Talking Tech: Q&A With Industry Expert John Maiuri

Technology is crucial in so many areas of our lives and is becoming a necessary component for retailers to implement in their operations. For a closer look at why technology is important in the retail sector, and specifically in the home improvement industry, the North American Hardware and Paint Association (NHPA) spoke with John Maiuri. He is the president of the LBM and hardlines group at ECi Software Solutions, which provides industry-specific business management software.

North American Hardware and Paint Association (NHPA): How are online shopping trends like buy online, pickup in-store (BOPIS) accelerating the need for retailers to adopt e-commerce solutions?

John Maiuri (JM): As the industry continues to adapt further to the digital experience, customers are increasingly expecting a seamless online experience that is both easy and convenient for them. As customers continue to gravitate towards the digital experience, adopting an e-commerce solution will be beneficial for acquiring new customers and reaching new audiences. But simply offering business capabilities online will not be enough to attract and nurture customers who are looking for flexible and seamless experiences. The rise of BOPIS, especially during the pandemic, has shown businesses that they need to look beyond in-store customer experiences by adopting additional solutions that will let customers shop the way they want to shop. Big-box stores are leading the charge of BOPIS, and if independents want to compete alongside them, this may already be table stakes.

NHPA: Why is a website and online presence important no matter your audience or location? How can refusing to adapt to new technologies lead to home improvement retailers losing business?

JM: When is the last time you or anyone you know picked up a phonebook? Just as a website is crucial for people to find you, e-commerce solutions are crucial for meeting customer expectations and improving the customer journey, as well as developing a competitive edge. Websites and online presences can no longer be a “nice to have” if retailers want to provide a positive online shopping experience that rivals national chains and other competitors, no matter their audience or location. For business owners struggling to get past the challenges of building a digital presence, such as the time commitment and costs, there is an abundance of resources available to help with this journey and remove the common barriers to adoption. These solutions include leveraging technology solutions and finding the right partner who will consult with you and make recommendations based on what works for your industry and your business. Refusing or being slow to adopt new technologies may lead to retailers losing business to their competitors that do offer an online presence, providing the convenience needs of both consumers and tradespeople—like contractors, builders and busy build-it-yourselfers.

NHPA: What do customers expect when it comes to the online shopping experience? What are the bare minimums for an e-commerce site or website?

JM: When it comes to online shopping, customers expect an experience that is informative, easy and convenient. Customers want the ability to research and purchase items on their own terms in a straightforward, seamless experience, at any time. At the bare minimum, an e-commerce site or website must allow customers to browse products, add to their online shopping carts and plan or make purchases. It is also important to focus on the user experience, making sure the interface is intuitive and easy to use so customers view the site as a resource and are likely to return to the site.

NHPA: What are some other entry-level technologies that retailers can implement?

JM: To keep up with the demands of this industry, a vertically specific enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution is essential. And ERP helps process orders without rekeying information, manage inventory and organize business documents with an integrated point of sale system that can measure business metrics to make smart business decisions. An ERP solution can also support the management of multiple fulfillment processes, like BOPIS and e-commerce. Some can also build customer loyalty by allowing customers to view orders, invoices and statements and easily make payments remotely.