PODCASTS

Growing Commercial Sales Through E-to-E Digital Tools

Growing Commercial Sales Through E-to-E Digital Tools

Kip talk to Jean-Paul Hautekeer Of Dow_ Growing Commercial Sales Through E-to-E Digital Tools

 


 

Podcast Participants

Kip Rapp:  CEO Concora
Jean Paul:  President of Dow a global marketing and strategies company.

 

Kip:

Well, hello, Jean Paul I appreciate you joining us, and again, looking forward to talking with you. I know we talked, maybe a week or two ago; I don’t remember but just exciting to learn more about the digital journey and what you are all doing at your company to help your buyers out, both on, let’s say, the commercial and the consumer side. I know we talked about COVID and how that’s really put a spotlight on.  But they go through certainly a lot of challenges when I’ve talked to other people with COVID in their companies. So, if they’re residential, commercial and, common denominators are that everyone’s fairly scared of the unknown, and it’s almost been a year from now. And for the most part, I would say is everyone is grown really well out of it. And I’m really interested in hearing your digital story and how you guys manage through this once-in-a-lifetime type of epidemics.


Jean Paul:

Yeah, hopefully.


Kip:

Yeah hopefully. So, as we start, Jean Paul if you could just introduce yourself and what you do and what your company does?


Jean Paul:

Yeah, thank you, and really nice to have this conversation, and hopefully, it’ll help your “readers”. So, I’m

 

Jean Paul:

Hutkeeper, I’m a part of the global marketing and strategy team at Dow, and I’m in charge of the performance material division for defining market strategies into the building and infrastructure markets. I’m based in Zurich Horgan, Switzerland. It’s the European

headquarters of Dow, but I have a global responsibility for the market strategy. So, I’m working with a team in different regions to define the strategies, the type of products that we want to develop, how we sell now and, in the future, and of course, important aspects related to pricing and channels. A small introduction of Dow, I mean, Dow a big company, $39 billion so we are what we call the material science company. We are selling raw material, intermediates but also finished products in most of the main, what we call vertical markets in this world. Which is mobility, home personal care, electronic industries, consumer, and building infrastructure.

 

Kip:

Great. Yeah, and for the building materials piece of this, Jean Paul, is that a significant component of the revenue for Dow?

 

Jean Paul:

Yeah. The billing infrastructure, it’s one of the major markets’ verticals, along with mobility and one or two others. I mean, we also sell solutions into packaging, but yes, building infrastructure is an important market. In the division where I work, we are very much focused on silicone technologies and we sell product like sealants adhesives that are being used to assemble facade windows and doors, fenestration products, but also the material that are used to weatherproofing the buildings. We are not a glass manufacturer or an aluminum supplier, or a cement manufacturer. So, we don’t sell a lot of products, but the product tends to be very important because when you think about a high rise building or a glass facade, we are supplying the sealants, the bonding capabilities that bond the glass on the frame, the products that are being used to make insulating glass, so you don’t want those products to fail. So, they’re a small contributor in volume but a big contributor to the performance. What we are really trying to do basically, to try to be different, is we are not selling a product; we are selling a product and the service that come with it. So, we are successful is because we care, and we stand behind our products that go into that market vertical.

 

Kip:

Yeah, that’s awesome. I get a picture of all the sealants, the sticky stuff, and as you made it illustrative of, it’s very important for the building envelope, the facades, energy efficiency, sustainability, I would imagine, right? So, and just people don’t think about it a lot, but you could say has a tremendous impact on the overall construction of the building and the performance and security and sustainability are what I would imagine, right?

 

Jean Paul:

And think about leakages, so water leakages in a facade on a building that can destroy and disrupt for the glass, for the aluminum, and then for the heating or cooling system. So, because of our products, we get everything tight. And of course, the architects, they hopefully work with us because we know that our technology is durable. We are indeed just celebrating 50 years’ anniversary as we speak, that’s something we will launch I think next month. The oldest project that we had with what we call four-sided structural glazing is in Detroit, and it’s now 50 years. So same facade, same buildings, and still performing well. Of course, the glass does not deteriorate – actually, sometimes the product has to change and has to get to the new glazing system, but basically, we are not the weak link.


