The emerging market of smarter shoppers in the hardware sector

Customers have generally researched product reviews and know how a product stacks up against its competitors

Australia’s $21 billion hardware and building supplies retail sector has grown steadily over the last decade, spurred on by homeowners with a desire to renovate or a willingness to try their hand at DIY home improvement projects. 

However, the sector is also extremely price sensitive with big-box hardware retailers enticing customers with the promise of price-matches and guaranteed lowest prices. Yet unlike other retail sectors, where online shopping is increasingly taking the lion’s share of sales, the hardware sector continues to maintain a strong in-store presence with many consumers relying on expert advice in-store before making their final purchase decision. 

This isn’t to say that the consumer isn’t informed; today’s hardware buyer has become a lot smarter and is much more knowledgeable. They generally know what they want before they set foot inside the store and are more likely to be familiar with the different brands on offer.

According to Paul Gardiner from CROSSMARK, “There is definitely a growing trend towards pre-planned purchases. Customers have generally researched product reviews and know how a product stacks up against its competitors. The challenge for retailers then is to capture and sway a consumer through brand advocacy and in-store merchandising. This is where an experienced field marketing team can come into their own, deploying the latest technology and data to ensure the right product is available in the right project quantities and clearly displayed on shelf,” he explains.

“Another way of assisting the smarter shopper is through direct consumer engagement; not just to help misguided customers but also the ones that simply require some extra information or help deciding between two options.”   

Strategic merchandising

CROSSMARK works closely with major hardware retailers such as Bunnings, as well as brands, to help keep their wares well presented on-shelf and monitor stock replenishment levels to minimise lost sales due to unavailable product.

“We don’t just canvas the Bunnings store network at fixed times to complete merchandising tasks however,” reveals Gardiner. “Using our unique data driven deployment methodology, proprietary software and insights from our dedicated Business Intelligence team, we work in complete collaboration with our partners; developing tailored solutions and optimising the work we do in store, by store, with quantifiable results.

“We also use our data and insights to influence brands in evolving their businesses; for example, extending advice on distribution, pack quantities and ranging” he adds. “Our off- location tracker ensures that even products situated away from their usual categoryare accurately recorded and located, so there is always adequate stock to capitalise on sales opportunities without the stock weight being excessive for each particular store.”

Direct customer engagement

In a sector like hardware, it’s crucial to have brand representatives in store engaging directly with consumers at the point where they are making their final purchasing decisions. From answering questions to giving product demonstrations, this extra assistance can really drive sales over the line and, once again, this is where a field marketing specialist is expertly positioned to help.

CROSSMARK, for example, offers a full brand ambassador program with clients in Bunnings benefitting from its Aisle Angels scheme; driving consumer sentiment and brand trust with in aisle demonstrations. The company also provides full point of sale compliance that effectively highlights a product or range’s benefits through interactive displays, thus engaging customers with limited DIY skills or in situations where there is no assisted selling.

With so many brands competing in the big-box environment, it’s important to understand the role that field marketing can play, and the sharp growth opportunities that are likely to emerge in the not too distant future. Hardware brands, particularly, are well advised to capitalise on the expertise offered by specialist agencies and not be left behind in a market that’s become increasingly dependent on sophisticated technology and data to cater for the smarter shopper.

To contact Paul & talk about Hardware & Bunnings, feel free to reach out to him directly via email on or on 0412 322 006.