Adapting to New Tools and Technologies

By John Swanson
January 1, 2013
SPECIAL FEATURES | Operations, Sales & Marketing

More window and door companies continue to embrace social media, but mobile technologies might take longer to establish themselves among manufacturers, distributors and dealers than some expected. These findings are the result of 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.

Window & Door asked the same questions last year, and this year's results, shown in Figs. 1 and 2, simply confirm many of the 2012 findings.  There are some changes in the numbers, however.  This year's results suggest, for example, that a significant number of companies spent 2012 developing secure e-commerce sites for customers. About 40 percent of manufacturers reported having or working on such a site in last year's study.  That number increased to 50 percent this year.  The percentage of dealer/distributors having or developing such capabilities  ncreased from just over 20 percent to just over 30 percent.

Facebook and Twitter
This year's results also suggest more companies are using social media.  The percentage of manufacturers with a Facebook page increased from about 50 percent a year ago to more than 60 percent this year.  The percentage of dealers with Facebook pages increased even more dramaticall, from just over 40 percent to nearly 60 percent.  

Tweeting is also gaining in popularity.  The percentage of dealers reporting their company has a Twitter account increased from about 20 percent a year ago to 30 percent in this year's study.  Meanwhile, about 40 percent of manufacturers this year said they have a company Twitter account, a number basically unchanged from a year ago.

Looking at other social media, manufacturers are also embracing Pinterest. More than 10 percent of manufacturers already report having a Pinterest page, a healthy percentage considering the photo-centric social networking site really just emerged on the Internet landscape last year.  Dealers are moving to the new platform a little more slowly, with 5 percent reporting their companies have such a page. 

Despite the supposed low costs of social media, this year's survey reveals that smaller manufacturers and dealers might be losing ground to larger companies with more resources to dedicate to this arena.  About half the dealer/distributors with annual sales of less than $100 million report having a Facebook page, for example, compared to more than two-thirds of those companies with annual sales of more than $100 million.  

The same pattern is evident among manufacturers.  Just over 40 percent of those with annual sales of less than $20 million have a Facebook page.  Among those with annual sales between $20 million and $100 million, 61 percent have a Facebook page.  Finally, about 80 percent of those manufacturers with annual sales of more than $100 million are on Facebook.  A similar pattern holds true for Twitter.

New Technologies
Despite the widespread use of smartphones and tablets, this year's survey results suggest dealers and manufacturers are moving cautiously in developing mobile technologies for their own operations and customers. Smart phone apps for internal processes are in use at about 21 percent of dealers and 14 percent of manufacturers.  About 7 percent of respondents in both categories report such apps are under development. About 10 percent of dealers and 12 percent of manufacturers say they have smartphone apps for customers.

Adoption rates are somewhat higher for tablet technologies. About 27 percent of dealers and 18 percent of manufacturers report using a tablet app for internal processes. Another 13 percent of dealers and 10 percent of manufacturers say such an app is under development.

Two other technologies that continue to have great potential in the industry are QR codes and building information modeling systems.  This year's results suggest more companies are exploring the use of QR codes: Consumers scan the codes using their smartphone and are then directed to a web page. Sixteen percent of dealer respondents say their companies are using them compared to about 8 percent last year.  There is also a slight increase in the percent of manufacturers using QR codes and looking at developing the technology.  

Perhaps due to the higher investment levels required, movement is slower in the BIM arena.  The percentages of respondents using these technologies–about 16 percent for manufacturers and about 8 percent for dealers–remains approximately the same as in last year's study.

More Details
Tables providing the survey data, with breakdowns by company type and size, as well as other data and charts from the 2013 Industry Pulse study, are available for download.