Kip:

So, it’s still in use after 50 years, is that what you said?

 

Jean Paul:

Yeah, yeah.


Kip:

Well, that’s amazing. You don’t hear that too much with products. We’ll good stuff, so in your role, you mentioned architects, and are those the main folks that you work with from a customer base, because it’s probably everyone in the design community but is the building owners and architects and developers or engineers, who are the people that are important to you?

 

Jean Paul:

Yeah. A fair amount of our solutions is going into a commercial building, whether it’s new or innovative. And of course, architects and consultants are a very important group of people that we work with at the specification and planning phase. Of course, when the specification is decided, then we will work with the fabricators and distributors to make sure that products are properly planed, purchased, delivered, and then installed. We are working with the fabricators and with our technical teams, right? To make sure that when they need us, we are there to support any questions they may have during the assembly. And of course, if there is any problem related to the use and assembly of our products, we are there to assist! So, we have what we call the project management system, which allows the value chain to contact us, and we are actually delivering project performance warranties. If we know the right product has been used, the right quality control being implemented during production, our customers can request and get a warranty which is both what typically you get from suppliers. And that has proven to be quite efficient because it’s kind of putting a little bit of a quality spin through the value chain to a point where sometimes we have the architects, who are asking, “Did you get the door warranty?” And if the constructor will say, no, they will say, but yeah, why? And of course, a warranty covers the performance of our product, so it’s still a small component, but because we have been able to check on the quality, you kind of ensure the quality of the old value chain. And that has proven to be viable by the building owner represented by the architects and also the consultants.

Kip:

And that, I guess, goes back to your other statement John Paul, with differentiating based on the services that you provide. So, this kind of sounded like you can enable the value chain with this project management system and also provide people that extra level of security with your extended warranty, where it becomes a standard, it sounds like with these architects? So that’s good. And when you are marketing, is it mostly the building material type of aspects or is there other products or other markets that you oversight?

Jean Paul:

Me personally, I’m in charge of building and infrastructure, globally but if you think about the silicone, they’re used in a wide area of application, right? So interestingly, the way the silicone that is used on the perimeter of the windows on a facade, if you take a smartphone and the most popular one, it’s being sealed by a smaller number of silicones. And for some of those smartphones, you can actually talk while taking a shower, and you can do that because there is a miracle silicone sealant that will not get the water inside your smartphone.

So, in the electronic appliances and mobility, it’s probably other markets where our technology is widely used. But I’m only dealing with building infrastructure, which is also, as you can imagine, taking a full part of my life.

 

Kip:

Yeah, I remember Dow. I guess what comes back to me is I’m in Walmart or something, and you see the pots and pans, right? And they have the silicone, but yeah, you are pervasive across all these important products, consumer electronics, mobility, building materials as we’re talking about today. And it’s quite fascinating if you don’t really think about it, but you say, wow, that’s all very, very important things that are extremely critical for people’s lives and in so many ways. So, do you have some residential parts of your marketing, or is it mostly commercial?

 

Jean Paul:

Well, no, it’s residential as well. When I say building infrastructure, it does actually include the consumer segments. So, the silicone tubes that you can buy from DIY main stores, the big DIYs are included. And in the residential, we do a lot in the fenestration, right? I mean, good windows are double glazed or triple glazed, and that means that the glass paints are assembled, some of them with silicone because we provide that durability. And those glass paints are basically glazed into vinyl or wood windows, and they also use silicone to get that assembled windows completely water and airtight. So that’s also included in our offering.

 

Kip:

Mm-hmm. And as far as, I guess, impact the business, is it mixed between residential and commercial or is there one that’s more revenue than the other?

 

Jean Paul:

I would say equal. I think it’s basically represented on what the market is. And what of course, will change through the construction economic cycle is the amount of renovation you have with new build. And of course, one of the key question marks on COVID is – is COVID unlikely to change the way we work, we live, and how an organization is being organized? So that’s something we are, of course following very closely. If there is any change in the way the industry work and the type of product, we want to be at the forefront so that we are ready when those needs come.

