Construction Professionals Moving Business Online

Construction trade professionals (CTPs) say that nearly 17 percent of the equipment, services, and supplies they need to conduct business are being sourced on the Internet, putting industry professionals ahead of the construction industry as a whole when it comes to Internet adoption, according to a survey by International Design and Construction Online.

The company conducted a survey among nearly 400 CTPs with responsibility for product procurement in order to assess current use of the Internet among members of the construction industry, determine unmet online needs among CTPs and the impact of the Internet on perceived efficiency within the industry. The research also sought to assess current methods of sourcing materials and suppliers, both online and off.

At 21.5 percent, architects source more equipment, services, or supplies online than do interior designers (16.5 percent) or contractors (14 percent). Of those surveyed, 38 percent say they go online for business purposes at least once each day. Interior designers are the most likely to be online daily (44.8 percent). The survey also found that companies that do business on a global basis were more likely to say that Internet usage will increase “a lot” — 59 percent vs. 46 percent for respondents that do business on a local or statewide level only. The broader the geographical reach of the company, the more frequently CTPs go online to search for equipment and supplies: 48.3 percent of companies that do business globally vs. 32.6 percent for those that do business locally or statewide.

“It is clear that the Internet offers significant opportunities for global construction-related companies to improve and expand their business,” said Joseph Boggs, founder and president of International Design and Construction Online. “Conversely, one could surmise that local, regional, or national companies will be hard pressed to move to the next level without making effective use of Internet resources.”

Most respondents said their primary use of the Internet is seeking information, and by far, most sought product information (76 percent). They also mentioned seeking specifications (30 percent), product purchasing (25 percent) and suppliers in a particular city (23 percent). Architects and interior designers are more likely to seek product information than contractors.

When asked which online construction industry-related sites were their favorites, in general, only one site won popularity points by more than 7 percent of respondents, with most sites getting less than 3 percent. The exception was sweets.com, which was mentioned by 22 percent of respondents, with 36 percent of architects calling it a favorite. The popularity of Sweet’s offline catalog probably has a lot to do with the site’s large following. Among architects, 82 percent mentioned Sweets as their primary product source; among contractors it was 60 percent. Thirty-one percent of interior designers mentioned Sweets, but this group was more likely to rely on trade magazines (39 percent) as a primary source.

When asked the primary benefits for using the Internet for business, respondents identified the ability to locate “hard to find” items and the ease of downloading product specifications–noted by nearly 59 percent and 58 percent of respondents, respectively. More than 40 percent also said that breadth of online product selection and the ability to find information on companies in other cities were also important considerations for Internet usage. However, among global representatives, nearly 60 percent found that ease, speed, and quality of communication with other contractors was a primary benefit of Internet usage.

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