Personal exchanges in a challenging environment
After the restrictions enforced as a result of the pandemic in the two previous years, there was a huge desire for personal exchanges in the sanitary industry. Fortunately, many events such as trade fairs, training courses and seminars were again able to take place in the reporting year. Sales representatives were also able to intensify personal visits to customers again.
However, in the second half of the year the challenging market environment manifested itself in a cautious mood among consumers, a drop in visitor numbers at sanitary showrooms and a corresponding decline in demand.
Close partnership with wholesalers
In Geberit’s three-stage business model, wholesalers play a key role. Wholesalers offer plumbers the entire range of products across the various product categories in the field of sanitary technology and heating applications. They ensure product availability through warehousing and a nationwide network of pick-up points as well as the logistics to plumbing companies and construction sites. Furthermore, in many countries wholesalers have showrooms where they can advise end users on their product selection. The close cooperation between Geberit and its wholesale partners is demonstrated by the following examples:
- In the reporting year, the new supply system FlowFit was launched in Italy, Belgium, the Nordic Countries and Slovenia, following on from its extremely successful introduction in Germany, Switzerland, Austria and the Netherlands in the previous year. Prior to the official sales launch in the four new countries and regions, the new supply system was introduced as part of personal visits to sales representatives and consultants at wholesalers. As a result, staff at the wholesalers were able to offer in-depth advice to customers from the very beginning and thus actively shape the market launch.
- The digital sales channel between wholesalers and plumbers has significantly increased in importance in the building technology industry in the last few years. In connection with this, wholesalers rely on standardised product data and documents with verified quality. Geberit supports wholesalers in the best possible way in the structured processing and efficient use of product information – not least to ensure better placement of its own products. To do this, efforts are constantly being made to provide the data in line with the ETIM-8 standard (Electro-Technical Information Model). Among other aspects, this includes logistics information with details on the weight, dimensions or packaging type of products. In the meantime, complete logistics data of over 30,000 articles have been recorded.
- An increasing number of wholesale customers demand transparency from suppliers in terms of their sustainability performance. This is offered by EcoVadis, for example, one of the world’s largest providers of sustainability ratings for companies with a network of over 100,000 companies in around 175 countries. For its sustainability management, the Geberit Group has again been awarded the highest platinum rating in the reporting year, and is thus among the top one percent of all companies rated by EcoVadis.
Dedicated support given to plumbing companies and engineering offices
A significant share of the varied marketing activities was once again targeted at plumbers and sanitary engineers in the reporting year. This especially applies to the personalised and frequently project-related support given to plumbing companies and engineering offices by technical advisors and other sales representatives.
Personal visits to customers and construction sites as well as events for these key target groups were again possible on a larger scale and were carried out intensively. At the same time, digital visit and meeting formats that had proven useful during the pandemic were retained. Sanitary entrepreneurs, sanitary engineers, trade staff and other groups involved in construction now know that relevant information can be accessed online, regardless of time and place. Geberit took this development into account both in its direct customer service approach and in market cultivation with a number of measures and innovative concepts.
2.7 million e-newsletters sent out testify to the well-established customer relationships. The number clearly exceeds the pre-pandemic level, but is below that of the previous year due to the switch to a new e-mail platform. The number of hits on Geberit’s websites worldwide totalled over 18 million.
Strong partner for project business
Geberit know-how for drinking water supply, roof and building drainage and for the construction of sanitary facilities is implemented in countless major projects. The space-saving and installation-friendly systems offer significant advantages in planning and design for the responsible parties and craftsmen. Advantages also include expert technical support on topics including sound insulation, fire protection, statics and hygiene.
Geberit’s focus in project business is the strongly developed support in the area of BIM (Building Information Modelling) – a digital, interdisciplinary planning method for optimising the entire planning and building process. Architects, sanitary engineers and building owners use BIM to share information efficiently. This helps them to avoid planning errors and improve productivity, which brings advantages in major construction projects in particular. For a number of years now, Geberit has been providing BIM users with support in the form of product data and calculation modules. A special plug-in is available for the Autodesk Revit planning software, which combines all Geberit BIM tools in one central application and enables direct access to 3D models and planning parameters that are always kept up to date. So far, the plug-in has been downloaded by more than 8,000 planning and engineering companies worldwide.
Return to trade fairs
Numerous trade fairs were held once again around the world in the reporting year. Geberit was present at selected trade fairs to foster and enlarge the network of contacts in the market and to introduce new products and innovations. The new trade fair concept was introduced to a wide audience for the first time after only being seen online at the virtual Geberit Innovation Days in the previous year. The concept with its open, modular booths demonstrates know-how and solutions in front of and behind the wall, with the Geberit GIS installation system used when setting up the booth. In addition to IFH in Nuremberg (DE), other important presentations were made at Nordbygg in Stockholm (SE) and VSK in Utrecht (NL). Architects and designers were specifically addressed at the Salone del Mobile in Milan (IT).