 

Kip:

Yeah, now that’s interesting. I kind of see with other people, Jean Paul, COVID having kind of a shock to the system, and some of that are permanent and for the better, right? And yeah, it’s interesting because based on the company I talked to and what they produce, you can see some of the impacts that’s happening from a value chain, a supply chain, how they do operations too, and I know we talked about this prior to COVID. I’d say, like most people, you do what you normally do in marketing or in sales, where it is a mixture of digital and traditional or analog, and are definitely interested in knowing more about what you all did before COVID happened and then how COVID really inspected this type of ED experience and this digital experience to think differently on how you engage your commercial buyers. So, I know that’s where we talked about last time.

 

Jean Paul:

Yeah. Obviously, building infrastructure is, I mean, if you compare that to an electronic and consumer appliance, consumer electronic, it’s a stable market, it’s a stable industry, so long lifecycle and relatively traditional, right? So, it was very much people-oriented, face-to-face part of the culture and the heritage. And of course, COVID changed dramatically because, besides the fact of actually building and of course the activity that you really need to be there to do, suddenly there was a lot of activity that went very quickly digital and you would not imagine that before. So, a lot of people said about digital acceleration. It’s very much about the case for building infrastructure, the way you connect with the value chain, and to the point that we could not think about before. I was mentioning about a process like a project management system, the fact that we connect to architects before a project so that we get the right product specified, we get the right blueprint design reviews, then we work with our customers to check their quality, and then we provide the warranty. So, we actually had developed, basically a digital tool that we called COOL, online, and that was already in place before. I don’t know the detailed numbers, but there was still a proportion of people working the traditional way, sending us an email and even sometimes fax, something like that, or attachment. It’s a coincidence that we are actually moving the Construction Online process to another level because it had to be upgraded. In some way, we were lucky because we started this project before COVID came, and basically, COVID accelerated that because we now have a great thing, a system, where everybody wants to connect online. For instance, we have increased the capability of receiving blueprints. The amount of data that you can use and how quickly you can download and I think spaces where customers can load their data, and we can review very efficiently. So everything is now being accelerated by the fact that everybody’s in front of the computer.

 

Kip:

Yeah, sorry to interrupt,

Jean Paul:
I just wanted to kind of summarize –  what you’re saying is COVID had kind of been a shock to the system. You already had this tool in place that was somewhat being used, COOL, right?

 

Jean Paul:

Yeah, Construction Online.

 

Kip:

Yeah, Construction Online. So, I was piecing that together, Construction Online. That’s cool, right? And so, you realized at some point, because everything’s turning digital for a year, that this was the best to go to was really beefing up this Construction Online. So how did you figure that out? Was that something that you as a team decided and said, hey, look, there’s no more face to face, the current way people emailing us is not efficient now. And so, we need to drive people towards this adoption of the COOL system. Therefore, we require to put more features in it; I guess right?


Jean Paul:

Yeah, yeah. So, the usage rates of Construction Online dramatically increased over as much as people started to work from home. So, we saw that coming, and coincidentally, we actually were working on the upgrade of the system in many different ways. So, in some way, we were lucky, for we’re looking in understanding what the right thing to do was, and it actually came probably earlier and faster than what we were looking for. So as always, it’s big pain this COVID. Churchill said, “Don’t let the crisis go to waste, try to do the right things so that you will get better afterward.” And I remember discussing with our business precedents because we were asking fans to get that system upgraded. At the same time, people were really scared by, wow, okay, now job site is being closed, the demand is dropping, should we spend that additional amount of money to go digital? And actually, we did. We will not regret, and we are not regretting because now that hopefully the situation is a little bit, and of course in some region now it’s back to job site being open and full speed. We now have that capability that is being built.

And I think this is there to last. There will be a re-balance of activities, but the core things are again when it’s efficient, and if we can do it digitally, we’ll continue to do it. I think we will have less face-to-face, but probably higher quality face-to-face.

Kip:

It kind of reminds me of the status quo. People just do what they normally do, but then they realize –  it’s like Zoom. It’s like, oh, this isn’t too bad, working at home isn’t bad. And actually, it’s kind of efficient. So that adoption, and then I’ve talked to other folks here on the phone. You have young to mid-stage architects and designers, and they’re much more of a digitally-minded people, right? And that kind of a dimension really helps with a digital process for being able to do these things.  I really admire what you’re saying because you listen to people’s stories about the tough decisions they had to make. In your case, investing in this digital platform. Others I talked to – they shut down their operations, or they keep people working, and it doesn’t seem like there’s always the right answer at the time, but it appears that you guys are doing really well, and it has made you more of the vanguard in investing in these digital strategies for years to come, so that’s really awesome. It sounded like when COVID happened; people were just naturally starting to use the Construction Online tool more.

