In an effort to keep a close eye on businesses that are aligning themselves with growing trends related to online equipment rentals, we recently met with Robert Preville, founder and CEO of up and coming startup, KWIPPED, which he describes as an online B2B equipment rental marketplace. We wanted to get his perspective on the role the internet and technology will play in construction equipment rental in the years to come.
Rental: In your opinion, where is the construction industry in terms of adopting internet solutions and digital technology to enhance the interactions between equipment rental customers and suppliers?
Preville: When compared to the B2C world, which has countless examples of wildly successful businesses using technology to deliver value such as Uber, Airbnb and Expedia, the entire B2B sector, in general, is lagging behind. Specifically, the heavy construction equipment rental space is no exception and is yet to unleash an incredible amount of potential for enhanced productivity - although I sense that is all about to change as the value and advantages gained by early adopters becomes evident and builds momentum.
Rental: Why do you think construction equipment rental has lagged behind in technology adoption and integration?
Preville: The status quo usually seems easier, and to a certain degree, we are all resistant to change. Technology, the kind that delivers real value, can be seen as inconvenient until the value is clearly understood and experienced. Plus, it’s relatively simple for an individual to make a change and try out something new; but changing and embracing “new” in a well-established, complex, multi-layered industry is not as simple. Construction is not a vertically integrated industry at all. The supply chain is made up of countless separate entities; but even though they are separate, their interactions are interrelated. Since trying something new might affect other entities down the line, it’s often easier to simply settle for more of the same. But, the cliche, “time is money” is so true in construction that eventually the demand for increased efficiency and productivity will outweigh resistance to change and the businesses that leverage technology to meet that demand will prevail.
Rental: In what ways, specifically, can technology enhance construction equipment rental?
Preville: Expanding on my previous answer, construction is so complex and has so many moving parts that the industry is ripe for the kind of streamlining and productivity enhancements made possible through innovative technology. I’m not qualified to speak to the ways technology could impact all aspects of construction, but I do know that you don’t need a 20-minute call to source and rent a piece of equipment, especially a piece of equipment you’ve rented multiple times before from the same supplier. With technology solutions, a repetitive, predictable task like that can be done in seconds with a mouse click or a tap of a finger on a mobile device.
Let me give another example that illustrates one of the main value propositions of our technology platform…
Before a construction company or contractor can begin doing any billable work, they are typically spending time (and therefore money) in the estimating and bidding phase. This investment of time and resources has an ROI of $0, unless, of course, you win the bid. KWIPPED is a two-sided marketplace that matches rental needs with a network of suppliers that can fulfill those needs. Instead of wasting time interacting with multiple, individual suppliers to compare prices or gather quotes, our users can enter a single request and receive multiple quotes back from multiple suppliers, usually within a few minutes. Now the rental customer can easily compare several options and rates from multiple suppliers, all from a single site in the fraction of the time it used to take. If they lose the bid, at least they spent minimal time sourcing the equipment rental. If they win the bid, they still receive a better ROI because the process was far more efficient.
We’re using tech to make life easier for suppliers too. Our platform uses technology to streamline every aspect of the rental process, from major functions like quoting rental opportunities, arranging shipping or delivery of the equipment and tracking active rentals, to smaller details like collecting insurance certificates and security deposits. With all the functionality necessary to execute rentals and all the data necessary to manage inventory, set competitive rates and gain new business, technology offers an extraordinary opportunity for increased efficiency and performance.
Rental: Do you see technology replacing salespeople?
Preville: No, absolutely not. Relationships, expertise and a level of trust that can only be achieved through human interaction will always be important and necessary aspects of a successful construction business. But technology can definitely enhance an individual’s ability to meet customer needs more efficiently and effectively. A business that is great at building and nurturing customer relationships and also leverages technology to work smarter and more productively is really well positioned for continued growth and success.
Rental: What makes KWIPPED unique in the online equipment rental market?
Preville: We believe our go-to-market strategy includes several key differentiators. Let me mention three big ones:
Horizontal market approach - The phrase “equipment rental” is predominantly associated with the construction industry, which makes sense because the construction space is responsible for more than half of all equipment rentals in the U.S. However, a little market research reveals there are still tens of billions of dollars being spent on equipment rentals outside of construction. Anyone that visits KWIPPED.com will quickly notice that we’ve taken a horizontal approach. Most online equipment rental businesses are focused in a single equipment category. Our technology-driven platform enables us to support and facilitate equipment rental across wide range of commercial industries. Yes, we offer heavy construction equipment rentals, but we’re also renting equipment across 20+ other categories, like laboratory, medical, surveying, electronic test, audio-visual etc. Of course, the other industries might not be of much interest to your readers, but understanding our business requires an understanding of industry agnostic perspective of equipment rental.
A true tech-powered marketplace model - A website and an online marketplace are not the same. There are plenty of online businesses that sell and/or rent various types of equipment online - but most of them actually own the equipment. KWIPPED is a technology play. We don’t own equipment, our platform facilitates a very efficient rental process between rental customers and a large network of pre-sourced, qualified suppliers.
To more clearly communicate the benefit of our technology, let me use an example. When people plan and book travel today, they do not visit each airline website and then visit each hotel website and then visit each rental car website to find out their options and available prices - that takes too long. Most people go to a travel site like Expedia or Travelocity. They enter their desired dates and destinations and in seconds the technology serves up travel, lodging and transportation options, which can be easily filtered by various factors allowing the user to drill down and identify the option (or combination of options) that best meets their needs and criteria.
We’re using technology to do something similar. Our users can search and filter by a variety of factors to sift through live inventory uploaded by multiple suppliers onto the KWIPPED platform. If they don’t find what they need in the live inventory, they can submit a single quote request and receive multiple quotes from several different suppliers. The dashboard arranges the quotes for easy apples-to-apples comparison and the renter can secure the best option in seconds.
We’re all about empowering professionals to find and rent the equipment they need as quickly and simply as possible so they can get back to the important work that drives their business revenue. We like to say, “Get KWIPPED...get work done!”
Supplier first mentality - We made a very conscious decision to build our business model around the idea of supplier enablement. It seems counterintuitive since our renters are the ones paying for the rentals. So, why would we place our emphasis on the supplier experience? For the same reasons that some businesses (including ours) places a lot of value and emphasis on taking good care of employees. They realized that if they did right by their employees and provided them with the tools to do their jobs well - the end customer would ultimately reap many benefits. The quality of the experience our rental customers have is directly tied to the quality of the products and services our suppliers deliver. So, we’ve gone out of our way to make sure KWIPPED suppliers have everything they need to maximize rentals and revenue and minimize the time and effort required to close rentals.
And we’re providing some extra value that suppliers might not be investing in for themselves, like a Supplier Mobile App so they can manage rentals out in the field, an extra layer of customer service personnel monitoring and responding to all aspects of a rental and ongoing digital marketing campaigns capturing online demand for the exact equipment suppliers have available in their inventories. From a broader perspective, many equipment rental business lack the resources, expertise or working capital to invest in the technology that customers are now beginning to expect and demand. KWIPPED suppliers gain the advantages of technology without the time, hassle and expense of developing and maintaining it.
Rental: Do you have any advice for equipment rental companies?
Preville: Consumers (including me) are constantly searching online for everything they need. These days, many consumers are just speaking their search requests verbally into their devices… Where’s the nearest Mexican restaurant? When is the championship game on? Order milk from Amazon.
The day when much of business is done the same way is coming very soon… Where can I rent a 40-ft. boom lift in Miami, FL?
Embrace technology that enhances your customers’ experience, because soon they’re going to demand it as a prerequisite for their business.