Volume 12, Issue 2 - March 2011


Tablet Technology
Changing the Way Windows are Sold
by Tara Taffera

We all love technology. Who didn’t want to be the first to get a color TV in the ’60s or to take the clunky car phone for a spin in the ’80s? But the revolution launched by the smartphone and, most recently, the tablet in recent years—with estimates showing more than eight million iPads sold in 2010, for example—has led to a shift in how business is done. For forward-thinking professionals in the door and window industry, this has meant major changes to how these products are sold.

In all industries, individuals have used their hand-held phones for years to conduct business, but as technology evolves many are moving beyond these devices. This means embracing tablet technology, as many door and window manufacturers and dealers have done. This technology, which includes Apple’s iPad, Samsung’s Galaxy and others, isn’t just changing the way companies do business but is revolutionizing the way windows are sold.

Suppliers Take the Lead
Software suppliers, in turn, are looking to how they can give their customers what they need to conduct business through this new technology.

“The customers I have talked to have expressed interest in an Apple app—but not for an iPhone,” says Ron Crowl, president of FeneTech. “They have commented that the iPhone is just too small to provide a meaningful user experience for detailed information. What they have expressed interest in is an iPad app. The tablet is sized to provide a very good user experience and the tablet market is growing at a rapid pace with both the iPad and other recently introduced products.”

FeneTech currently is developing iPad apps for its Web Center (quoting and order placement tool) and Business Intelligence (order status, production status, sales history, etc.).

Another industry software supplier, WTS Paradigm, has offered its software on mobile or handheld devices to help manage manufacturing operations, for the past several years.

“Barcoding, product movement, inventory tracking and cycle counts and reporting are all available on these devices, which communicate wirelessly with the central system. Mobile technology goes where you need it on the shop floor, and reduces the need for fixed workstations or scan points,” says president Nathan Herbst.

Herbst hints that WTS is also developing other handheld and mobile tools for manufacturers, dealers and retailers to use in the field.

“We quite often receive requests from manufacturers that are looking at new ways to reach consumers while strictly on a web-based browser level more than anything to date,” says Emmanuel Perdikis, marketing vice president for 360 Innovations. “We have come across a few that also need to communicate and interact with their production and plant. They are looking at ways to monitor activities slowdowns and problems in real time.”

360 Innovations is responding to this input as it is developing real-time dashboard views that will be accessible directly from portable devices, including tablets.

“Next year we plan to launch our comprehensive web version of our Suite360 enterprise software,” he adds. “Presently we have launched our web configurator for visual selling and lead generation which can be tied into any web browser, site, app or e-cart/store.”

Millwork supplier WoodWare Systems and point-of-sale software supplier Pacsoft USA of Portland, Maine, have developed an interface between their systems for retail operations that also pre-hang doors.

Pacsoft USA has developed an application for the iPad/iPhone that president Peter Stoops says can work as an inventory tool for store owners as well as a management dashboard.

“If you’re standing in your store and you want to change the on-hand inventory you can go to the application on the iPhone or the iPad that runs back to your server,” says Stoops.

The second part is the management dashboard.

“That part of the app is something an owner can use to make business decisions from anywhere,” adds Stoops. “A store owner can look into his information at any level of the store. This may include gross margins, inventory, etc. He can be at a trade show and see there is a great deal on a door set and he can go and track sales of that product to help make his purchase decision.”

Stoops says that while the app has been available, “there is not enough time yet to gauge its acceptance.”

“It did come from feedback from customers,” says Stoops. “It offers a real-time look into the system. You have a live remote to your server and that’s what’s been driving it.”

Plant Applications
In all of the above cases software suppliers are offering these applications based on customer feedback. Each year, FeneTech hosts a user conference where its customers come together. Crowl says this helps the company drive its development plan.

“Last June at our conference several manufacturers had iPads with them,” he says. “A lot of our discussions were how this can be used for in-home sales. But we also talked about its use on the manufacturing side. Customers will be able to use their iPads to check status of orders, look by order, production schedule, work cell, identify bottlenecks, etc.”

Ron Mascarella, president of Vista Window Co., was one of those manufacturers in attendance who had his iPad with him.

“It was unique with the way you could bring up the online order entry system, and the internal Internet reporting mechanism. It seemed that the size of the iPad worked very well for being functional,” he says.

Mascarella also owns an iPhone and an Android.

“We have the technology to connect to all these sites, but it tends to not be truly functional due to its size,” he adds.