 

Jean Paul:

Yeah, so that’s what we saw, and well, that will stay. And interestingly, that lead to a different dimension because Construction Online was designed to be collectively specific for a type of activity that we do from design, fabrication, and then after-sales and warranty. And then, of course, we realized that, yeah, but what about the innovation? What about more product selection? What about finding the distributor? What about e-commerce? And then gradually, we say yeah, but let’s think a little bit broader. And, of course, we are not the only one doing this, and we are doing this across the different markets. But that gradually leads to – that’s cool, and we’ll make it even better and bigger.

 

Kip:

Cooler.


Jean Paul:

Yeah, cooler, but actually, we have developed, and we are launching it in Europe as we speak and then globally before the end of the year. We are naming Building Science Connect. And the idea between being science connectors, of course, everybody is trapped at home in front of the computer, we already have a pretty compelling website as a company, dow.com, but $39 billion company, a lot of products. So, what we realize is that when a customer – whoever that is, is going on our website; it’s not always easy to find a spot. And nowadays, we have pretty good tools that basically analyze the traffic, and of course, this is anonymous, right? So, we are respecting the laws, but you can basically see all this flow of information goes on our website and sometimes the time it takes for someone to go to the information you need. And that’s basically created the seed for what we call building Science Connect. And we now are launching basically one web page where people can actually visually see the starting point that we have used is a cityscape where you will have different types of switches. And if you are in Europe and want to see what we are offering in Europe, you can use the switch Europe, and then you can see the type of solutions, the type of buildings visually, and then, when you go, and click, you can gradually and in a very inspiring way go to the information that you need. We made it very visual because we are dealing. First, I believe on visuals versus too much writing and data. And we are dealing with people, architects, consultants that are very visual-minded as well, right? So, getting the type of projects, okay, I need a solution for a balcony, okay, I will click on the balcony and what Dow can offer me on balcony. Oh, wow, I didn’t know that they are offering a solution for glass embedding for the balcony to make sure that those glass balconies are very well sealed and so you can actually go through this information very quickly. And of course, when we are creating this, we will connect activities that the people eventually are looking for. So, do I need to get the product info? Okay, a third click. Or I’m already interested in having a specification sheet to be included my projects – another clicks. Or I’m all done; I just need a distributor I can connect and potentially look for product availability pricing. So that lead to what we call the kind of end-to-end digital ecosystem so that our value chain can connect with us in a very easy and efficient way kind of things.

 

Kip:

Yeah, well, that was a lot, and that was awesome. So, with Construction Online, can I think of that as a more of a backend system for warranties and vendor portal of some sort, and then the Building Science Connect is more of the buyer journey for those architects and consultants that want to do a few things, which is research, specify fines, find a distributor, and maybe e-commerce components?

 

Jean Paul:

Yeah, yeah, correct.

 

Kip:

And then together you’re calling COOL plus building Science Connect the ED kind of digital, I don’t know what to call it, value chain or something.

Jean Paul:

Or you can say platform or ecosystem if you wish.

 

Kip:

Yeah, yeah. That’s awesome.


Jean Paul:

Yeah, I didn’t know-

 

Kip:

Yeah.

 

Jean Paul:

I mean, we spend too much time on the computer. It’s good because it’s efficient, but one of the needs that we get is that when you have a young architect spending his day on the computer – we need to be efficient. And then that’s why the data analytics can give us, okay, if it’s 15 clicks before finding what you need or if it’s three, it’s a big difference.

 

Kip:

Yeah, no, we see that with-

 

Jean Paul:

To get those efficiencies, right?

 

Kip:

Yeah. We see the, I kind of think of it as that buyer journey for people now. It’s different versus five, ten years ago, and it’s more fragmented, right? It’s just in time, and you have those architects that don’t want to spend that. I mean, they probably got half the time to do things versus ten years ago, right?

