User-Friendly Design Tools
Technology is at the center of our world – and for many homeowners, it’s where home improvements and renovations begin. Last year, 81 percent of consumers went online before making a major purchase decision, which is why, in the past several years, there’s been an influx of online resources designed to help homeowners create and plan their ideal interior and outdoor living spaces.
I often hear feedback from deck builders about what tools they find most useful, and what we’ve heard is that the best resources are the ones that are highly visual and designed to inspire and engage customers throughout the entire process of building an outdoor living space.
Here is how we view digital inspiration and function, and the strategy I predict we’ll be seeing more of in the future as both manufacturers and builders vie for the attention of today’s tech-savvy consumers.
Social media, by nature, is an indirect sales tool and serves predominantly as an inspirational springboard. When managed effectively, it also can influence consumers and their purchasing habits, particularly by driving leads. Today, you’ll find many building materials brands and suppliers on Facebook and Twitter, as well as YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram and Houzz. Each offers a unique experience for the viewer, while providing inspiration and reinforcing key aspects of the brand.
To increase fan engagement on social channels and ultimately drive purchase intent, it’s important to employ a defined content strategy. Successful brands are crafting creative content, showcasing inspirational photography and employing proven engagement strategies, such as asking users to answer trivia questions and inviting them to participate in the outdoor living lifestyle through such calls to action. Another popular way to get users involved is through promotions, where the community participates with the brand and wins a chance to interact with the products.
By posting engaging, interactive content and running targeted sweepstakes, we’ve been able to cultivate a loyal and growing community of Trex fans and, most importantly, leverage social channels to drive traffic to our website where we are better able to convert interest into actual sales.
In terms of exploration and planning, design applications and tools are increasingly popular and allow users to experiment with various design combinations whenever and wherever inspiration strikes – and then sit down with a builder and say, “This is exactly how I want my deck to look.”
The award-winning Trex Deck Color Visualizer app for iPad is one such tool. Developed to provide a simple, intuitive, user-friendly experience, the app features pre-loaded photos that allow consumers to mix and match primary and accent decking boards, fascia and railing components, including top and bottom rails, balusters, posts, post caps and post skirts.
Once the user has created an ideal design scheme, the finished photo may be saved to the iPad for future reference. It also may be emailed directly to friends, family or potential contractors for idea sharing and feedback. In addition, it makes it possible for builders to truly collaborate with homeowners from the very beginning of the purchase consideration process – whether around a kitchen table or in the backyard.
Consumers today are accessing the Internet from anywhere and everywhere thanks to mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. In fact, 85 percent of people say that mobile devices are a central part of everyday life. Thus, it’s more important than ever for websites to be mobile-friendly and provide an easy experience for homeowners in the form of responsive design.
Responsive design websites are constructed so that all content, images and the structure of the site remain the same no matter how they are accessed or via what type of device. In the end, this provides a better user experience for viewers and, therefore, leads to happier potential customers.
Look for websites featuring responsive design with the end user – homeowners and builders – in mind, allowing them to more easily navigate to their desired content. Best of all, the site should provide a consistent experience for users. They can begin the process of exploring or designing an outdoor living space while on-the-go, and then be greeted with the same website interface at home on their desktop.
One of the greatest benefits of evolving and emerging technologies is the ability to customize the experience as much as possible for the end user – so that there’s less guesswork and a more direct path to the purchase. One way we do this is with geo-location to “find a contractor” or “find a retailer,” which provides quick access to the closest deck builders and nearby retailers, to help bring plans and ideas to life. This GPS-enabled feature means there is one less step from inspiration to inquiry – and users don’t need to spend time searching for answers.
These interactive forms of technology benefit consumers and builders alike by providing inspiration, facilitating communication, and elevating the customer experience. When used effectively, these tools can translate into increased margins and incremental sales. Simply put, using new decked-out technology is a win-win.
Libby Smoot is the marketing communications manager at Trex. For more information, visit www.trex.com.