Mascarella says executives have used their phones for the past three to four years to track incoming volume, output, average windows manufactured per hour, among other items.

“You are kind of at the mercy of the screen size and the keyboard,” he says. “We are always traveling and it’s nice to hit a button and get what you need but this isn’t always possible with a phone. I hate to say when I am traveling ‘let me call someone and get back to you’ when literally what they need is a few keystrokes away if you have the right connection and the right device that allows you to manipulate that information.”

Changing Window Selling Methods
While tablet technology will make it easier to do business in the plant for the manufacturer, some say it will have an even bigger impact on the dealer and the way he sells windows. At Vista Window Co., Mascarella says the company recently gave all its sales representatives an iPad. But they didn’t just hand it off and let the representative figure out what he needed. Vista helped develop the content, including links to YouTube where the company has placed some videos.

“The old three-ring flipcharts are now a PowerPoint presentation on an iPad that sits on an easel on the table and you swipe your finger over it as you go through the presentation,” says Mascarella.

At America’s Window in Charlestown, Ind., using the iPad is now the only way its 15 sales representatives sell windows, says Kyle Kark, general manager. The company worked with its window manufacturer, Gorell Windows and Doors, to develop a structured presentation for its representatives.

“Within 30 days we had everyone with an iPad,” says Kark. “It was required.”

Kark says use of this technology absolutely gives his company a competitive advantage.

“Inviting someone into your home is very difficult,” he says. “When they come in and lay stuff all over your table and your belongings it is intrusive. It is all in perceived image. If you show a homeowner papers that have been flipped through a million times, the finished product will be perceived as having less value.”

He adds that the iPad offers unlimited possibilities.

“We can show then 6,000 photos if they want instead of using a picture book,” says Kark. “It gives access to unlimited information. I can pull up stuff they want to know [to which] I may not even have answers.”

But can’t a laptop do that as well?

Many agree that the iPad is a more effective and less threatening tool. The dealer doesn’t have to come in, plug in his laptop, boot up, etc. The information can be pulled up automatically.

“When these dealers come in there is such a negative connotation that homeowners are wary,” says Mascarella. “We feel the experience in the home should be as least intrusive as possible. A dealer can show videos of his installation crew, prior jobs [and] testimonials. He can bring up the order-entry system and an idea of what a window will look like.”

Kark says tablet technology offers additional benefits as well.

“It allows us to standardize our reps’ pricing so they aren’t out there making up a price and writing it on the back of a sheet of paper.”

Tablet Technology
While software suppliers are developing specific apps for the industry, that may not always be the answer, according to Mascarella. He is looking for websites he can surf on his tablets that are user-friendly and functional—for example, suppliers that have designed their websites so video will play on the iPad, etc.

“You need a website that works with the iPad or other device,” he says. “So really you are running a sophisticated web page.”

This seems to coincide with the focus of some software suppliers.

“Our current development plans are to develop both web-friendly sites for tablets and also to develop ‘enhanced’ apps that offer the user additional functionality and features,” says Crowl.

Mascarella admits he doesn’t want to limit his dealers to Apple’s iPad.

“Whatever device they are comfortable with we encourage them to use,” he says.

“I also own a Galaxy tablet which I prefer,” admits Mascarella.

Still Apple does dominate tablet technology.

“Apple has a huge advantage,” says Crowl. “A lot of these have different operating systems that are very unique so we are going to focus on the iPad for now. I believe Apple has done a terrific job of marketing. For the foreseeable future Apple will dominate.”

Changing the Game
While some have embraced this technology, as is the case with anything new, there always will be resistance.

“Obviously people have resistance to new ideas,” says Kark. “But when you see the success of it, it will gain acceptance quickly [and is what happened in our case].”

Mascarella says the industry will adapt.

“When the ‘do not call’ list came out there were some people who only knew how to do that and they had to figure out how to get leads,” he says.

Companies will figure out how to make this technology work for them.

“We think this will be the selling methodology of the future,” adds Mascarella. “No catalogs, no literature.”

“This is only the beginning,” adds Kark. “We are getting ready to go fully paperless. We will be e-mailing contracts, etc. That is the next step.”

What Apps are You Using for Business?
DWM would like to hear from you. What apps are you using in your manufacturing facility or as a dealer when selling windows? How do you use your tablet devices as sales tools? E-mail ttaffera@glass.com or join the discussion on DWM’s Facebook page.


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