B2B & Technology

08/14/2017
by Elber Gamboa

How technology has changed traditional B2B purchasing

While the traditional sales process in B2B transactions has relied heavily on person-to-person interaction, three-quarters of modern-day B2B buyers don’t feel they require the same level of contact, thanks to the internet.

Due to the increase in e-commerce sites and search engines like Google and Bing many customers have taken on more responsibility during the buying process. Research has revealed that over half the work that goes into making a sale has been completed before a customer even contacts the company.

Yet, despite the increased self-sufficiency of B2B consumers, studies have shown that a little personal touch can still go a long way in gaining and retaining online shoppers.

Changes in B2B shopping habits

Most purchasers these days do not see the necessity of dealing with a salesperson until they are ready to finalize the deal. Digital resources like websites, videos, reviews and social media have become the space where most purchasers do their research into a product, collecting all the details and data before they make up their mind to purchase.

Statistics show that B2B buyers will look at around eight examples of content during their research process and other studies show that it is closer to 12. If they find that a vendor does not have a website with a reliable experience, such as that offered by Amazon or similar ecommerce sites, they will move on to a business that does provide the superior experience.

Thus, B2B sales have become less of a push process and more of a pull one as companies compete to draw in buyers with their own unique flavour of service.

However, despite feeling more informed about their purchases, a report by the Harvard Business Review shows that B2B customers have experienced more stress and more doubt over the buying process with the onslaught of information. It is likely because of this increased level of tension buyers feel that has drawn them to look for ways to simplify and streamline the process. In fact, a large push for better e-commerce sites has come from online shoppers looking to replicate the experience they have had in B2C transactions.

Future of B2B

Research has predicted that B2B e-commerce will increase to $12 trillion worldwide by 2020 and the companies that will be most successful in this arena will be the ones that are able to respond to the needs and desires of purchasers.

Despite a general belief to the contrary, business relationships will still be essential for B2B sales. While these may take a more digital form such as an email over a phone call, customers will still appreciate the sign that you genuinely care for them and their satisfaction with the product. Many B2B buyers have expressed an interest in after-sales services. In a Forrester Research report, 40 per cent of executives indicated this was an important aspect of success for e-commerce companies.

Further research has shown that omni-channel experiences can also result in greater customer loyalty. These experiences have become easier to offer to consumers thanks to the cloud. Cloud platforms have been transforming the B2B industry, according to Forbes. One major benefit of the cloud is that it gives companies the capability to have omnichannel performance, providing an Amazon-like experience for shoppers. When coupled with low prices, quality customer service and an array of products to choose from, B2B shoppers have communicated that they would be more likely to make future purchases from that company.

Other changes that B2B companies can make is to update the online process and to make it more individualized. Some business experts have agreed that customizing the buying process for a B2B purchaser will assist in the long-term retention of the buyer. Getting to know the customer and suggesting products for them based on their purchasing history can be a productive way of securing their loyalty and increasing sales. In fact, results of a Harvard Business Review study found that a prescriptive sales approach over a responsive approach was more successful in closing the deal.

There are also some reasons why a purchaser will still prefer to deal with a person including the ability to negotiate a price, the need for more consideration or information when purchasing a complex product and if the product will require installation and on-going maintenance.

Interestingly, one study suggests that customers need to have certain personality characteristics before they are happy to rely more on digital tools for B2B purchases. Researchers break down the characteristics into four areas; optimism, innovativeness, discomfort and insecurity. Those who display high levels of optimism and innovativeness will be responsive to applying digital tools to the process however, those with high levels of discomfort or insecurity would be put off by the process. Thus, companies that assume or encourage all customers to use digital methods during the sales process may find some of the customers reluctant and at worse will lose the sale.

Conclusion

Although advanced technologies have been transforming the B2B process there is still a need for person-to-person interaction in order to complete the sale and satisfy a customer. However, many companies need to be mindful that most modern consumers collect information and data on the products before contacting the brand to complete the purchase. With this increased understanding of the consumer, B2B companies will be better equipped and ready to turn leads into sales.

why people in big cities buy more online

08/07/2017
by Elber Gamboa

The Impact of Online Shopping in Cities

The increase in online shopping for urbanites has been altering how the cities around them look and develop. From an increase in trucks on the road to recycling programs for the package waste, city planners have been adjusting their approach to incorporate the large number of e-commerce customers that reside in cities.

Statistics of online city shoppers

In a recent study, Canada Post surveyed 5,000 online shoppers to examine trends and habits of Canadians when it comes to the e-commerce space. The results showed that nearly half of those lived in city settings (48 per cent), compared with 31 per cent living in rural communities.

Another statistic researchers found was that the largest number of those who shop online are millennials, many of who live in cities due to work or school demands. The research showed that 30 per cent of shoppers were between 18 and 35 years old.

Millennials have also invested into the sharing economy, particularly when it comes to vehicles. Thus, they are more likely to live in an urban environment and not to own a car, which can explain the higher number of online shoppers in the cities.

In fact, a WSJ report indicates that the convenience of online shopping has made the practice commonplace for many urbanites.

Truck Traffic Troubles

Another change that has some experts concerned has been the large number of delivery drivers on the roads. A UPS driver interviewed by CityLab said he prefers to walk his packages to customers rather than drive his truck along the route because of traffic and parking issues. His route has also changed due to demand. It has been narrowed down to just blocks rather than an entire neighbourhood. His previous territory has been divided up among other drivers as the company struggles to keep up with the high number of delivers every day.

