Launched in 2012, BigRentz allows customers across the country to place orders for rental equipment online, from any device, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The company has 2,000 rental partners in 8,000 locations across the country to fulfill orders through its customer dashboard and fulfillment back-end, QuickRentz.
Equipment World asked BigRentz CEO Scott Cannon to tell us what he’s seeing in the rental marketplace.
Where do you see the market going?
General construction equipment rental is expected to grow about 5 percent for the full year 2019. We are still riding on the trail winds of a good overall economy driven by low interest rates, close to full employment, and continued capital investment. Certain areas of rental such as power, HVAC, pump, trench, and shoring continue to outpace in growth than any other areas of rental equipment.
Weather was definitely a factor in 1Q as most of the country experienced one of the wetter and colder winters in nearly 40 years. We saw high volumes of inquiries for snow removal items such as skid steers and dozers.
California experienced enough rainfall this winter to make up for almost a decade of drought which really slowed construction projects and rentals. Weather continues to be delaying projects in parts of Texas and Gulf Coast states, more so than normal seasonal conditions.
Therefore, we believe the annual price increases seen over the past few years will hold and potentially see some contraction by year-end.
Although the level of general construction projects may stagnate, potentially by early 2020, we believe our core rental equipment, aerial work platforms and material handling equipment will continue to grow though facility maintenance projects.
What big changes have you seen from contractors renting equipment?
For the first time ever we have seen more contractors using wireless devices – phones and tablets – to search for equipment to hire. Previously the majority of searches were made via desktop computers. In the first quarter of this year the number of people using phones for sourcing rental equipment on our site went up to 47 percent, an increase of 8 percent from the same time last year. Meanwhile, customers using tablets to source equipment also grew by 5 percent, compared to 1Q 2018. This puts the total percentage of contractors using some sort of mobile device at 52 percent – making it the most popular form for sourcing equipment.
In comparison, our data shows searches via desktop dropped from 58 percent in the first quarter of 2018 to 49 percent this year.
During 1Q this year, we also saw direct online booking for all types all equipment increase by 7 percent to 33 percent. That means contractors are sourcing, booking and paying online, without making phone calls.
This is a significant change in behavior because it shows people are becoming more comfortable using technology to book directly online, without any human interaction in their transaction.
How else is technology impacting the rental industry?
Generally speaking, technology is impacting the accuracy, volume and velocity of communications and data.
Technology is enabling more accurate information (rates, availability, issue resolution, etc.) in a much more timely manner and through different communication channels. It is also forcing rental companies to learn and navigate new business challenges such as how to compete online. The online experience is already getting crowded, and rental companies may be asking, “How will I stand apart?”
For BigRentz specifically, we are using technology for market driven data. We regularly update our competitive pricing by using hundreds of millions of data points covering equipment, price, availability, utilization and location – down to every county in the U.S., along with economic data. We have data analysts using technology in the form of machine learning and artificial intelligence for continual information to aid business improvements.
However, as mentioned earlier, the most significant way technology is affecting rental is through what we call a “touchless booking system” where everything is ordered without any human interaction. Users can rent a scissor lift online through check out, submit paperwork or extend the rental through a customer portal, be notified by text or email about the delivery and pickup, all without a single phone call. On the supplier side, the same is true – a supplier partner will be notified of the scissor rental through text message, have all the information delivered to the company via email and will take advantage of the sales channel all without having to place a single phone call. (We obviously also give the option to have a phone conversation with one of our rental experts.)
What ways can rental companies add value to customers beyond delivering the product?
Rental companies can add value to customers by being a seamless partner to the company renting equipment.
Rental companies should understand their customers’ industry and business and tailor their customer service and rental process to support the customers’ needs.
For example, if a contractor has a list of 100 job sites, the rental company will need to process this list as efficiently as possible without error – preferably without phone calls. A recent example is a data cabling and wiring firm that has a contract with a retailer to retrofit hundreds of stores nationwide. The contracted firm only works at night and needs the scissor lifts delivered and picked up during odd hours so it doesn’t impact its customers’ parking lots, operations or sales. We effectively become an extension of the client’s service to the retailer, thus safeguarding their contract.
There is a misconception that renting equipment is time consuming or difficult. There’s no reason that qualified and experienced users of equipment shouldn’t be able to reserve and book equipment just like a car rental – with a few clicks on a computer, phone or tablet. Time is valuable and it should be spent on value-added work and not trying to find a piece of equipment or haggling on price.