In most cases the increases recorded in our survey results were expected, but in some areas the increases were surprisingly dramatic. For example, in 1999, 85 percent of the survey respondents said they have a personal computer that they use in their businesses. In 2000, the increase was only one percent. Upon review, that seems logical. Computers have become so ubiquitous in business that anyone who wasn't using one by 1999 probably isn't ever going to begin.
Likewise, when we asked retailers if they had a strong interest in what their industry leaders were thinking and planning for the Internet, nearly all respondents in 2000 answered, Yes (96 percent)—an increase of 15 percent from a year earlier. When asked to rank their interest in the Internet in order of importance, the top choice was learning what others in the industry are doing. Again, this was not surprising. Dealers in any industry always are interested in what others—especially their leaders—are planning.
On the other hand, the increases in the percentages of respondents who indicated they e-mail customers and suppliers, have a company Web page and currently conduct business on the Internet were higher than expected—increases of 20, 23 and 15 percent, respectively, over the course of a year.
These responses indicate retailers understand the marketing uses of the Internet and are beginning to take advantage of its unique ways of presenting and offering information. As of late last year, slightly more than half of the retailers we surveyed now were using e-mail to contact customers and suppliers (56 percent), more than a third have Web sites (36 percent, up from only 13 percent in 1999), and one in four are currently conducting business on the Internet (up from 10 percent a year earlier).
Conducting business on the Internet is where the most important revelations can be found in the survey results. It has long been a mainstay that in the future business will be conducted over the Internet—and the future is now. It also has been somewhat disconcertingly understood that the window coverings industry lags behind many others in this area. Apparently, that is about to change.
In addition to the fact that 25 percent of the survey respondents in 2000 said they were conducting business on the Internet now, the responses to two other questions strikingly indicate the window coverings industry is about to get involved in e-commerce in a big way:
In 1999, we asked dealers if they believed window coverings retailers will conduct business on the Internet. Most did—88 percent replied, Yes. In 2000, however, virtually every retailer who responded (99 percent) understood the industry will use the Internet as a business tool on the retail level.
What's more, when specifically asked if they believed their own window coverings business will conduct transactions on the Internet within the next five years, 86 percent of respondents replied, Yes (an increase from 61 percent in 1999 and the largest increase recorded in the two surveys).
In is clear, then, the effects and advantages of the Internet, Web sites, e-mail and e-commerce are becoming widespread within the window coverings industry and will play important roles in its future.
Internet survey 2000 vs. 1999
In late 1999, D&WC surveyed 300 window coverings retailers across the country to judge their interest in the Internet and how the World Wide Web fits into their business strategies. The same survey was conducted again a year later.
The percentages below indicate the respondents answering "Yes" to the following questions: 2000 1999 Do you have a personal computer that you use in your business? 86% 85% Do you access the Internet? 85% 70% Do you currently e-mail suppliers and/or customers? 56% 36% Do you have a Web page? 36% 13% Do you currently conduct any business with customers on the Internet? 25% 10% Do you believe window coverings retailers will conduct business on the Internet? 99% 88% Do you believe your window coverings business will conduct business on theInternet within the next five years? 86% 61% Do you have a strong interest inknowing what industry leaders think about and plan for the Internet? 96% 81% What are your most important areas of Interest in the Internet (in order of importance): Learn what others are doing in my field 78% Learn how suppliers can support my efforts 71% What services/features do consumers want on a Web site 63% How to market my business on the Web 61% How to do business on the Internet60% 60% How to have an Internet presence 53% Learn success ideas from other industries 50% Talk to hardware/software experts 40% Creating a virtual retail store 40%