The United States Post Office delivered over 3.1 billion packages in 2010 and by 2016 that number had risen to 5.1 billion. Elsewhere one publication claims that Amazon sales have risen from 16 billion in 2010 to $80 billion in 2016.

This increase of delivery personal and vehicles has become a headache for city planners trying to streamline the movement of traffic on city roadways.

However, the increase in traffic has not raised alarms for everyone. There are some experts who believe that streets will be backed up with more and more traffic as e-commerce deliveries increase. Yet, others believe the traffic will plateau as more delivery trucks hit the road and more consumers stay home rather than head to shops ultimately leveling out the number of vehicles on the streets.

Package Delivery Dilemmas

The onslaught of cardboard boxes has also been changing the way city officials plan recycling programs and even building design. Some of the changes include building parcel storage rooms in apartments and similar complexes, larger mail rooms and some have even added keyless lockers to protect residents’ packages.

On the other side there has been a rise in designer boxes by companies who want to stand out among the vast amounts of cardboard being shipped and delivered each day. This new demand has been leading to new jobs for production companies.

Empty buildings

One of the most notable changes that e-commerce has made on cities is the disappearance of many neighbourhood retails stores.

Many of the first stores to disappear, according to one article, are those that sell toys, books or electronics. Clothing stores have also been suffering, which in turn leaves many vacant spaces inside of malls.

Some of these buildings can be repurposed into warehouses for companies like Amazon while others can be turned into residential or office units, which have also been hard to come by in city environments.

Other changes

As a result of higher demand from city customers looking for faster deliver, businesses in the e-commerce industry have been looking into developing more urban warehouses to meet demand from city shoppers.

One major drawback of an increase of packages being dropped off at homes is the propensity of crime. Many police departments have issued a warning that the piling up packages is an attraction for thieves. While this used to be a problem that was largely a holiday concern it has now become an everyday risk for online shoppers.

Conclusion

While shoppers become accustomed to e-commerce as a reality of day to day life in the city, it has been changing the way cities function.

From a change in waste reduction and recycling programs to altering traffic flow plans and new development, city officials have been working on new ways to incorporate the downsides of online shopping in their communities.

How Construction is helping Canada

07/12/2017
by Elber Gamboa

Booming construction industry good news for Canadians

Canada’s construction industry has been considered an indicator of how healthy the county’s overall economy is doing because it has such an impact on secondary industries. Government revenue, investments and the retail industry are all affected by what happens in the country’s construction industry.

Now, with the industry booming for nearly a decade more and more attention has been paid to it, particularly the ups and downs that are part of the annual construction cycle.

The worth of Canadian construction

Canada’s construction industry provides jobs for 1.24 million workers and brings in $171 billion. That works out to about one in 13 workers in the country being employed in the industry, according to Build Force Canada.

The growth of Canada’s construction industry over the past few decades has demonstrated the county’s overall strength on the global market. In 1997 the construction industry was worth $61.2 million and it has now grown into the billions, according to Trading Economics.

While Toronto and Vancouver remain two of the hottest housing markets the rest of Canada has been heating up too. One housing expert told Business Insider that over 50 per cent of the markets in the county had seen an increase.

In fact, total housing starts for the second quarter of 2017 were 55,147, which was up over the same time last year 53,286, according to Statistics Canada. The number of housing units that were under construction in Q2 of 2017 were 230,113, up over Q2 2016’s number of 216,304.

The value of building permits has also increased month over month, according to CTV News. In January the value rose over five per cent from the previous month, up to $7.6 billion.

The impact of Canadian construction

The construction industry impacts a lot of secondary industries including real estate, banks or lenders, developers and investors as well as others.

Most cities make the bulk of their revenue from property taxes and as a result their budgets are largely dependant upon a healthy income from land taxes and the like. In Toronto, the residential property tax and land transfer tax combined bring in nearly 40 per cent of the city’s revenue.

The hot housing market has been holding up Canada’s economy, according to the Globe and Mail, something that is directly connected to the country’s construction industry. The paper reports that overall Canada was expected to see about a four per cent growth in the first quarter, something that puts it at the top of the Group of Seven.

The impact that the county’s construction industry has trickles down to municipalities, boosting local economies in the same way that it does for the national one. Both Halifax and Kingston have reported stronger local economies thanks to the construction industry. In Halifax experts claim that housing starts have risen nearly 75 per cent.

The overall industry statistics do not necessarily reflect what is happening on a more local scale. For example, Prince Edward Island housing starts were up 97 per cent over 2016 while Quebec has only recently seen an upswing. The province had been recording a 22 per cent decrease until June. As well, the numbers in Toronto have remained strong while in Vancouver construction has been slowing down.

The trickle down effect of the construction industry impacts many secondary industries including real estate sales, printers, coffee shops, furniture stores and more, as documented in a Toronto Star report.

The future of Canadian construction

The activity for Canada’s construction industry has been increasing year over year, according to Global News. One of the biggest growths has been in public sector projects, the media outlet reports.

The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation has predicted a stronger construction year for 2017.

“The trend in housing stats for Canada reached its highest level in almost five years,” Bob Dugan, CMHC’s chief economist was quoted in a press release.

