“For the digital to find its place in the artisan’s daily life, it is necessary to value it”

Can you introduce Saint-Gobain Distribution Bâtiment France, with some key supporting figures?
Laurence Beaugard: A subsidiary of the Saint-Gobain group, Saint-Gobain Distribution Bâtiment France is the main distributor of construction materials in France, with ten main brands, including Point.P and La Plateforme du Bâtiment, but also other more specialized brands such as CEDEO (plumbing and heating), Asturienne (roofing and roofing materials) and Dispano (wood and wood products).

SGDBF also offers high-growth service brands such as La Maison Saint-Gobain and Tolteck. With more than 2,000 branches and 24,000 employees in the national network, SGDBF counts 80% of construction companies among its clients, thus covering a 25% market share.

What are the group’s strategic changes in terms of e-commerce?
This movement started in 2015, but gained real momentum in 2020 with the anti-Covid measures restricting the opening of our points of sale, which led some of our brands to suddenly develop Click & Collect. This opportunity has accelerated the development of e-commerce for our brands, both for our customers and our employees. Today, the share of online commerce varies from one brand to another, reaching a significant 12% share for some.

On the other hand, the first half of 2022 saw the return to physical commerce of many distributors and retailers, confirmed by a 9% drop in searches on Google in the area of ​​building materials and renovation themes – numbers to balance with the effects of confinement in 2021. Digital is not present in the core business of artisans, which explains its relatively slow adoption – the renewal of generations can be positive for us on this front. Be that as it may, for digital technology to find its place in the artisan’s daily life, it must add value.

As a trader, we have to think about our customer relationship in a multichannel way. The artisan’s first contact can be made through the agency or over the internet. The back and forth between the digital and the physical is increasing, which implies consistency, reliability and fluidity in digital journeys. For example, the customer must find reliable information on prices and stock availability in all channels – particularly crucial in the current context, knowing that in many of our brands this offer is local and not national.

What are the other levers of growth and development?
17,000 employees are at the forefront of gradually converting artisans to digital: checking invoices, validating quotes, requesting credit notes, delivery times… It saves time and value for them when customers become independent to find the information they are looking for or to carry out administrative tasks. When a craftsman validates a budget initiated at the agency in his personal space, it is a true transformational success for us. Because in the end, whether the transaction is registered online or in person, it makes no difference to us: the important thing is to simplify our customers’ daily lives by streamlining their journey.

Among the other levers of growth, five of our brands have mobile applications, the design of which was specially designed to simplify mobility trips (construction sites, warehouses, etc.). Some brands earn up to 40% of their in-app e-commerce revenue: we are closely monitoring this.

What are the customer relationship issues?
We are giving a big boost to fluidizing the courses. We enriched our order fulfillment modalities (click and collect, click express, lockers), we also diversified our offers – which creates complexity in the purchase tunnel, on the contrary, the customer is constantly looking for simplification. This poses a huge challenge for our digital teams, who must constantly identify pain points in web journeys, from the first few minutes of browsing to checkout. We have data analysis tools to advance this matter.

How is the current environment (energy prices, scarcity, supply chains) impacting the business?
Pressures on energy prices are having a two-fold effect: inflation, but also stock shortages, as some manufacturers halt production of energy-intensive staples. This has led to these de facto shortages and price increases across many product categories.

With, like a domino effect, the selling price updates much more frequently than usual. Our challenge was, therefore, to provide reliable information in terms of price, availability and delivery time, and for our digital tools to be able to keep up with the acceleration of updating this data. Both the customer and the employee must have the same reliable information everywhere, in real time.

Interview conducted by the Challenges Innovation B2B 2023 team

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