Surprising Internet Customer Profile Means More Potential Business

by WOHe

Surprising Internet Customer Profile Means More
Potential Business

If you think that most Internet users are nerds and geeks,
you’re way behind the times. According to the latest available
statistics, in fact, 56% of America (about 154 million people)
accessed the Internet in November of 2000. Their average age was 39
years and rising in other words, they’re prime remodeling prospects
for kitchen and bath designers. Moreover, the number of women
online is equal to, or exceeds, the number of men during most
months. And, paradoxically, the longer someone spends online, the
lower the user’s income is likely to be. Time-pressed consumers
from upscale demographic groups view the Web as a place to gather
information on big-ticket items such as kitchens and baths,
although the average length of time spent on any one Web site page
is only about 50 seconds.

What does all of this mean to kitchen/bath retailers,
“whotailers,” cabinet shops and other industry manufacturers? It
means that if you don’t currently have an Internet presence, you
may very well be missing out on an opportunity to engage the
upscale market you want and need at its own convenience.

In addition, it means that Web site pages should probably
contain brief bursts of information that load fast rather than long
screens and slow-loading graphics. If the user has to scroll down
to see it, perhaps it ought to be on another page.

As a kitchen and bath retailer, your Web site should contain
these basics, on easy-to-read, short pages:

  • Your address, phone, fax, hours of operation and market area
    covered. If you serve only, say, Bergen County in NJ, say that up
    front so as not to waste the browser’s time.

  • A clear idea of whom the e-visitor is likely to encounter. Put a
    face with a name for each person in your company, and note each
    person’s qualifications and duties. For example: “You’ll be greeted
    by Yolanda, our receptionist, when you enter our showroom. Our
    award-winning designer Stavros, who is a Certified Kitchen
    Designer, will help you come up with the kitchen or bath of your
    dreams. And Zoltan will make sure that your project is installed
    correctly and according to 
    schedule.”

  • A clear description of your selling process. Do you provide all
    services, or only certain ones? Do you sell product and design
    only? Do you charge a design fee? Do you obtain permits and build
    fees into your price, or is that the homeowner’s
    responsibility?

  • A full list of what you sell. Do you do kitchens but not baths?
    Do you do structural remodeling? Do you do home offices?

  • What products do you sell? What are their features and benefits?
    How are those products better than other competing products? You
    should have links to your suppliers’ Web sites and you should be
    sure that your suppliers provide potential customers visiting their
    Web site with a means of finding you easily. 
    What are your policies? Do you require one-third of the total price
    upon contract signing, one-third upon cabinet delivery and
    one-third upon completion?

Remember, a lot of this information may be old hat to you, but
to a consumer who will be remodeling his kitchen for the first (and
most likely the only) time in his life, 
this is all brand new territory to take on.

Other factors should also enter into play when reviewing your
Web site/Internet information, such as:

What organizations do you belong to? Are you a member of the
National Kitchen & Bath Association? The National Association
of Remodelers? The local Chamber of Commerce? The Better Business
Bureau?

Should you put an e-mail address? This is a tough question, and
the best answer is, it depends. E-mail can be a tremendous tool for
breaking the ice with new customers. It can also become an
overwhelming time drain, with hundreds of worthless messages a day
showing up on your e-mail.
One solution is to provide only a phone number, to encourage
personal contact for question and answer. If you decide to go the
e-mail route, here are some suggestions to help keep it
manageable.

1. Filter your e-mail so that you know the market area the
e-mail comes from is the market area you serve. Filter it so that
correspondents must provide a phone number to send the e-mail. Be
sure you state on your Web page, as an example: “I’m sorry, but I
can only respond to e-mail from residents of the greater Mound City
and Tuba Lakes area.” Then, someone from Singapore may still send
you an e-mail, but he will have nothing to kick about when you
ignore it.

2. Structure the response you wish to solicit. Put a FAQ
(frequently asked question) section 
on your Web site, and suggest visitors look at it. Update that area
frequently.

3. Check your e-mail frequently and respond quickly. (Bear in
mind there is nothing wrong with saying, for instance, “Call me at
555-555-5555 so we can discuss this in depth and I can answer all
of your questions.”)

4. Reply “Re: the same subject matter,” so that the person
receiving the e-mail can recognize it quickly as a response in his
own pile of e-mail. Keep the e-mails in folders, and follow up with
them for feedback.

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