“So far this year, all regions are on pace to surpass construction levels from 2016 except for British Columbia, where starts have declined year-to-date, after reaching near record levels last summer.”

Any increase in projects will be a result of previous investments including the $81.2 billion earmarked by the federal government and the $137 billion the Ontario government committed to construction projects over the next several years.

Conclusion

The Canadian construction industry impacts so many other industries that when it is strong other industries also reflect strong numbers. Because the industry has been growing strong over the past several years many of the other industries can also anticipate strong revenues, including federal, provincial and municipal governments. In many cities the local budgets rely heavily on the construction industry as well as the related businesses including real estate and investors.

With experts predicting a strong construction market over the next few years, many believe the future looks bright for Canada.

15 tips to building a more positive and efficient work site

07/05/2017
by Elber Gamboa

For many in the trades getting a job done quicker can seem like an obstacle that cannot be overcome. Yet, efficiency on the job site and a more positive attitude at work go hand in hand and can be put into place with some easy and simple steps.

In fact, the Harvard Business Review reported on some research done at the University of Michigan that showed how positive workplaces lead to an increase in employee productivity. These can be seen as simply being more supportive of one another at work, avoiding blame, inspiring one another and treating co-workers with respect.

The researchers determined that it was helpful to workplaces to develop a more positive atmosphere as an increase in positive emotions opens up an individual’s ability to be creative, reduces stress and brings out more loyalty in employees.

So here are some tips to developing a more positive and efficient attitude and workplace.

1. Healthy eating

Begin your day with a good, solid breakfast. Something substantial and healthy enough to keep you going until lunch time. This can include porridge, wholemeal toast, eggs, etc. This will prevent you from feeling agitated or weary. You’ll also want to include some healthy snacks and a good lunch to keep your energy up for the rest of the day.

2. Get a good sleep

Without proper rest, you may find yourself feeling tired and unable to handle challenges that come up during the day. It also makes you more susceptible to being grumpy. If you are having trouble falling asleep spend some quiet time relaxing before you head to bed.

3. Move away from multitasking

While it may seem productive to tackle more than one task at a time it is detrimental to getting the jobs done right. If you slow down and focus on one thing at a time you’ll find you get it done better, which helps you to feel more positive about your day and your achievements.

4. Break down big tasks

If you are trying to accomplish a big job try breaking it down into smaller steps. This will prevent you from becoming overwhelmed. Instead, divide it into smaller tasks you can manage and the job won’t seem so monumental.

5. Complete your MIT first

Decided on the most important tasks (MITs) before you begin your day and get those out of the way first. These are often the things that we dread doing but they are an important aspect of the project. Getting them completed earlier in the day can give you the momentum and energy to complete other tasks.

6. List your achievements

Looking at what you have accomplished rather than the things still left undone goes a long way to producing positive feelings. This can also come in handy for bosses who want to increase workers productivity – acknowledge those things that have been completed by the employee rather than what still needs to be completed.

7. To do lists

Keeping to do lists not only helps you focus better on the task but also gives you a sense of accomplishment as you move forward through the day. This momentum can keep you going through whatever challenges you may face.

8. Clean it up

Part of creating a more positive place at work includes keeping the worksite clean and safe. This is particularly true for those in the trades. By cleaning up the site and allowing workers to notify managers of any dangers, your team will start to work together, which is one of the signs of a positive – and efficient – workplace.

9. Be clear with your expectations

Let your team know some key details about the project – especially the contract completion date or the final inspection requirements. If workers are clear about where the project needs to end up and when they will be more likely to meet the demands of the contract. This may mean posting daily and weekly schedules so that everyone is aware of the goals they need to meet within that timeframe.

10. Make work fun

Sometimes a little incentive, like a gift card or small rewards, can do wonders to get everyone moving better. Consider with your team what kinds of competitions or games would help move the project forward and keep everyone motivated.

11. Have a routine

By having a regular routine to start your work day you get into the habit of working more efficiently. Because once your body and mind have been trained to start work following a specific routine – be it a cup of coffee or a drive to work – you will find you can focus better on what needs to be done starting earlier in your day.

12. Don’t overwork

This applies to regular breaks throughout the day as well as when you leave work and head home. While it is tempting to do a bit of work in the evening you will function much better the next day if you allow yourself some down time.

13. Be thankful and helpful

Some of the surveys done by researchers found that be appreciative can make a big difference. By keeping a thankful journal or dedicating 30 minutes a day to be helpful to co-workers can help to bring about more positive feelings about the job.

14. Positive feedback

Business studies have shown that regular feedback is more likely to induce employee happiness rather than a single happy event. They have also found that when the positive feedback or event is unexpected it carries more emotional weight and sticks with us longer.

15. Personalize your space

Whether it is an office or vehicle, you should aim to personalize your space. If you work best when it is neat, make it a point to keep it that way. Adding a photo or memento that makes you smile will be sure to keep you in a more positive mood while you work.

Conclusion

Becoming more efficient at work may sound difficult but it can be done in little steps. By completing smaller steps you will find that you have the energy and motivation to do even more to help you improve your efficiency. You may also be an inspiration to your co-workers at the site and help create a more positive workplace for everyone.

How Online Marketplaces can Improve Sales

06/28/2017
by Elber Gamboa

As eCommerce continues to grow many retailers have been searching for ways to improve their sales online and attract new customers. Research has shown one of the best ways to reach new customers is to become a part of an online marketplace such as Amazon, eBay or Supply Expert.

