Where do customers really look to find window coverings solutions? Now that nearly everyone has a Web page is there any advantage to one? Is the window coverings industry taking full advantage of what the Internet can offer?
Draperies & Window Coverings polled industry leaders seeking to place industry Web sites into the context of today’s marketing environment. Here are their replies:
WEB SITE A ‘MUST HAVE’
Vice President Marketing, R & D
Plastibec does find it important to have a presence on the Web. Our Web site is fully bilingual (soon to be trilingual) with over 30 pages of content. More and more consumers are using the Internet to look up product information.
Today, the Internet is a must for all established companies. When sales representatives make a new contact with customers, they can walk them through our user friendly Web page, in just a few clicks they will have an overview of our company, products, brochures and any upcoming promotions or a company update. It brings a lot of credibility to any company.
Plastibec’s Web site is really customer oriented: Customers can download catalogs, view our virtual catalog, perform online order inquiry, get the latest company news, see current promotions and much more.
As a manufacturer we cater to fabricators, so our Web site is oriented towards their needs. We give them the tools to better sell these products. Our goal is to provide them with key information to facilitate the buying and selling process.
We do find the Web site really useful to show products in situations where the customer is on the phone or away from our location. The customer can just visit the Web, surf through our virtual product catalog, download information and experience design, innovation and colors.
Our user-friendly Web site allows for information (catalogs and brochures) to be easily downloaded and printed. Information delivery has attained new levels of speed. Online order inquiry is also a new addition to our Web site. Our customers are now able to inquire about the status of their orders 24/7.
Web sites, if used properly and efficiently, can improve customer relationships. Keep it simple, easy to surf and give your customers the information they are looking for. Plasibec will soon be launching its trilingual (English, Spanish, French) Web site. We want to become a world-class company competing in a global marketplace.
BUYERS ACTIVELY SEEK
With the current hype concerning the economy, consumers research their investments and purchases more than ever. Their first stop is often an online search engine.
With the help of the Internet, they may know which product they want or where they will shop before ever stepping foot in a store. If you don’t have a Web site, you are missing out on these technologically savvy, educated buyers.
You can touch potential consumers with door hangers, print ads or direct mail, but they may not be looking for what you’re selling. With a Web site, these potential buyers are actively seeking information they do want, which could be the services you offer.
At Warren Steven Window Fashions, we try to lead our dealers by example. Our Web site is continually updated with breaking news, promotions, photos, product information—you name it! Our Web site has proved to be a great reference for our dealers and we encourage our dealers to provide a reliable reference for prospective consumers.
Hunter Douglas provides an excellent consumer Web site—with the interactive iMagine™ Design Center to view products in a room setting or up close. A dealer locator is also at their site, but dealers can’t rely on that alone.
We often say, “You’ve got to show it to sell it.” It’s so important, in 2008, to have a functional, online presence complete with your contact information, the products you sell, customer testimonials and a portfolio of your work.
THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING GOOGLED
ZMC Window Covering Supplies
Customers use the Internet to find everything. A small competitor or start-up gains instant credibility with a well-constructed Web site. If theirs is the only site found, that's whom your potential customer will buy from. An e-mail with your Web site address is a lot easier than finding and faxing or mailing a brochure. A Web site = easy, efficient referrals. When the number of clients generated by a Web site are compared with advertising costs, a Web site provides a much higher return on investment.
• The best customers use the Internet: Well-funded, well-equipped businesses use the Internet extensively for e-mail and to gather information. These are the most valuable prospects. They have money to spend! If they can’t find you, they may go somewhere else.
• Customers investigate before making contact: The anonymity of the Web has given the customer an advantage: They can investigate without personal contact and avoid repeated sales calls or giving away information through personal queries. They can visit your site and decide if you have the goods or service that they want.
This also means that the customer who makes contact is pre-qualified. They already know you have what they want, making your job easier.
• Web sites become the most advanced marketing tool: When the cost of creating, printing, distributing and updating a brochure is taken into consideration, your more-easily-maintained Web site is a better investment. We know a brochure can be important, but if you have a brochure you should have a Web site. If you don’t have a brochure, you should create a Web site first.
• A Web site makes your business card more effective: A business card is low-cost and gives your customers a way to remember you. But the most common information kept is the e-mail address and the Web site address.
• Web sites build relationships with your supplier and customers: Since you control your Web site’s contents, you can tell your complete story. It’s the one arena you control absolutely. Most customers will not visit your offices and they may miss or ignore advertising. The secretary who answers the phone may flub the call. But you control absolutely how your Web site presents itself. It serves as a credibility and competency check for every visitor.
• Customers look for you on the Internet: Every business needs a Web site. This may be most important for a small business that cannot afford missed opportunities and needs the most efficient way to conduct its affairs.
Using Google to find a person’s or company’s phone number or address is so popular it's called Googling. Make sure you’re there for the customers to find window covering solutions when you or your company is Googled.
INCREASE CUSTOMER SERVICE
Orion Ornamental Iron, Inc.
Web sites are a very important link from a service or product provider to its customers. Company Web sites are excellent communication tools for products, product application, interactive services and contact. Manufacturers Web sites facilitate business with their trade customers by presenting the company and its products instantly and effectively.
Web sites have a very important role in developing relationships with customers by offering features to place orders, review order status, download catalog and price lists, track shipments among many other facilities that can be created to increase customer service.
Vice President of
While Hunter Douglas continues to believe and invest in traditional media such as print, television, newspaper, radio, direct mail, public relations and the like, we have also significantly increased our Internet and online investments in each of the last five years.
In 2007, we received over 3 million visits to hunterdouglas.com for the first time, and traffic to our site has continued to grow at record levels in the first two months of 2008, economy notwithstanding.
Our award-winning iMagine™ Design Center continues to attract and satisfy a record number of visitors every month who love how easy, comprehensive and helpful our tool is in helping them to learn about, visualize and render all of the thousands of Hunter Douglas products, fabrics and color options.
We believe so much in Internet advertising that we have provided each of our aligned Gallery™ and Showcase Priority Dealers™ with their own Web sites, which consumers can link to off of each dealer’s listing found on the Dealer Locator section of hunterdouglas.com. Last year alone, over 250,000 consumers visited one or more of the over 1,500 dealer Web sites.
While the Web sites I’ve described above are intended to attract and engage consumers in a Hunter Douglas/dealer experience prior to a store visit or shop-at-home call, Hunter Douglas is using the Internet to provide dealers with access to information about our products, programs and services (dealers.hunterdouglas.com and alliance.hunterdouglas.com), electronic order entry (Direct Connect and other variations from our fabricator partners), online training (PCMP and The Learning Center at learning.hunterdouglas.com), and online customer management software (iCM), to name a few.
We believe dealers should consider pay-per-click keyword search and/or banner display advertising to attract additional customers to their independent Web sites; however, we would advise against entering the world of online selling as it is very expensive to build and maintain a first-class selling site, invest in the advertising required to attract interested customers, and to provide the back-end service required to hold the hand of a consumer who is often concerned about making an expensive customized product purchase online. At the same time, dealers need to become comfortable with how computers can help them manage their businesses more professionally and easily.
There is no doubt that every professional dealer should be involved in some degree of Internet activity and that Hunter Douglas stands ready to assist them with maximizing their respective investment.