Case study

Disrupting the skyline
with next-gen roofs

Developing GAF’s new products for better, more affordable home construction

GAF partnered with Board of Innovation to de-risk their pipeline of new roofing materials, to develop them into high-value, winning products, and bring them to market in a way that would grow new business without cannibalizing their core business

Challenge

Developing new products and operational models without cannibalizing core business

GAF was developing a series of new products to make it simpler and cheaper to install metal, tile and plastic membrane roofs, but the demand for them was going to be at the fringes of their existing market (which is mostly asphalt shingles sold to roofing contractors and big box distributors). So while GAF wanted help refining the products based on customer needs, it also needed a new business model. How could these innovative products be sold at a volume that would be valuable enough for GAF to justify the investment, but also in a way that wouldn't disrupt sales of their existing products? The other big challenge was to overcome resistance to innovation among potential new customers, given that the home construction industry has not always been open to new ideas.

Strategy

Overcoming customer skepticism through rapid validation

By speaking to current and potential customers, we identified that their top priority was addressing a shortage of skilled labor, especially home builders and contractors. We validated assumptions around the pipeline of new products with prospective customers and found that they needed to be convinced that the innovative products were not too-good-to-be-true. We also learned customers also wanted a simplified process for ordering, delivery, installation, and payment, so brought this into the solution

Outcome

A future with better homes

GAF launched a new easy-installation roofing product, Timber Steel, aimed at new customer segments focused on overcoming skilled labor shortages. In addition, in Q1 2023, GAF piloted a new, seamless ordering experience for customers in a controlled geographic area, with more to follow by the end of the year. These innovations unlock new customers for GAF, increase their speed and reduce costs, and enable homeowners to get and maintain the homes they want more affordably

GAF successfully rolled out their new product, Timber Steel, and began piloting their new operational model in a controlled geographic area, with plans for further rollouts by year-end

Challenge

Developing new products and operational models without cannibalizing core business

GAF, the leading roofing manufacturer in North America, was developing a series of new roofing products to make it easier and cheaper to install metal, tile, and thermoplastic (TPO) roofs. However, the demand for these materials was limited and could cannibalize the sales of their existing products (primarily asphalt shingles sold to roofing contractors and big box distributors). They partnered with Board of Innovation to validate and refine these products and create a new business model.

A lot of our role in the imagining part was around creating a venture around the new products, trying to help GAF figure out what kind of business it wanted to create around them, and how it could do that in a way that was both disruptive and driving value for GAF customers.

Evan Madden-Peister, Principal Consultant AMER, Board of Innovation

GAF faced two main challenges: how to develop and sell these innovative products to generate sufficient net new business, and how to overcome potential resistance to innovation among potential new customers, given that the home construction industry has not always been open to new ideas.



GAF partnered with Board of Innovation to validate and refine their new products and create a business model for them.

Strategy

Overcoming customer skepticism through rapid validation

In roofing and in construction more broadly, they're generally pretty suspicious of something new. They’d give us feedback like “Here are the things that are gonna go wrong.” All the work we did getting through those suspicions helped us understand the huge trust barriers that GAF needed to break through with this new venture

To complement, rather than cannibalize existing sales, we approached the challenge by focusing on two B2B customer segments at the periphery: large home building companies building several hundred thousand homes a year, and contractor selling organizations. We knew the skilled labor force in construction was shrinking, and started with a hypothesis that this is skilled roofing labor recruitment and retention was a bottleneck for these new customer segments. 



Our validation approach and customer discovery work were initially driven by our hypothesis for winning these new customer groups. If you have products that are easier to install, that would be appealing to those customers because it obviously saves them time and money in the process of installing a roof, right?



We interviewed GAF's current and potential new customers and validated that they're having difficulty keeping up with consumer demand for products that required specialized expertise to install, but also learned that they were skeptical this challenge could be solved through new products. "It's too good to be true.".

Much of what came out of that discovery work was aesthetics – what consumers wanted in shades, texturing, the way the products looked with other house components  – and there were also requests for specific product features. But what we discovered went beyond that. Yes, they wanted an easier installation process, but they were suspicious about whether that was really possible, and they also wanted to simplify the whole “soup to nuts” process for these types of materials – from ordering to delivery to installation to payment.



So along with the discovery about product aesthetics and features we also did a lot of prototyping and testing of processes directly with these customer groups. “What could a process look like in terms of how you would order? Are you comfortable with this or do you still want to talk to somebody? Why or why not? . . . “ Going through all of that iteratively with the customers, we were able to arrive at something that was palatable and workable for them, and gave them more confidence that the innovative products could actually be useful for them

Outcome

A future with better homes

GAF has rolled out one of the new products, Timber Steel, as well as the new operational model starting with a pilot in a controlled geographic area in the first quarter of 2023, with more to follow by the end of the year. That means in the very near future, more people should be able to get and maintain the homes they want (nicer, sturdier, energy efficient) more quickly and at a more affordable cost.

Meanwhile, GAF has a potential new business model and a new operational model that might be applicable in other areas of their industry as well.  Some of the most successful products might eventually get folded into the core business, but these models should help the company to continue to innovate going forward.

Thanks to the new products and services developed with Board of Innovation, GAF's new customers are benefiting from an end-to-end customer service around ordering and installation, as well as improvements in the features of the new products. This has resulted in benefits for the client's business, enabling them to build and repair more homes faster and at a lower cost. Additionally, these innovations have helped GAF's customers overcome a shortage of skilled labor, resulting in benefits for their customers and society.

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