Studies have revealed that consumers shop more often at marketplaces because of the convenience and trust in the marketplace brand. By becoming a retailer on one of these websites you will be able to benefit from the trust and security of the brand as well as the vast number of shoppers that use the site on a regular basis.

Many of the top name marketplaces draw in millions of users every month. This increased exposure for your brand will increase the amount of sales you will be able to do as more consumers are likely to come across your products.

More Shoppers = More Sales

One of the biggest attractions of marketplaces is the access to a large number of shoppers.

One study found that consumers shop online at marketplaces 3-5 times a month, which means each time they visit the site there is an opportunity to find your products. While they might not come to the site looking for your product the time they spend searching may led them to you.

Amazon and eBay are the two most popular sites based on the numbers, in 2015 Amazon welcomed over 190 million visitors to its sites each month. In August of 2015 eBay had 98 million visitors. These numbers give you the idea of how many people you could potentially reach and turn into customers. With numbers like these, listing your products on a marketplace gives you a better chance of finding customers with little effort.

As further proof of its powerhouse place in the online market world Amazon boosted profits in the first quarter this year. Marketplace sellers were behind half of the units sold on Amazon, that is up from 48 per cent in the first quarter of 2016.

It is important to note that while these top two marketplaces draw in a large number of customers, many shoppers also use niche marketplaces, such as Supply Expert to find the products that the large sites may not offer. Those consumers who are searching for a specific product line or, in the case of Supply Expert, industry-related items know they can rely on the marketplace to offer what they need.

Guard your reputation

Reviews are very important for online consumers. If you have some positive reviews from past customers this will create trust for shoppers who are not familiar with your brand.

The customer service you provide will help ensure you get some positive feedback. You can also use the opportunity to turn shoppers into repeat customers by offering them a discount or special promotion on their next purchase.

It is also important to note that customers distinguish between a retailer and the marketplace itself. Two-fifths of those surveyed indicated they would continue to use the marketplace but would steer clear of any retailer they have had a bad experience with.

Retailer Tips

While there are more consumers using online marketplaces there are also other sellers that you will need to compete with to get sales.

However, there are some ways that you can improve your chances of drawing in new customers. These include:

1. Getting a user to click through to your seller page is one of the first steps to turning them into a customer. A good way to do this is make sure your prices are competitive. That may mean you will need to monitor them or use price-monitoring tools to see what other sellers on the site are offering. For sites like Amazon having the lowest price gives you the opportunity to be featured in their Buy Box.

2. Using strong headlines, short descriptions and good images of the products. This is one of the ways that you get customers’ attention. With clear and concise descriptions of your product coupled with several images a consumer will be able to get a feel for your product and, in turn, be more likely to purchase from you rather than a seller who posts only one image and little content.

3. You can also strengthen your brand by ensuring your name appears nearly everywhere on the product page. Use it in the title, product description and anywhere else on the page you can fit it in.

4. It is also a good idea not to put all your products up on the marketplace but only the ones that have the widest appeal and sell the best. By only listing the ones that are in high demand you will be able to keep the price low without hurting your margins.

5. Another way to draw in more customers is to provide good customer service. While a large part of this is done by the marketplace, your company can also add to the experience by answering queries quickly – within hours, not days. You must also respect and abide by the marketplace policies particularly refunds and shipping costs.

6. Follow up with your customers to ensure they have a positive experience purchasing from you. You can even ask them to fill out a survey that will give you some insight about how to provide a better experience next time.

7. Also, keep an eye on message boards to see if anyone is complaining about their experience with you. If you do find an unhappy customer respond to them directly and immediately. Try to fix the problem so that their negative experience can become a positive one. This also lets other consumers on the marketplace see that you are a retailer they can trust.

8. Marketplaces often run promotions throughout the year and it will help you grow your customer base to be a part of them. These most often happen around holidays and you can consider free shipping or gift wrapping as something special you can offer to consumers.

Conclusion

Online marketplaces have been expected to grow to 40 per cent of all ecommerce dealings by 2020, according to one report. As a result of the increasing popularity of such sites many retailers have been starting to use marketplaces to reach a larger number of customers than they can’t from their own websites.

The biggest benefit to joining a marketplace such as Supply Expert is that more shoppers are likely to visit that site rather than your own personal store. However, competition has also been increasing for the attention of the shoppers on these sites.

Therefore, it is good to do some research and put in a little extra work in order to get a good reputation on the marketplace, which will ultimately lead to more sales.

Tips for Contractors to Successfully Increase Their Customer Base

06/21/2017
by Elber Gamboa

Keeping the work coming in and getting new customers can feel like a full time job for some contractors, not matter what industry you are in.

Relying on referrals from friends and neighbours just doesn’t work anymore. These days, most people opt to go online and research a company instead of asking those they know for a recommendation.

Thus one of the most important things to ensure you have is a good online presence. That means more than just setting up a Facebook page and hoping customers will call you, it requires being active in the online communities and making your website the best it can be.

It is also important not to over look websites where customers can post reviews of your service or company. Statistics have shown these are one of the first places that consumers check when they are looking for help.

