Changing Ways of Doing Business

Survey looks at adoption rates for new electronic tools and media
John G. Swanson
January 1, 2012
FEATURE ARTICLE | Operations, Sales & Marketing

Websites are the norm; social media has many fans; and mobile technologies are gaining traction among manufacturers, distributors and dealers of windows and doors. These findings come from a series of questions included as part of Window & Door's 2013 Industry Pulse study, asking about the electronic tools and media companies use to conduct business and/or communicate with customers and prospects.

 
  
 

The results, shown in Figs. 1 and 2, probably won't come as too much of a surprise. At this point, nearly all the manufacturers surveyed said their companies have websites, with the vast majority of dealers reporting the same. It's also clear that the cost and effort involved in implementing other tools clearly has an impact on adoption rates.

For example, secure e-commerce sites for customers are offered by about a third of the manufacturers and a fifth of the dealers and distributors.  The costs of such systems are evident when comparing the responses from those at larger firms to those at smaller firms. More than half the dealers with sales of more than $100 million report having such capabilities, compared to just over 10 percent for those with sales below the $100 million threshold. Among manufacturers, 60 percent of the more than $100 million group have e-commerce sites, compared to 27 percent of those in the $20 million to $100 million category and 24 percent of manufacturers in the less than $20 million category.

Facebook and Twitter
Social media requires fewer resources, and that clearly plays a role in its evident popularity. More than half of manufacturers said they have a Facebook page, and about half the dealers said they have a page or that one was in the works. It is somewhat interesting to note that the large manufacturers are the biggest adopters of Facebook, at about 70 percent, while the large dealers and distributors, coming in at about 30 percent, appear to be the slowest adopters. 

Looking at other social media, dealers appear to like LinkedIn next, with about a third reporting they have company LinkedIn pages, compared to about 26 percent of manufacturers. Tweeting is more popular with manufacturers, however.  Forty percent of manufacturers report that they have a company Twitter account, compared to only 21 percent of dealers.

New technologies
Two other much-talked-about technologies are QR codes, which the user can scan with a smartphone to be directed to a web page, and building information modeling systems.  In both cases, manufacturers are ahead of dealers in using these technologies. A complex enterprise gathering all types of product sizing and performance information for building products, BIM is gaining traction in the commercial and architectural markets, and manufacturers involved in those segments are most likely the ones leading the way in adopting that technology. 

Meanwhile, all types of companies are experimenting with QR codes in their marketing. Despite the low cost of using QR codes, it is interesting to note that the larger firms among both dealers and manufacturers are more likely to be the ones implementing them. About 10 percent of the small manufacturer respondents report using them, for example, compared to 40 percent of the large manufacturers.

The widespread adoption of smartphones and the advent of tablets is clearly capturing the interest of the industry, the survey results show.  While implementation rates are still low for both internal and external apps, they are clearly growing.  Smart phone apps for internal processes are in use or under development at about 30 percent of the manufacturers and 20 percent of dealers. 

What may be most impressive is the pace of adoption for tablet technologies. With the iPad introduced only two years ago, 23 percent of manufacturers already report using a tablet app for internal processes and 14 percent say their company has a tablet app for customers.  Another 18 percent say such an app is under development. Dealer adoption may not be as high, but the percent of respondents indicating these technologies are under development at their companies is higher than for any other technologies in the survey.

More details
Tables providing the survey data, as well as other data and charts from the 2012 Industry Pulse study and previous years is available for download.