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Buying time

Product intelligence

To my mind, shopping via the web brings together pretty well all the best bits of buying by post, phone or in person.

Prime advantage is that you can shop at your own convenience, taking your time to make an informed decision and weigh up all the performance criteria. The downside is that you can become so inundated with reviews and infor-mation that you spend weeks dith- ering.

Hence the importance of sites that steer you through the decision making.

Construction is a prime candidate for ecommerce, both for the routine purchases like sand, and for the specification and buying of items where performance or appearance really counts. Shiny brochures or even CDs of data soon become out of date, whereas webbased information can be updated immediately the specification or price changes. Recent industry research suggests that half of all construction transactions will be conducted online by 2005 In answer, NCE's publisher Emap is launching a major specification and ecommerce service for construction which will be demonstrated for the first time at Interbuild and Civils 2000 this week. Construction Intelligence will sit alongside NCE Plus and its sister sites for other construction professions.

From the start there will be data in three main categories - structures; roofing and cladding; and finishes and interiors - and around 50,000 products are already included. Other categories will be added over the coming months, building to a comprehensive repository of construction product information.

Users will be able to search by manufacturer or product type, and then drill down into the key specifications of products they select. Take a lintel for instance. Data will include its material, compressive strength and finish as well as recommended applications.

The service should become the primary tool for the specification and purchase of building materials, with the database eventually housing details of up to one million products and services.

Streamlining the specification and purchasing process will create efficiencies valued at 5% for the industry.

Right from its launch, contractors will be able to use Construction Intelligence to buy a number of key products. Not surprisingly, Emap will not actually be loading the lorries. This is where the partnership with Wolseley Centers, one of the largest builders' merchants in the UK comes in (NCE 11 May). In time, most of the 150,000 different product types and ranges stocked by Wolseley Centers' 1,000 outlets will be available for purchase online through CI.

Lisa Russell is editor of NCE Plus

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