Start by defining who you are

Instead of trying to be a master of everything it is better if you pick a speciality where you are most qualified. That will allow you to focus your energy on potential clients that have the need you can fill rather than trying to be everything to everyone.

Developing a website

It is crucial that you have a website as one of the most basic elements of your online presence. Experts have said that a quality website gives customers an impression that business is reliable and trustworthy. Be sure that your website is responsive, which means that it works just as well on a desktop computer as on a mobile device.

To attract people to your website you may want to think about adding content on a regular basis – in other words a blog. By producing interesting and engaging content that people are likely to share, more and more online consumers will come across your website and you’ll get higher rankings on search engines like Google.

Also, consider offering visitors to your website something in exchange for their contact details, which you can use to follow up with them later. Perhaps you can offer them a free estimate, some industry tips or ask them to subscribe to your newsletter.

Remember that good reviews will lead consumers to visit your website in an effort to decide whether or not they want to contact you. In fact over half of those surveyed said they visit the business website after reading positive reviews. This means it is important to have a good online experience for consumers by making sure that your website is current, responsive and easy to navigate.

Word of mouth online

Reviews are really just digital word of mouth recommendations between consumers but they are an important aspect of growing you consumer base. A recent survey shows that 84 per cent of consumers trust an online review as much as they do a personal recommendation.

The importance of recent reviews also plays a factor in whether consumers will trust you based on an online review. Seventy-three per cent of customers indicated that reviews that are older than three months were not up-to-date enough to instill trust in them.

As such, think about asking previous customers to give you a review on one of the top sites, which include Yelp, Facebook and Google Places. Don’t be afraid to ask for a review as seven out of 10 customers indicated they would complete an online review if asked.

It is also important to have a presence on more than one review site as one research study found that consumers will spend more time looking at review sites for contracting types of businesses.

Connecting with customers on social media

Nearly everyone online is connected to a social media platform. You can use this to expand the number of customers you have by encouraging clients to ‘like’ you on Facebook or follow you on any of the platforms. This will help connect you to other social media users that you can begin building a connection with, in hopes that they will call you if they need help.

Advertising on social media platforms is also a fantastic way to harness the digital world and increase your business. It doesn’t need to be as confusing as it first seems. Here is a good site to help you understand how online advertising can help you increase your customer base.

Don’t underestimate the tried and true methods

While the internet has become a major contributor to business growth there are still traditional methods that can help you get more customers including branding your vehicle or having an advertisement in the Yellow Pages.

It also helps to be thoughtful and follow up with past customers. You can contact them, thank them for their business and ensure they have your details in case they have any issues they will need your help with. This can communicate to them that you genuinely care about the service you offer and they will be more likely to recommend you.

Emily Martin, the president of Aschinger Electric, has shared her experience building up a client base. She suggests looking for opportunities to present yourself to potential new clients. Events such as trade association meetings are a good chance to make a presentation that introduces your services to their members.

Martin also reminds contractors that setting up strategic relationships with other companies can increase customer calls. The give and take of such a partnership can get them helping you gain new clients.

Conclusion

There are many ways a business can continue to increase the number of customers they work with including, developing a robust online presence both by through a website and social media account as well as asking previous customers to vouch for you on popular review sites.

Most customers connect a good online presence to be a sign of quality and one they can trust a contractor. While it may take some time to get it started and done right the payoff will be worth it.

How important is it to hire qualified trade people to work in your home?

06/14/2017
by Elber Gamboa

Getting qualified tradespeople to do the work in a home can be one of the most stressful time for homeowners. The risks of not having someone who is skilled in their trade include injuries, building damage and even death.

Many homeowners prefer to do it themselves rather than hire someone who may or may not do the job sufficiently. But, you’ll need to hire a contractor to help with your home project if there is a higher level of complexity, and particularly if there is plumbing and electrical work involved.

A good way to ensure you have a qualified tradesperson is to ask about their background and training and whether they are licensed or not. While a large part of the training for those in the trade involve on-the-job learning, there are still provincial and national certifications that will help you know you are getting a well-trained contractor.

While most provinces have their own licensing requirements in each industry, in Canada, the Red Seal has been the inter-provincial sign of a qualified tradesperson and a sign of trust between the consumer and the contractor.

Risk of unqualified contractor

One of the main risks of using an unqualified person to fix your home is that if their work is sub-par you won’t be able to get the money back. One such example happened in Vancouver where inexperienced drillers cost the City $2.7 million to fix a residential construction project.

However, it is not just major construction projects that attract unqualified tradespeople. One such worker was charged by the Ontario College of Trades after it was discovered he did not have the Certification of Qualification to be working as an electrician in the province. The tradesperson had been working on the home of a Toronto couple, who contact the College out of concern.

Another one of the most common dangers of hiring uncertified workers, according to the ESA, is fires. Faulty electrical systems and wiring can lead to serious problems later.

When hiring a contractor, homeowners should also double check that anyone working on the property has the appropriate insurance. That includes personal insurance for all contractors and sub-contractors who will be working on the home. This will help avoid any legal issues in the case that one of the workers gets injured on the job.

While it can seem tempting to save some money now and take a chance on a lower-priced, inexperienced tradesperson, it will only lead to a long-term headache. In the end, if the job has not been done right it may end up costing you much more than you would have had to pay a qualified tradesperson.

Provincial Qualifications

Each province has their own requirements for certification and licensing of those in the trades. A Certificate of Qualification is the standard that each contractor in the trades needs to have to legally work in a province.

