The internet is an amazing thing. You want food? Order it from your phone in minutes and it’s delivered to your door. Need that thing you need? Amazon can have it sent to you tomorrow. You can waste hours a day on social networks and YouTube. Communication is instant. Purchasing goods is instant. Earning and making money is instant. But not everything can be instant. And that is certainly windows and doors. Hopefully.

The business news (yes, I watch that) did a feature on Monday evening which looked at US retail chains, the ones based in brick and mortar buildings, and how the internet is killing them. It’s true, it’s killing them. And it’s killing stores here too. The internet has changed the way we buy almost everything, and we expect it instantly.

I just don’t think it could do the same to the window and door industry.

A product to get your hands on

There are some websites out there cropping up which claim to be able to make it easy for home owners to design and order their windows and doors. I don’t think they’re going to be the disruptors however.

When it comes to major home improvements, like new windows and doors, I believe home owners will more often than not want to visit a showroom or at the very least have a sales person/designer come out to their property to talk to them about what they want and need. We sell big ticket items in our industry, and when it comes to big ticket items, home owners will spend more time considering the major factors involved with that purchase. That means sales people and showrooms remain relevant.

Also, windows and doors are a product people want to get their hands on. These are products which are going to change the look of their homes in a big way, and so it is prudent to get into a showroom to see what options are available and to check out the quality of their potential purchase. Especially in the past five to seven years. Our industry has evolved in a big way and for a lot of home owners windows and doors are now an aspirational purchase in the same way a car or a kitchen is.

The internet, for all it’s advantages and the ways it has advanced the evolution of technology, cannot replicate the experience and feel of getting to grips with window and door products in a showroom. That personal touch from professionals you cannot get online. Showrooms and skilled sales people are where value is built into the purchase. You can have the best website in the world, but it’s the personal relationship which can often win a sale.

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Price comparison sites – good or bad for glazing?

One thing the internet has bred is the price comparison site. You can compare all manner of things now; holidays, insurance products, loans, mortgages, cars, the list goes on. Windows and doors can now be added to that list.

It makes sense. Home owners go online to do their research about potential new windows and doors, so it is natural to scout about to find what they might be paying for their home improvements. But as we all know, our industry has a very wide range of qualities, which impact the cost to the home owner. It’s this message of differing qualities that it’s sometimes hard to get across.

In my experience of price comparison websites for windows, there is little to show the difference between products. A white window tends to look the same from most who put their products forward to be compared. There might be a difference in quality between the models, but you wouldn’t know it. For this reason, I don’t think they’re all that helpful. And circling back to my original point, you cannot get the personal, quality feel by doing it online.

Of course it is worth saying that for some home owners, who are perhaps looking for budget options and the cheapest prices, price comparison websites for windows and doors will be useful.

Websites however should be used to back up a powerful overall sales plan. Well designed, informative, populated by high quality imagery that conveys the right high quality message. It should then encourage home owners either to make an appointment for a home visit, or to go visit the showroom of the company they’re looking at.

So rather than the internet killing showrooms and sales people/designers, they’re more an extension of the showroom itself. Or it should be providing it’s been designed right. That is something that I think the high street and retail chains are only just figuring out. Argos is a good example. A high street mainstay that was in dire trouble only a few years ago. They’ve been turned around by a new strategy which has focused on online sales, with stores being transformed into click and collect places. Keeping them relevant, and using the internet to make the most of sales. It’s called synergy, and should be something window and door installers should be looking to replicate.

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