How Will Amazon and Technology Affect the Roofing Industry?
"Alexa: Send Me a New Roof!"
An ad for Amazon Home and Business Services caught my eye recently. You can go online and order installation of that new TV you just purchased or have someone out to clean your home. You can have a toilet installed or for $75 they will haul off your Christmas tree. If you haven’t done that yet you may want to take them up on the offer.
Nothing new here, as Amazon has been ramping up these services for several years. Seems it isn’t just brick-and-mortar retailers that are being disrupted by internet resellers. Independent contractors who provide these services in their local markets can pick up business they may not have otherwise been able to access.
This type of opportunity has been available from big-box home improvement outlets for decades. There’s a difference in the channels (online vs. in store) and online continues to grow. And it makes sense. You don’t have to show up at a big-box home improvement store to buy a new garbage disposal or other fixed appliance; why would you want to leave the house or even get on the phone to arrange to have it installed?
Now you can simply go into your kitchen and just ask for it.
What’s this got to do with roofing? Not so much right now, but it’s good to keep an eye out on whatever the next disruptor is going to be for the roofing trade. If Amazon can sell small home improvement services successfully, why can’t they eventually sell large home improvement services, too?
Big box retailers have been selling installed home improvements for years. They succeed on the strength of their good name and with fast and easy financing, not low price. This was not an invention of today’s home improvement retailers. It was the retailer, Sears, where company officials parlayed their massive customer following into sales of a broad variety of installed building products. In its heyday, Sears was the undisputed number one residential reroofing contractor in the country.
Sears, which practically invented the mail-order catalog business and once dominated it, is slowly fading from existence because they either didn’t see the opportunity to convert their mail-order business to the internet, or they just didn’t believe it would impact them. I’m sure there’s more to the story than that (Walmart, for instance), but imagine what a monster Sears would be today if they had flipped over to the internet in advance of upstarts like Amazon.
Ultimately, if Amazon or another dot-com retailer ends up in the roofing business in a serious way, it is you, the local roofing contractor, who must still deliver the goods. You may choose to fight whatever competition such as this that comes along, or you may choose to join them. Either way, you must continue to keep your head up and don’t get caught up in thinking you’ll be doing business the same way you are now five years in the future. If history teaches us anything, you won’t.