As well, most electricians and plumbers need to be certified by a government agency of the province to legally work in that province.

Red Seal certification

The Red Seal program was developed in 1959 and has been seen as a standard of excellence. It is the country-wide certification for tradespeople.

The road to earning it starts with an apprenticeship. The apprenticeship is like on-the-job training where the apprentice gets paid for the work and is also working towards earning enough hours and experience to become a certified journeyman. To become a journeyman the apprentice needs to pass a provincial test. Once a certified journeyman the individual can apply to complete the Red Seal examination.

The benefits of having a Red Seal to contractors is the ability to work anywhere in Canada without further training or testing. For consumers it is a sign of a top quality contractor.

Licensing changes

In 2009 Ontario changed their licensing standards for electricians. The move to a more widely-spread provincial standard benefited both consumers looking for qualified tradespeople and also the workers who did not need several licenses to work in different municipalities.

The move meant the Electrical Safety Authority is now responsible for the licensing. In 2015 there was a website launched that allows Ontario residents to check the certification of any tradespeople before they hire them.

Hiring tips

It is best to do some research and take time, no matter how urgent the job is. Here are some ways customers can ensure they are getting a qualified contractor.

Check with those you trust to see if you can find a reliable, qualified contractor. Ask your family, friends and neighbours who they have used for their home repairs.

Check online to see what other customers have been saying about the tradesperson. There are a number of rating websites that can also give you an idea of the contractor’s professional reputation.

Always check on the licensing or qualifications of the tradesperson for the job you want done. For example, you will want to hire a residential electrician for your home over one who works mostly with commercial buildings.

Ask for references and follow up to see what the references say about the quality of the work.

Source: FTC

Conclusion

According to the Government of Canada only 50 per cent of apprentices actually complete their training. As a result the government has rolled out a funding program to encourage more women and Indigenous people to undertake training in the trades in an effort to combat that statistics.

However, it is important that homeowners guard themselves against unqualified tradespeople by taking steps to ensure the contractor has the proper certification and skills to complete the job successfully and safely.

In areas where the construction marketing is booming it is easy to see how uncertified tradespeople appear attractive given the demand-supply issue. However, it is illegal and many places have been cracking down on illegal plumbing activity including Washington State that issued nearly 250 infractions in 2016. That was 12 per cent higher than the previous year and double what it was in 2013 (127).

The Importance of Certification on Electrical and Plumbing Products and Materials

06/07/2017
by Elber Gamboa

When it comes to buying electrical or plumbing products and materials it may be tempting to look for the best deal but, it is very important that you ensure the items you are buying have a legitimate certification mark.

The dangers of using material that has not meet industry standards can put you or others at risk for injury, illness or even death.

WHY IS CERTIFICATION IMPORTANT?

While standards are not legal requirements but instead serve as guidelines they are completely voluntary. However, certification offers the consumer the peace of mind knowing that the product or material meets the standard set by the industry.

Those tools or materials that have been certified have been tested by a safety inspection organization and they have ensured that it is safe to work with in the environment the item will most likely to be exposed to.

Performance tests that are done on the products before they are certified have been seen as leveling the playing field and allowing suppliers to offer reliable products in a competitive market.

Certification can be verified by checking for a mark, which is printed directly onto the tool, or a sticker, which is added on after a safety inspection.

Ensuring that you are using certified materials in your electrical or plumbing workplace is crucial to the safety not only of your co-workers but also of your clients or any occupants of the building or home.

The safety labels on products confirm for consumers that the product has meet the standard level for a variety of organizations including the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), Underwriters Laboratories (UL), CSA Group (CSA) and NSF International (NSF) among others.

CSA Group is one of the largest certification organizations and they have been accredited by the Standards Council of Canada (SCC) and the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). They test and certify products like electrical, building and plumbing products. They also have a Certified Product Listing so that consumers can see if the item is certified.

Certification has also been important as many electrical goods are manufactured overseas where safety and quality are not monitored as well as in North America.

Different standards have also developed in different markets for example, CE marks can be found on tools that are made or sold in Europe but they are not approved for use in Canada. This mark is put on the tool by the manufacturers and not by a third party safety organization.

The CSA Group advises industry experts to avoid any tools that do not have the certification mark. It is also important to inspect any mark that is on it to be sure it is not counterfeit.

FAKE CERTIFICATION

There are several products on the market that have certification marks on them but are actually counterfeit and thus pose a danger to the worker and those on the job site or in the building or home.

Because of the danger of fake products the CSA Group has a dedicated team to investigate reports of fraudulent products. They have even put effort into training law enforcement and custom officials to recognize counterfeit products.

Some of the tips they advise consumers to follow when it comes to spotting fake materials is to also examine any packaging the items comes with as fake products will come with poorly designed packaging. Read the printing on the box and any documents inside to see if there are misspellings or missing information.

If a safety label appears on the box but not the product itself, be wary, there is a change that the product is counterfeit.

Other tips from the CSA Group include examining the product for the brand name. If the brand name is missing that is a red flag. You should also be cautious if the price seems too good as most often it has been a sign of counterfeit goods.

CSA group also advises consumers and industry professionals not to buy from retailers that they are not familiar with.

ELECTRICAL CERTIFICATION

Relying on certification for electrical materials is particularly important as fire safety and electrical safety will both be a concern with products that have not been certified.

