Approximately 50 percent of all U.S. households have a personal computer. And those with computers connected to the Internet make up about 33 percent of U.S. households. The number is climbing - by next year more than 50 percent will be surfing the web, said Bruce Isaacson, division president, Homestore/Remodel, at the RemodelAmerica 2000 show in Las Vegas.
The Internet has permeated the lives of most Americans. In fact, according to a 1998 study by America Online, most people, if stranded on a desert island, would choose a computer with Internet connection over a phone or a television. Why? The Internet brings worlds of information right to your fingertips. It does what a phone and television can do, but so much more.
Isaacson pointed to several things in his presentation. In the future, homeowners will still live in homes. Remodelers will still remodel those homes. But in the future, Internet devices will be everywhere and the net will be easily and quickly accessible. Think about how easy it is to do things like pay bills and bank online. Or shop. Or research.
Already, 19 million people have made purchases online. 65 million will buy online by 2002. And e-commerce will grow from $20 billion today up to $270 billion in 2002.
In fact, as the X and Y generations age, they will use the Internet to seriously research products and contractors before they make a decision to purchase or remodel, said Chuck Stein, vice president of services, building materials systems business for Owens Corning during a presentation in Las Vegas. He suggested blending traditional retailing and in-home marketing with Internet strategies.
How does a remodeler do that? About 88 percent of remodelers have Internet access, although only 23 percent use it for lead generation. Both Isaacson and Stein agreed that the first step for remodelers is to build a great web site. Isaacson said the site should include company name and information, photos of projects (before and after), fast downloads, customer testimonials, and fast customer service. Things not to include, he said, are pictures of you or your family, missing links, misspelled words, or no responses to inquiries. Stein said remodelers should consider creating links. "Don’t be afraid of sending traffic away," he said. The more information available to web-surfing homeowners, the better. Get used to the computer. Isaacson tells remodelers to gather e-mail addresses and communicate with their database of e-mail addresses regularly. And check e-mail as you would voicemail. Homeowners using the web should get the same response as homeowners calling your office.
"Spend Internet advertising budgets generously but wisely," said Isaacson. Aside from collecting e-mail addresses to further your contact with potential customers, develop online profiles of them and their homes, said Stein. For example, target gourmet cooks with kitchen remodels or gardeners with deck projects. Stein urged remodelers to go to nurseries, garden stores, kitchen and gourmet stores to create relationships and build leads.
Remodelers have to do more than create a web page. The Internet can be a powerful marketing tool. Links, banner ads and search engines can open doors for remodelers. The web isn’t just a place where consumers can look at your qualifications. You can use it to gather information about them, give them quality customer service, and target your marketing efforts.