"As a builder of custom homes for nearly 16 years, I have seen many changes in the homebuilding industry. However, I doubt that what I have seen in the past will equal the changes which will occur in the first decade of this new century."
In areas such as e-commerce and financial management, the initial primary users of the Internet have been the large, nationwide or multi-national construction companies. But regardless of company size, a user-friendly web site is already emerging as a potent sales force.
At first, we believed the relevance of a web site would be restricted to out of town buyers moving into a new area. However, we soon discovered that in the "high tech" Northwest, many local buyers were using web sites for local new home search.
As with all advertising, the ability to tell your company's story effectively is the key. Creative web sites can give a highly motivated prospect more information quicker and easier than any other medium. Prior to the Internet, a prospect could only gain a thorough knowledge of your location, product style, availability and pricing by spending several hours visiting your site. Critical, of course, is to have something to say once they reach your site.
Properly configured, our web site will enable us to review, on a monthly basis, which of our home sites and plans are attracting the most "hits" by our web site visitors.
Looking to an interactive site
As we become more sophisticated, we will be able to have a truly interactive site, wherein we can conduct consumer surveys about proposed new locations, new plans and marketing efforts. Right now, we rely on our own experience and the feedback from our on-site sales representatives for such information.
I can see the day when we will solicit the views of the marketplace - both prospects and our database - to get their reaction to new plans and measure their response to advertising and marketing proposals. Eventually, we hope to be able to electronically transmit a company newsletter to our entire database.
A targeted marketing tool
I look at our web site marketing as a "rifle shot" approach rather than the traditional "shot gun" approach of trying to reach your market by being on the radio and/or television, in newspapers, neighborhood shopping guides and so forth. With the web, prospects actually manifest their interest in you by contacting you.
In the future, with ever increasing urbanization in this area, the Internet will become an integral part of the selection process of buying a new home. Just as Internet grocery shopping has experienced dramatic growth, shopping for a home on the net will become standard fare. This is not to say that we have, or will, abandon our more traditional marketing efforts. We do, however, look at the web as a strong new tool in our marketing arsenal.
A system to track production
We are also just beginning to realize and implement the tremendous communication tool provided by interactive connection with current new homebuyers as well as owners of Renaissance homes.
Before long, we will be able to securely post an updated construction schedule for a particular home. This will enable us to not only keep our buyers fully apprised of the building cycle, but also to inform suppliers and sub contractors of our schedule and any changes we have to make.
All homebuilders know that during the construction process the buyers want to know as much as possible about the status of their home. Too often, this curiosity is disruptive to an already tight schedule and can be dangerous when a client repeatedly visits a site during construction. This way, we will enable them to check the web site instead of contacting our on-site superintendent.
With respect to current owners, we can learn of their punch list needs, schedule warranty work between customer and sub alike and then have the sub report completion of their part of the work directly to the web site. We believe the interactive use of our web site for warranty work will become a major part of our use and all will benefit from these efficiencies.
Changing the building landscape
Because of their size, many national and multi-national firms will more effectively share "best practices" in construction, detailing what works best and why. With respect to the financial management of their enterprises, the ability of builders to solicit and analyze bids for materials and services worldwide will, I believe, generate a major shift in the way they do business.
Today, regardless of company size, we are largely dependent on traditional supplier representatives to obtain the costs of goods. In the future - and already for some companies - builders will contact a network of suppliers and shop for the best materials and prices from sources never before utilized.
As you can see, we are only at the starting line of this new endeavor. Every day we read of additional software programs designed to better serve vendors and consumers alike. These improvements will come in the areas of interactivity and security, to name but a few. Suffice it to say that at Renaissance, we are trying to grab on to this rapidly accelerating vehicle named the Internet.