There is also the risk that in the case of damage from an uncertified project an insurance company may sue, leading to costly remedies.

There are a variety of organizations that offer testing and certification for electrical materials, with CSA Group being one of the most recognizable names. There is SGS that works primarily in Canada. There are also many other organizations that can help in the certification process.

Products that are certified are always open to further inspections and it is often in the best interest of the manufacturer to keep certification marks up to date.

PLUMBING CERTIFICATION

In the plumbing industry the IAPMO is the certification agency in North America. They have been accredited by the American National Standards Institute, the Standards Council of Canada and the entidad Mexicana de acrediacion, a.c.

There are a variety of marks that a product can have on it to identify it as a certified product.

A WasterSense Certification Mark means the product has been tested for water efficiency and performance.

An ASSE Mark indicates the product is in compliance with the American Society of Sanitary Engineering.

Plumbing tools also get an CSA certification mark, which also indicates whether the product has been approved for Canadian, United States or both markets.

There is also the UPC shield that appears on products approved by the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials(IAMPO) and which complies with the performance standard and the Uniform Plumbing Code (UPC).

There are other marks given by the IAPMO including the classified marking certification mark, which indicates the product has meet performance standards but has not been recognized by the UPC.

In 2012 new requirements from the International Plumbing Code meant that all plumbing products needed to be certified. Previously only certain third-party products needed certification.

CONCLUSION

The process of standardizing products in the electrical and plumbing industries has been developing for over 100 years but the importance of the idea has not changed.

Ultimately, consumer and workplace safety are the primary reasons for only using certified tools and materials. Certification for electrical and plumbing projects has been a way of leveling the playing field for all manufacturers and reassuring consumers they are getting industry standard products that they can trust.

Research Shows Consumers Prefer Marketplaces to Direct E-Commerce Websites

05/31/2017
by Elber Gamboa

Statistics have shown that online consumers prefer a marketplace experience over a merchant’s independent e-commerce site.

Research has uncovered that these shoppers have been drawn to online marketplaces largely for the convenience, for being able to find a vast amount of items in one place and also for the ease of finding and comparing items on the platform as well as other benefits.

Statistics

In total about 51 percent of Americans have indicated they prefer online shopping. Of those surveyed, about 80 percent have done so within the past month. In Canada alone, an eTail Canada report indicates that 76 per cent Canadians have been purchasing online and are expected to spend $39 billion by 2019.

Location also influences shopping habits, with 49 percent of city dwellers having said they shop at online marketplaces and 60 percent of suburbanites using online marketplaces. Just 45 percent of those in urban areas use independent e-commerce sites and 44 of those in suburban places.

Americans surveyed that live in rural locations use online marketplaces even less than suburban dwellers, 58 percent of those in rural areas say they shop at online marketplaces and just 39 per cent claim to shop at independent sites.

Research has shown that customers look for convenience, lowest price and flexible shipping methods. In the study 89 percent of consumers said they appreciated the ease of being able to research, compare and buy products on the same site. Shoppers also indicated they appreciated being able to look at multiple products and categories at a single marketplace.

Online shopper profile

The majority of online shoppers tend to be younger, with 56 percent of Gen Xers and 67 percent of Millennials stated they shop online often. Of those, 48 percent of Millennials claim to visit online marketplaces while 46 percent shop independent stores. Gen Xers use online marketplaces more often, with 56 percent having said they visit online marketplaces compared to 49 percent who said they use independent e-commerce sites.

Yet online marketplaces seem popular even with older shoppers. Baby Boomers also favour online marketplaces compared to independent e-commerce sites, with 59 percent indicating they shop at online marketplaces while 42 percent use independent sites. Also, over half of seniors (51 per cent) have said they too shop at online marketplaces and just 30 per cent shop at independent webstores.

When it comes to how men and women shop online, more women have said they shop at online marketplaces, 56 per cent, compared to just 52 per cent of men. That number falls even more when it comes to independent sites, with 48 per cent of women claiming to shop at webstores and 39 per cent of men doing the same.

Parents also make up a large percentage of marketplace consumers but they are also as committed to using independent e-commerce sites. When surveyed, 53 percent of parents said they used online marketplaces and the same amount said they shopped with independent sites. Statistics show that 54 per cent of non-parents who say they use an online marketplace and 39 per cent use independent boutiques.

Supply and Demand

Buyers have stated that the number of selections of products were a bonus of online marketplaces. It also minimizes the out of stock signs that lead to consumer frustration.

Comparison tools

Customers indicated in a Forrester study that they appreciated the competitive nature of the marketplace, in fact 70 per cent said competitive prices while shopping with an online marketplace was an advantage.

Comparing prices is easier for a customer on a marketplace platform, which has been one of the major attractions for cost-savvy consumers. If they want to compare prices on different company’s e-commerce sites they will need to visit each individual site and search the stock.

Thus, an online marketplace has the advantage of offering a unique shopping experience with easy tools for searching, filtering and comparing products.

Extra marketplace attractions

Marketing and attracting the online marketplace has been the responsibility of the marketplace owner as opposed to the individual sellers. This has also been an advantage for the sellers as they don’t need to get bogged down in the marketing aspect of e-commerce.

It is also clear from the research and customers are more likely to feel they can trust a marketplace, like Amazon or Etsy, over a smaller company.

