Mobile Apps for Building Product Manufacturers

During one of our Construct Knowledge Series Webinars, an editor asserted that 75% of information would be gathered via a smart phone in the future. I do think this is a trend to watch as the mobile space becomes more widely adopted. However, as you know, building and construction is an industry that is typically a laggard in terms of embracing new technologies. While apps are the cool trendy thing to do, here is some info to support pausing any development of mobile applications:

I recently asked one of our architectural advisory board members who is very keen on industry trends (Susie Spivey from TVS Design) if she, her colleagues and industry friends are using apps developed by BPMs. She said not at all, she isn’t seeing it yet and despite the "wow factor", thinks it’s a wasted investment. She said the recession hasn’t helped this fact in that many large firms like TVS are no longer covering expenses for employee phones. Meaning two things: 1) the user is less likely to download a work-related application onto their personal device and 2) they are less likely to have a high-tech phone that supports apps like the iPhone since the employer isn’t footing the bill.

Susie pulled out her phone which was an older model blackberry and said she suspects about 3/4 of the staff at TVS has a device like hers or older – meaning they couldn’t even download an app if they wanted to. She said there is still only a very small % of her peers that own an iPhone. So while mobile apps are trendy and might contribute to brand awareness on some level (something to talk about, a reason to engage your customers - “have you tried our visualization/calculator/etc. app?”), the reality is mobile applications are not being used widely and not yet a viable means of getting your products specified. Susie said she has seen some cool and fascinating apps released by big international manufacturers, however the functionality has not caught up with the technology yet and until this happens, the A+D community will be content looking up products, specs and gathering info via traditional methods such as manufacturer websites or internal libraries.

That’s a good overview on the A+D perspective toward mobile apps, but what about contractors who are out on construction sites and away from their computer a lot? Seems like it would be a good fit for this segment, but it isn’t yet. To quantify the trend of specifiers using the mobile space, we asked about the professional use of mobile devices among contractors in a recent survey. You may recall an email from me about the industry study we just completed “targeting the contractor in 2011”. Here’s what we found:

None of the contractors who responded to the survey are using their mobile phones during the course of their work and only 3% use a laptop. When they are accessing electronic tools provided by a manufacturer, whether it is a stand-alone application, a widget or program on the manufacturer website, they are using them while they are in the office on their computer (82%).

If you are a building product manufacturer considering allocating some of your marketing budget toward development of a slick new mobile application, remember that unless your target audience includes consumers, your customers are not likely to be using apps at this time. Simply put, your resources are better spent elsewhere.

ted hettick

director of client development
business analyst

FUNCTION: we’re into building things through marketing, design and public relations

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