Today, customers can go online for answers to just about any question they have, but does what they find there work in a custom products industry such as window coverings?
Here’s what industry leaders have to say.
NOT QUITE THERE, YET
Director of Marketing
The Internet has great potential for dealers. E-commerce is the way of the future for retail. With the click of a mouse, a consumer can “Google” any topic and come up with amazing amounts of information and “e-tailers” galore. Web sites today are high-tech, with polish and pizzazz enough to impress the most savvy consumers.
Unfortunately, for many window fashions dealers, such a Web site is out of the budget. It’s too expensive. For those who have braved the e-commerce waters in window fashions, their sites show that the technology is not quite there yet, either. It can’t live up to the gold standard: face-to-face interaction between a decorator and a consumer.
Therefore, dealers need to make the most of what is available to them and use their Web sites as an online catalog. Having a clean, professional, inviting Web site that is easy to navigate is a must. Beyond that, the best way dealers can use their Web sites to increase business is through beautiful photography. Great images have tremendous impact. They leave a lasting impression of the full array of window fashions a dealer has to offer.
Suppliers can help dealers gain and maintain a helpful Web presence by consistently providing new, beautiful images. B&W Mfg. offers a CD of stunning images from our Horizons™ line for dealers to use. It’s available for free to any Horizons™ dealer. In fact, we’ve just added a whole new collection of incredible photography that our dealers can use on their Web sites or in their advertisements.
GROW YOUR CUSTOMER BASE
Turnils North America
Using online classifieds and directories is a great way to get exposure. If a dealer has his own Web site, it is very important that he or she take the time to name each of the pages with relevant words, such as blinds, shades, draperies, etc. The page name is what search engines will look at when looking for a certain inquiry. Doing so not only will maximize visibility, it will guarantee to bring the dealer’s Web site higher in the search results.
It is very important for vendors to be a part of the process by providing product information, photography and any necessary support via collateral materials and the Web. Online libraries and information centers are a great idea to make knowledge accessible to dealers and customers a click away.
Selling product directly to consumers will be the next big challenge the industry will have to overcome and embrace! Consumers are using the Internet to do everything and anything. Being able to provide the necessary information so they can make an educated decision is key, especially when they are looking for your business.
The Internet allows the business to make a first impression when the opportunity arises while removing geographic limitations. In other words, the customer base can grow and the best part is that consumers can logon and make a purchase at any time of the day or night. However, there will always be a need for a sales representative that can answer questions, make recommendations and keep the purchase process personal.
Vice President of Corporate Marketing
Hunter Douglas Inc.
Early on, Hunter Douglas saw the power of the Internet as a way to attract and engage consumers in our brand experience and we have significantly increased our budget for a broad range of online activities directed at consumers. Equally important, we have taken the steps to link our most loyal aligned dealers with the 2.5 million consumers who visit hunterdouglas.com each year.
We have also provided Gallery and Showcase Priority Dealers with their own customized Web sites available to consumers off of our Dealer Locator. Last year alone they received more than 250,000 consumer visits.
Building a site is the easiest part. Attracting consumers to your site is where it gets expensive—it’s a tricky business that can require a lot of attention. Hunter Douglas spends millions of dollars attracting consumers to hunterdouglas.com and millions more developing tools for its dealers to use. Hunter Douglas dealers can price jobs and place orders with their fabricators electronically, take sales and product training online, use our Dealers, Designers and Installers Web site for up-to-the-minute product and marketing information, network with one another in chat rooms, take e-briefings, participate in WebExes and reach out to consumers through local online directories and display ad media.
The one area we would suggest dealers avoid is selling over the Internet. This is a very specialized and expensive investment. While the Internet is a very popular way to buy books, shoes, movie tickets, jewelry and clothing, many consumers are extremely skeptical about spending $2,000-plus for custom window coverings from a company they don’t know and can’t visit.