The buyer rating system on most marketplaces also give customers an extra level of security by being able to see the experience and opinion of other customers.

Many marketplaces also offer multi-device capability, which has become more and more important in a ever-increasing mobile world.

The streamlined checkout experience is also an advantage for consumers.

Conclusion

Research has determined that most online customers have opted for convenience, useful comparison tools and the access to a large amount of products when they shop at online marketplaces.

Another big reason consumers have for preferring marketplaces to individual e-commerce sites has been the trust and security they feel with a larger marketplace over an e-commerce site.

One study has also shown that 53 percent of those shopping online buy from marketplaces at least three times a month and a majority of those using online marketplaces over individual e-commerce options.

The Forrester study also showed that 80 percent of consumers said they discovered a new retailer during their online marketplace experience. In a related study, Forrester said shoppers in North America have indicated they trust sellers that are associated with an online marketplace more than those who have not.

Thus, the development of Supply Expert offers buyers and sellers what they want. Customers will feel more secure shopping with our online marketplace platform and sellers will be able to reach a larger portion of consumers.

That is why we do what we do.

Cordless Power Tools Improve Job Efficiency

05/25/2017
by

Cordless power tools have been credited with improving the efficiency and speed with which contractors can complete the job.

Since being introduced on the market they have become even more efficient and can offer similar speed and power as a corded power tool.

Over the years, power tool manufacturers have been slimming down the design of their products and working to make them more attractive to those in the industry. Most tools are now light-weight and have lithium-ion cells, which are known for their fast charge.

STATISTICS

One survey looked at the power tools preferred by those in the field and showed that 84 per cent used their cordless power drill most often. The second most commonly used cordless tool was the drill driver (75 per cent). Reciprocating saws were also valued as cordless tools with 71 per cent of respondents indicating they used it regularly. Of those surveyed 84 per cent also said they relied on 18V battery packs.

CordlessDrill.jpg

BENEFITS OF CORDLESS

Cordless power tools have been a boon to the job site not just because of its ability to get into hard-to-reach spaces but also because they have been designed as light weight and low maintenance.

One of their most attractive features has been the brushless motors. These types of tools have electronic control, which means torque, speed and power outlet can also be controlled by the user. In a brushless motor tool there is little chance of any frictional energy loss because it uses permanent magnets on the brushless rotor. The armature has electromagnetic coils that are fixed around it. While they increase efficiency of the tool they are more costly than the other options. However,companies often throw in some extra features that make the price worth it.

Another top feature is the Lithium-ion battery, which replaces the older NiCad battery.

Ni Cad batteries have a tendency to lose their ability to fully charge as they age. That means it will be less and less efficient. Li-ion batteries do not have this problem.

Li-ion batteries also lose their charge at a slower rate than the older Ni Cad batteries meaning they can be more reliable for busy contractors. This also means the power is released at a more consistent rate, allowing for the work to be completed quicker.

The Li-ion battery has a technology that stores energy more efficiently than the previous NiCd and NiMH batteries. They are also more resilient and can be charged after just a short usage and won’t damage the cell.

The newer battery has also been designed to be light-weight, helping the contractor improve productivity by reducing the stress on the body.

There are a number of batteries with high voltages in the cordless tool market, which means the tools will be able to handle demanding tasks. High voltage equals more torque.

The most obvious benefit of a cordless power tool has been its ability to let workers reach any area on a jobsite. By not being attached to the wall or a power outlet tools without a cord are able to go anywhere.

Cordless power tools can also help save on set up time, which means you can get a head start on the job at hand.

DRAWBACKS OF CORDLESS

One of the complaints of cordless power tools has been they were often not as powerful as corded tools. However, with new technologies this has become less of a concern for those in the industry.

Another drawback of a cordless power tool has been that the battery can drain quicker in a hot environment. Contractors will need to plan a way to keep it cool on the jobsite. Some manufacturers have been designingcordless tools with cooling technology or fans to help it resist the heat.

TECHNOLOGY AND CORDLESS TOOLS

Power tools have also been brought online through connectivity technology like Bluetooth.

Bluetooth technology has been harnessed by power tool makers to allow the tool to be managed through a smartphone app, according to Popular Mechanics. This remote management can allow the owner to check the charge level and also turn batteries on or off.

Other companies have been designing tools that allow the user to manage the tool inventory with an app. This means that the owner can maintain records, organize the inventory, access data on how the tools are being used and more.

Cordless power tools have also been getting easier to charge. The inductive charge has been a new technique introduced where the tool is put on a charging pad or station, which then sends the power to the battery, which in turns acts as a receiver. The benefits here are that the tool can be placed on the pad and powered up while not in use.

COST SAVING TIPS FOR CONTRACTORS

Most power tool companies manufacture their tools to use the same battery, which means you can transfer the battery from one of their brand names to another. Thus, it makes economic sense to buy a power tool package instead of purchase each tool individually.

The Canadian Revenue Agency has also allowed tradespeople to deduct a portion of their costs for tools and some may be eligible to get a GST refund for what they paid depending on where they live and work.

CONCLUSION

Cordless power tools have come a long way since they were first designed as clunky and heavy additions to the workspace. Many manufacturers have been investing in technologies and design features that make cordless tools a light-weight, efficient way for contractors to improve their performance on the job.

Comments

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