 

Jean Paul:

Yeah, yeah. Go ahead.

 

Kip:

And so, your system sounds very appealing. That whole ecosystem where you support them on the front end for browsing and shopping, as you mentioned and selecting and specifying, and then you can support them when they’re further into the funnel with COOL, right? So that’s awesome. When you said you’re doing that in New York now, and this is basically part of the continuation of the digital transformation and what COVID helped, I guess, accelerated-

 

Jean Paul:

Yeah, pretty much.

 

Kip:

Yeah.

 

Jean Paul:

So, we launched the Building Science Connect. Again, as we speak, I think the press release should be ready or already sent a few hours ago. I am capable of sending you the link when it –  I think it’s already available, but you can see in reality how it looks like; it’s actually quite nice. I tried myself many times during the design phases but, so you have that (basically cityscape), and you can see the different solution. We had a few cool features so you can actually have a switch –  so you can activate new products. And then you will also see on the cityscape, the product that we are launching this year for which we want to, because that’s not necessarily the one that has been using by, so enough few techs can go and say, oh, I want to see the new stuff from Dow. Am just clicking the switch, and suddenly all the other products will disappear so that it helped with the experience, so back to being efficient kind of things. Again, IT allows you to do that. Of course, interviews, one for us is global because we have architects located in Germany, working on a project in Hong Kong or Malaysia or Chicago. So those guys are interested to understand because building infrastructure is very regional related to the way we build, what are the regulation or your approach, stuff like fire safety are totally different between Europe and US, for instance. So that means that the product is sometimes different. The company could activate a switch like, okay, if my project is located in China, okay. When it’s about understanding the type of product, I know with two clicks, the number I need to specify it for Dow, if it’s not the same and I’m used to it when I’m specifying in North America or Europe kind of things. So, it’s really about trying to make the user experience frictionless or smooth, whether to find what they want to connect with us. So, this kind of end-to-end digital ecosystem is kind of interesting.


Kip:

Yeah. Well, it’s very interesting, congratulations. It’s definitely not something I hear a lot and certainly appropriate to what you’re doing to support your buyers, your architects and doing it in a way that’s digital, intuitive and goal-focused. I do appreciate the visual cityscape because it’s wizard kind of driven, right? And in their language of how they want to be able to understand and can help with some of those younger architects that don’t know how to use the products, but they have a project, and you need to educate them a little bit. Yeah, go ahead.

 

Jean Paul:

When I started my carrier in construction I said well, okay, I will wait for the next trade show to see what is Dow and I’ll meet those guys, I will be of two or three, but now it’s available all the time, right? So that’s good. So, coming back to the new normal, I believe that we will still do trade shows, but probably less and differently. And they will be of a higher quality because potentially, the technical content on the trade show will be higher, maybe a little bit more product demonstration or a technical presentation.

And then, of course, you have the socializing element that hopefully will remain because that needs to stay, but it will be more efficient, so smaller but better. And in the meantime, we want our customers and specifiers to be able to go to our platforms and basically see what kind of things they need. But that’s already something we experienced in China because those guys are already a little bit in advance away from going to the new typical digital hybrid type of situation.

 

Kip:

Yeah, it makes sense. For some of our other listeners, Jeann Paul, let’s say they’re marketing leader to small business building material company, and they don’t have all the resourcing that you may have, but this digital transformation is very important. Is there anything you could advise or recommendations for some of these leaders in more of these smaller businesses?


Jean Paul:

At some stage, people were saying, wow, okay, it’s easy to develop. It’s not now; it’s still worth the investment, right? I mean, again, for small and medium enterprises, a good website and we have a lot of tech companies providing products that are affordable to a small and medium enterprise. By definition, a website is more universally available than a big chemical plant, right –  in terms of investments. Thinking about that kind of integrated system, it’s for me or an opportunity for small and medium enterprise companies. And if it’s possible, and I think this is also something that will evolve in the future, those kinds of solutions can also be hosted on the bigger website. Of course, the one that we are developing right now, this Building Science Connect, will host Dow products, but we cannot exclude in the future that we can also host other products. And of course, we will not probably host the product of our competitor, that’s probably fair to say, but if we can host products that are complementary to what we are offering in order to bring again, the easier, smoother experience to an architect, that’s something we are considering. And then you can materialize the efforts in the way that it’s materialized, but also it allows potentially a small of a company to come on your website and basically offer the products. So that would be my advice. First, digital is affordable as an investment, and collaboration is probably there as well. Collaboration on that ecosystem is probably something that will come more and more.

