Informational Peekaboo?

September 29, 2016 § Leave a comment

The moment when somebody is on your website, interested in what you sell, and in need of answers, is The Question Moment of Truth (QMOT) explains marketing consultant Barry Feldman. Based on his interview with popular social media strategist Jay Baer, Feldman explores how well companies are responding to this critical moment here. Some takeaways:

  • Companies are generally not responding well enough to the QMOT. “Too many organizations still feel like there’s a reason for somebody to come to their site other than if they have a question or problem.. (as though) somehow going to their website is going to be valuable entertainment. A lot of brands still believe they are somehow competing successfully against Facebook for attention.”
  • “Websites are the only form of communication in the history of communication where every individual consumer of that content has to relearn how to navigate that content every time. Every website has different navigation, which is absurd on surface.”
  • “We are at a point, a transition phase, where business websites are going to become less, not more – and should – because nobody wants to go to your website unless they have a very specific task in mind.”
  • “Just because somebody comes to your website doesn’t mean anything, it does you no actual good unless the person who comes to your website then takes a subsequent action.”

So how does that “subsequent action” happen in the e-commerce experience? (this “weird game of informational peekaboo” as Baer describes it). And what happens when a prospect visits your website and can’t find what they’re looking for?
Baer and Feldman struggle for answers. They tell us offering more website options and channels to communicate is a possible solution, but timing – how to engage when the customer wants and needs to engage – is the challenge. Adds Baer, “Some people hate live chat, some people love it. And this idea that everybody has to call us doesn’t make sense because people don’t want to wait on hold.”

Perhaps it’s all not so complicated. It seems that an easy-to-navigate website, with concise information customers want, might be sufficient?

“We’re so focused on customer acquisition that we don’t spend enough time thinking about customer retention, and certainly not enough time thinking about what our current customers can tell us about what we should offer in the future.”
-Jay Baer

'I'm afraid Mr. Caldwell doesn't want to see you now. However, you're free to visit his web site.'

 

High on Wood

September 14, 2016 § Leave a comment

It’s not everyday that lumber traders get to climb 18 flights of stairs to see first hand how mass timber is reshaping methods and process on industrial construction projects. It was our privilege yesterday to visit the UBC Brock Commons site with our NAWLA Vancouver Regional Planning Committee. The private tour, arranged and lead by Oscar Faoro, Contractor – Special Projects, Canadian Wood Council (NRCan – Canadian Tall Wood Building Demonstration Project Initiative) offered closeup look at one of the tallest hybrid mass timber buildings under construction in the world.

The memorable afternoon included an informative presentation by Oscar at the Brock Commons Education and Outreach Centre. He detailed the high performance, cost effective, sustainable solutions in support of the business case for Mass Timber Construction. In architecturally magnificent, wood enhanced surroundings of the Wesbrook Community Center, Ralph Austin, Seagate Structures introduced us to background information. Seagate was awarded the contract for wood installations at Brock Commons. We also viewed the planned site of Virtuoso by Adera, the first six-storey, hybrid Cross-Laminated Timber (CLT) building in Western Canada.

Special thanks also to Karla Fraser, Senior Project Manager, Urban One Builders, who lead our group in the informative tour to the top, with kindly consideration for respite at occasional elevations to both absorb information on stages of construction – and catch our breath.

Autumn Winds

September 7, 2016 § Leave a comment

Elizabeth Browning’s poem The Autumn refers to this time of year “Where waving woods and waters wild  Do hymn an autumn sound.” For many of us, this year’s first sounds of fall bring an unusual mix of seasonal notes:

Amid Maritime vacation memories not yet fully unpacked come reviews of first day of kindergarten for my four-year-old, a tumble and fall off the bus on day one of Grade One for my six-year-old, and newspaper reports suggesting the provincial government could seek exemptions from export duties for B.C. re-manufacturers that might come in a new Softwood Lumber Agreement with the U.S.
Ensuring access to timber for the value-added sector poses ongoing challenge. It is hoped the proposed exemption would provide incentive for big timber licensees to make more wood available to the value-added segment of the forest industry. Meanwhile, a report today from CIBC Capital Markets cites a source via Inside U.S. Trade who suggested SLA negotiations were closer at the 100-day period than they are now. 