Design contest for architects and designers
In spring, Geberit launched a design contest for small bathrooms in order to intensify contact with architects and interior designers. In a first phase, architects and interior designers in six countries (CH, DE, FR, CZ, UK, DK) were called upon to design bathrooms with a maximum size of 6 m2 and equip them with Geberit products. In an online voting with more than 37,000 end users in 16 European markets, the design from Bjerg Arkitektur from Denmark was finally selected as the winner.
Digital tools for sanitary engineers, plumbers and end users
The professional customers are offered support in their daily work that meets their needs as much as possible with digital tools. Over 20 applications are now available for assisting professionals in the planning and calculation of sanitary installations or in the commissioning and maintenance of devices. In the reporting year, the focus was on making these applications available in additional Geberit markets.
End users can find inspiration for their bathroom design using apps such as the Washplace Configurator, 3D bathroom planner or virtual showrooms for actuator plates. In 2022, there were concerted efforts to roll out these tools in additional markets. The various tools for end users are now in use in 30 markets.
Classroom training sessions and eLearning courses
In the reporting year, it was possible to provide around 48,000 (previous year 36,000) professionals with face-to-face training on products, tools, software tools and installation skills at the 30 Geberit Information Centres in Europe and overseas. This means that the number of participants recorded is above the pre-pandemic level. At the same time, counter days and local and digital events were organised in numerous markets – often together with wholesalers – to train craftsmen on new products. More than 75,000 customers (previous year 53,000) took part in such events, of which 3,000 in digital formats. Web-based seminars and training courses now occupy a firm and important place in Geberit’s training offer. 19,000 people took part in the past year (previous year 29,000).
Marketing campaign for end users continued
Direct communication with end users helps firmly establish the Geberit brand among this target group. The end user campaign “Better bathrooms, better lives” has been running since 2019.
The campaign consists of three digital elements: an advertising campaign on media portals, the websites of the local Geberit sales companies with various configurators and planning tools, and a customer relationship management (CRM) system. Interested end users receive additional advice and support from qualified specialists after they register in the CRM system. As the home improvement trend caused by the COVID-19 pandemic came to an end in the reporting year, the campaign generated less traffic on local websites compared to the previous year with 3.6 million visits (previous year 4.7 million visits). Despite this, it was possible to improve the efficiency of addressing end users online. With more than 34,000 registrations in the CRM system, the numbers almost reached that of the previous year (36,000).
Targeting customers via social media
The social media presence was further expanded and intensified in 2022. The focal points included targeted support of sales activities. The target groups here were professional decision-makers and end users, who were addressed with advertising formats and editorial content. Geberit used the most popular social media channels for these activities and informed the constantly growing communities on LinkedIn (129,000 followers), YouTube (81,000 followers/45 million views), Instagram (174,000 followers), Facebook (373,000 followers), Twitter (17,000 followers), Pinterest (6,500 followers) and TikTok (400 followers).
Campaign for shower toilets expanded
The presence of Geberit AquaClean in Europe was further enhanced. The shower toilet campaign ran in a total of 17 markets. Local celebrities from the worlds of sport, music and entertainment continued to be involved in the advertising campaigns in most of these markets. These local heroes not only addressed end users in print ads and TV commercials, but also took part in events and competitions.
Following limited opportunities in the two previous years due to COVID-19, the AquaClean truck, exclusive AquaClean WC lounges and the AquaClean trailers were again deployed more frequently. The mobile showroom and test units offered interested parties the opportunity to try out a shower toilet at selected events in countries where the shower toilet campaign is in action.
The campaign running in Germany and Switzerland – where customers can try out a shower toilet test set at home for two weeks – was continued. The test set offers the classic functions of a Geberit shower toilet, but consists of a separate technical unit, a water tank and a water supply pipe with WhirlSpray nozzle. It can be attached to an existing WC ceramic appliance by the end user in just a few simple steps and without tools. Following great interest, the set was also offered for sale in Switzerland as part of a pilot project under the AquaClean Cama name.
The international sales initiative for shower toilets at hotels again made encouraging progress. This meant that prestigious hotel projects could once more be acquired in the reporting year. The number of four- and five-star hotels equipped with AquaClean shower toilets in Europe is now 650.
Reduction of activities in Russia
As a result of the war in Ukraine, sales activities in Russia were discontinued on 25 March 2022, but the local organisational setup was maintained. After a renewed assessment of the situation and the various options, the Executive Board, together with the local management in Russia, came to the conclusion to reduce the current sales company to a pure service organisation as of January 2023. In this context, the number of jobs was reduced from 66 at the end of 2022 to 22. The remaining employees will provide reactive customer support in the Moscow and St. Petersburg regions. In concrete terms, this means that the employees will take care of warranty services and technical queries regarding installed products. However, products continue not to be sold in Russia and Geberit continues to fully comply with the sanctions imposed in connection with the war in Ukraine.