The construction market at large is often somewhat more traditional and changes at a slower pace than for instance the FMCG market. That difference in pace is shown when looking at purchase channels, for instance. The impact of the pandemic we have all just witnessed was substantial in the FMCG market, as physical shops were closed or avoided for health reasons, and people turned to online shops for their purchases. In construction, on the other hand, such dramatic shifts seemed absent. The purchasing behaviour of contractors, for instance, did not change much due to COVID-19.

But what about HVAC installers and plumbers? Has their purchasing behaviour changed over the past two years? Can manufacturers of installation products still count on the purchase channels HVAC installers and plumbers used before the pandemic, or should they realign their focus? Those questions are answered in the Q3 2021 report of USP Marketing Consultancy’s European Mechanical Installation Monitor, for which we asked 700 installers from six countries about their purchasing behaviour.

More installers used pure online channels

At first sight, it seems that every channel is used by a larger share of installers than in 2019, if only ever so slightly larger in the case of DIY stores. What stands out is the significant growth of HVAC installers and plumbers using the Pure Online channel. Where only 16% of European installers used pure online shops in 2019, almost a quarter uses that channel to purchase installation products in 2021.

That growth was not the same in all countries though. The UK stands out, as the share of installers using the pure online channel grew to a whopping 63%, almost double the share of 2019. The share of installers using pure online channels also grew a fair bit in Belgium and the Netherlands, where almost one in three installers now use that channel. In the other countries, however, that share only grew by a few percent, and in Germany the share of installers using the pure online channel even declined a bit. Be that as it may, it does not change the fact that overall, the pure online channel has been used by more installers over the past two corona-affected years.

 Traditional wholesale remained and remains the dominant purchase channel though

However spectacularly the share of installers using pure online channels may have grown, it says little about the value of such channels. For that we have to look at the money they actually spent there, the share of wallet dedicated to a certain channel. In the case of the pure online channel, that shows an entirely different picture, as the share of wallet installers spent there stayed the same on average in Europe. Just like two years ago, European HVAC installers and plumbers spend only a mere 3% of their budget there.   

In fact, when looking both at usage and share of wallet, the traditional wholesale is still the clear champion of purchase channels for installers. Not only do nearly all European installers use the channel, they also spend 78% of their budget there on average, a share that even grew by 2% since before the pandemic.

So it seems that traditional wholesale is still the most important channel for manufacturers of installation products to aim at on average in Europe. However, just like with the pure online channels, changes in installers’ usage of the other channels differ per country, and they also differ per product group. For that level of detail we refer you to the Q3 2021 report of USP Marketing Consultancy’s European Mechanical Installation Monitor.

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