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Why New Building Products Need Built-In Data Analytics

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Curious about the state of new product development and what it means for those selling building materials, I recently attended Industry 2017, an annual fall conference organized by Product Collective, a Cleveland-based cooperative organization that’s focusing on the future of product management.

The event, held in Cleveland this year, is billed as “the Biggest Multi-Day Product Management Summit for People Who Build, Launch and Scale World-Class Products.”

My three big takeaways were, one, Jason Fried, CEO of Chicago-based project management software company Basecamp, is, admittedly, impressive. Two, Bob Moesta, CEO of the Detroit-based consulting company the Re-Wired Group, has a love of learning and an insatiable curiosity that creates a delightful dose of insight and genius. (He’s the guy who conceived the triangle on the fuel level indicator to indicate which side of the car the gas tank is on and deserves a special place in heaven.) And three, analytics soon may hold a greater place in product management than product managers.

What’s So Great About Data-Driven Analytics?

At the show I was amazed by the number of analytics vendors displaying their wares and expounding on their vast competitive differences. But their pitches weren’t nearly as compelling as seeing the differences between connected products and traditional, old-school counterparts.

And then this realization:

Products that don’t have analytics built into them are fundamentally missing a major sense. If product manufacturers can’t understand real-time product usage, they are essentially flying blind.

All the new technologies that we cherish use integrated analytics that gather insights from usage patterns to make improvements.

  • An iPhone updates its user experience with every major OS release.
  • Starbucks continuously makes it easier to order and pay for pickups.
  • Delta makes finding and buying flights a seamless experience.

All of these capabilities depend on analytics to explain what buyers are and aren’t doing.

Imagine if, in the near future, both buyers and sellers were to expect every product to be able to track these user experiences. That every product sold were to have some level of built-in analytics promising to make life easier, better or faster.

When you analyze how legacy products are being reimagined today, you see it time and again: User experiences are driving improvements to mainstream, old-school products.

You see it, too, when younger generations ask questions like, “Mom, what was it like before you had a frying pan that told you how to cook?” or “Why is our toaster burning my bread? Doesn’t it know the difference between a bagel and baguette?”

Consumers are beginning to expect that all products — and their manufacturers — be “aware” and willing to make improvements rapidly. They’ve moved beyond simply a shared partnership with products and brands to a state of entitlement: “I just got an upgrade to make my Tesla go faster. I wonder what took them so long.”

How Long Will It Take?

It’s a change that will happen at different paces in different sectors. Most every industrial product manufacturer is beginning to comprehend the Internet of Things (IoT). But for companies selling construction materials, analytics still can be an afterthought.

There’s no question that analytics-driven product improvements can revolutionize this industry too: Paint brushes that measure stroke and paint density to improve application. Hammers that log impact on different substrates to assure proper installation. Substrates that report their performance in different weather conditions. All of this data could help educate building product manufacturers and lead to improved installation, application and adaptive products.

The more the manufacturer knows about how their product is being used, the better that product will become, and the happier its buyers will be. And happier customers take delight in what products can do instead of being frustrated about what they can’t do. As customer loyalty strengthens, customers become brand advocates.

The company also gains the insights to better comprehend and market building products directly to users and to specifiers, which gives them access to significantly more insights to the benefits or downfalls of their products.

Why couldn’t a hammer comprehend its usage and congratulate the contractor like an Apple watch applauds the user on high-step days?

Or, why couldn’t supplies of industrial adhesive be programmed to reorder when almost empty? Imagine being the building materials supplier that never lets that happen.

Analytics provide the magic to drive insight and improvement that users no longer think of as magical but rather as an expectation to respond to and improve products based on daily usage.

Just think about how valuable that brand position will be for building products suppliers that figure this out.

For more Point To Point insights on new product development and how to tap into user-driven experiences in the construction segment, contact us.

Topics: Building Products Manufacturing