we’ve recently launched three new high specification packed cement products specifically designed to fulfil a range of emerging customer requirements and make their lives easier.
This includes our new 40N strength High Performance Concrete which offers the perfect solution for forming the base for domestic garages and driveways, alongside our 15N strength Instant Concrete which is ideal for garden sheds, greenhouses and domestic footpaths and steps that require quick setting. With no mixing required and available in 20kg bags, both products are quick, easy and ready to use – making the lives of builders and contractors as hassle-free as possible.
The final new high-spec product, Premium Cement is a 42,5N cement made from a higher specification material, specially designed for applications that require extra strength such as steps, paths, concrete bases, and repair and maintenance projects.
To unlock the full packed cement opportunity, however, relies not just on offering choice but supporting it with sound, informed consultancy. While the internet has its role, it is still some way short of being able to build a genuine rapport with customers. It is the sheer level of product and industry knowledge that helps merchants to gain the trust of builders and contractors, and it is also what keeps them coming back for years to come.
With this in mind, merchants should be sure to ask what additional support is available from manufacturers, as this can really help when answering any queries customers might have about the products in stock. Here at Aggregate Industries, our support materials include easy-to-digest product information, safety sheets and technical information – and all of our merchant partners get a dedicated account manager who they can deal with direct for a speedier, more personal response.
As we look to the future of the cement industry, innovation is key to ensure we don’t fall behind where the rest of the world is moving towards. By taking stock of the latest innovation and taking the time to actively communicate the benefits to customers, merchants can play their part in helping ensure the road ahead for cement remains innovative, efficient and lucrative.