Kip:

Got it. And you said you mainly sell through distributors?

 

Jean Paul:

As a business we sell through, I think the majority is through distributors, and of course, what we are doing, we are hosting all distributor link, a website too so that again, I mean, if there is one click more, the click needs to go directly to our distributor. More and more distributors do have e-commerce capability, so again, if we need to make one click instead of three, then you will get directly to the e-commerce capability over distributors, and then you can start ordering the product that you need kind of thing. So really reducing the number of clicks.

Kip:

Yeah. I was trying to think if there was a parallel. Some people I talked to, Jean Paul, of their distributors or their manufacturers that sell through small dealers of some sort, and that a whole digital value chain is also important because your sales arm is somewhere else. So, do you have parallels like that where you have to enable your sales endpoints, I guess in that case?

Jean Paul:

Yeah, absolutely. So, the building and infrastructure is a fermented market, a complex value chain fermented markets. We really have the privilege to work with a very strong network of specialized confection distributors basically across the world. So those guys are really a very important partner in making sure at the end of the day that the product is delivered. So, it’s very, very important that those guys are incorporated into our digital journey. And the minimum is that we are providing a referral based on where you are located, what product do you need; this is the company that you can connect with. But that’s not enough nowadays, right? So, we need to have those guys first; we need to have those guys equipped with a good website and e-commerce capability, and that’s not nearly the case. And then when it’s the case, then the e-commerce capability is now directly available with one click from dow.com. And of course, for the direct customers, we have a huge capability already as a company on e-commerce. In particular, already in the performance material businesses, we have the business within Dow, which has the largest chemical e-commerce on the planet. So, buying product from Dow directly on dow.com and get hopefully a kind of Amazon type of experience in the way that they can find the product or the products, see what is available, get the delivery dates, and can track their orders. So that’s a journey that we started a couple of years ago, and we are now expanding in the company. Just to give you an idea, the OCO just announced a couple of weeks ago that we are investing $400 million in accelerating the digital e-commerce of Dow. And we expect a return on that money within the next three years to give you an order of magnitude about this digital e-commerce’s importance for us. So, whether we are direct or through a distributor, you want to have that e-commerce capability in the end. And why it allows your sales

forces to really dedicate their time on added value activity, which is about innovation, which is about understanding the next building, the next innovation, et cetera. Rightly, so.

 

Kip:

Yeah, well, that’s exciting. And now we’re coming to the end of our session and certainly appreciate the wealth of knowledge you provided, what you do in the building materials, and educating just the critical importance of what you do, even though you can’t see it. But it’s certainly important as we talked about everything from sustainability to security – and then your kind of thought on COVID and how you were, it sounds like you’re already in a digital transformation and that acceleration and honing in paid off really well, and it’s just continuing to grow across the whole ED ecosystem, which is exciting. It’s definitely very noble and appropriate and points in the direction of where I hear from the constituents of architects and specifiers of how they want to do business today. And it needs to be visual, digital, easy, not too many clicks, and support their needs. And you talked about the localization type of objectives, so that’s all awesome. So, I appreciate your time, and I guess-

 

Jean Paul:

You’re welcome.

 

Kip:

If people needed to reach out to you or your company, how could they do that Jean Paul?

 

Jean Paul:

Yeah. So, everything is on dow.com, and hopefully, they can find their way, especially with our new Building Science Connect, and of course, through this webcast, you have my name as well. And so, it’s jeanpaulhautekeer@dow.com, that’s my email, and I can certainly very quickly link to the person, if not me, that can help your auditors.

 

Kip:

Well, good stuff.

 

Jean Paul:

Thank you very much for giving me the opportunity of having this nice discussion –  I appreciate it.

 

Kip:

Yeah, it was fun. I really appreciate talking to you, and we’ll get this into the production queue and I appreciate your time

Concora is the Web Experience Platform for Building Product Manufacturers.