The Human Version

Consumers turn to the Internet every day to research and gather more and more information.

September 30, 2000


Rod Sutton

It’s time for a confession: We’ve canceled our subscriptions to local newspapers. We still have the Chicago Tribune delivered, but it’s not because of its coverage of the local news. For local news -- schools, city government, the information close to home -- we no longer turn to the local paper.

That might be sacrilege to colleagues and certain journalism professors, but it’s indicative of a shift among consumers of news: They can find local news much faster on the Internet. And it’s free.

This shift is occurring in other areas, too. Consumers turn to the Internet every day to research and gather more and more information. A recent electronic newsletter from Nua Publish included statistics that bear this out. According to a study done by UCLA, 47% of Internet users surveyed consider radio an important or very important source for information. Fifty-three percent said the same for television, and 67% said it about the Internet. That’s a tremendous shift from traditional media to electronic.

Radio and TV won’t go away soon; neither will our local newspaper. But consumer use of these media will continue to change. As a remodeler, to be aware of the shift is the first step toward ensuring your company follows that shift.

Consider the newspaper example. We canceled the local paper because all it offers is local news easily replaced with online content. The Tribune offers more. The value of that newspaper is in other content that doesn’t serve our purpose in an online version. The print version offers additional value.

A remodeler’s Web site should complement all the other marketing and advertising that company does. It serves a different purpose. The Web site is the company’s 24/7 presentation book; online content should indicate the company’s general contact information, including an online lead sheet in many cases. All the information online has to be pertinent and informative for that consumer.

But the value of the company doesn’t translate into an electronic environment. The phone call, the face to face, the in-home visits still involve human interaction. With remodeling, unlike other service industries, the human factor is becoming more and more important. Consumers can order a book without talking to a sales clerk or book reviewer; consumers aren’t about to let a complete stranger into their house for a bath remodel.

The value, here, is in the relationship. So build the Web site, market online, show your work in an environment and medium that consumers expect to see. But don’t ever let the online version take away from the human version. The continued and sustainable success of a remodeler today does not rest on the Web; it rests with the relationships you build with that new consumer.

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