It seems the “chilling autumn winds” that Browning talked about could deliver more than a bloody lip that highlighted my daughter’s Grade One debut. Amid election-fueled talk of softwood negotiations, lumber traders are bracing for the October 12th standstill expiry to deliver more tears than exemptions.

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Lunchtime! with Grandad – Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia (30 Aug 2016)

 

Still Summer..

August 23, 2016 § Leave a comment

Its been said that western lumber traders who go to the Prairies for a late summer vacation travel against the grain. For this trader, it’s the generous hospitality of the Canadian Maritimes that beckons before summer expires. I’m told I’ll know I’m in the Maritimes when someone in a building supplies store offers assistance and they don’t even work there. I’m looking forward to boarding the red-eye out of Vancouver tonight, and getting into the vacation spirit with extended family in New Brunswick, where they say a vacation means going anywhere south of Saint John for the weekend.

Summer Surprise

August 15, 2016 § 1 Comment

A number of forest analysts were projecting that while we are in midst of a long period of strengthening lumber markets, prices could fade this summer due to increasing production on both sides of the border. The 20% jump year-over-year in U.S. housing starts experienced in Q1 was widely explained by the mild winter compared to 2015. While no one projects another 20% jump in starts this year, homebuilding activity continues to grind forward. Demand for lumber has been surprisingly strong through mid-August. Notably, the Framing Lumber Composite Price is up almost 20% since the Softwood Lumber Agreement expired last October.

The positive correlation illustrated below suggests the “surge” in cross-border shipments during the standstill period to date is largely demand-driven. The chart plots B.C. softwood exports to the U.S. per BCStats vs. the Framing Lumber Composite Price by month per Random Lengths (most recent data for softwood shipments is June; the Composite Price had climbed to $369 by the end of last week).

Export Vol vs Composite Price (2)

UBC Brock Commons

August 5, 2016 § 1 Comment

Updated August 10, 2016: Video of the final panel, flown into place August 9, 2016.

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The following images offer beautiful hi-res peeks at construction of the towering 18-storey student residence at UBC. One of the tallest wood buildings in the world, Brock Commons will house 404 students in 272 studios and 33 four-bedroom units, and feature study and social gathering spaces. The images are posted with permission from Leda Chahim, Government Affairs Director, Forterra.

I look forward to learning more about the UBC Brock Commons project, mass timber solutions, and new opportunities for dimension lumber upon scheduled visit in September with Oscar Faoro, wood-WORKS Project Leader, Tall Wood Structures Initiative, at the Tall Wood Building Education Centre.

15% Cooling RE Tax

July 27, 2016 § Leave a comment

From early reports, BC’s new tax for foreign buyers effective August 2nd sent a chill through the real estate industry on many levels. Government data this week indicates that from June 30 to July 14, foreign buyers accounted for 15% of all real estate sales in Metro Vancouver. So it makes sense that imposition of the tax would tend to cool the overheated market. Still to be determined though is the extent to which wider ripples might be felt in outlying areas. At the same time concerns are reportedly being expressed over clarification of imposition of the tax on contracts that are works in process.

It is also a natural progression of the underlying asset, in this case real estate, which has become too expensive for the consumer to buy. In a competitive system, people will find creative ways to finance the boom. For it to continue, they must find ways to financially engineer it. All seems good during the boom times, then something, somewhere, comes out of left field, and the balloon gets pricked, never to reinflate in that manner again. Everything that seemed so sane, all of a sudden seems so totally insane. As Warren Buffett says: “You don’t know who’s swimming naked till the tide goes out.” For now, all is good in fairy-tale land, but this level of speculation has the ability to destroy the dreams of people for the next 20 years.

Vancouver real estate recently broke all records for volume. People can’t get enough. This is yet another necessary bubble component. Volumes are always highest at the top, never at the bottom. The panic to get in creates a gaping hole of demand in the future. For instance, let’s say over the next five years 100,000 people would normally buy real estate based on their family needs and other factors. The great euphoria and subsequent price rise, however, sucks that demand into this year, and it can be seen readily with today’s high volumes and skyrocketing prices. Who’s left to buy two years out? There has already been a massive flight of capital out of China of over $1 trillion. Will that continue endlessly? Of course not, the Chinese government will stop that at some point, leaving the locals of Vancouver and eastern Australian cities holding the bag.
– Thompson, Bob The Anatomy of a Housing BubbleMacleans Magazine. 21 May 2016

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