By Steve Smith
PM Engineer, PM and Supply House Times recently helped the Plumbing Manufacturers Institute to analyze the Internet habits among players in the traditional channel of distribution. Last year, we sent a survey to 1,000 randomly selected readers of this magazine, as well as the same number of subscribers of PME's two sister publications, receiving a response rate of 16%.
"There's been all this hype about e-commerce," says Ralph Herrbach, president of faucet maker Cifial, and current PMI president. Herrbach was also instrumental in developing the survey's 20-plus questions. "Before small- and medium-sized manufacturers invest in this technology, we needed to understand how our customers are using this new form of media."
While it may not be a surprise that specifiers, contractors and wholesalers had different answers to the same questions, Herrbach says he was surprised to see the similarities regarding getting the most out of the Internet, and in particular, what information they want that's currently not available to them online.
When asked what obstacles they were facing that prevent them from using the Internet to its fullest extent, 41% of specifiers, 44% of contractors and 43% of distributors said there were no barriers.
"I was very interested in this and found it encouraging that many people thought there were no barriers," Herrbach adds. (In a related question, 82% of specifiers, 66% of contractors, and 61% of distributors said they did have access to the Internet for business-related purposes.)
A common demand from all three groups for information not available on the Internet was for detailed product information. According to Herrbach's own analysis of the numbers, each group defined "detailed" differently. Specifiers, for example, were looking for CAD-based drawings, while contractors wanted "easy-to-access" product information, which Herrbach believes means information on a web site with an easy-to-use graphical interface. Meanwhile, distributors wanted "current" technical data, such as specification and installation manuals.
We've included a few the questions and answers from PME readers below. Each of the three surveys can be purchased for $95, or all three surveys can be purchased for $250. For more information, log on to www.pmengineer.com, or contact Lisa Frost at (248) 244-1290, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do you use the Internet to identify products that you would consider adding to your product line?
How likely would you be to get product information from a manufacturer's Web site?
Very likely 50%
Somewhat likely 15%
Not at all likely 1%
Would the Internet be an acceptable method for you to obtain continuing education credits (CECs)?
Steve Smith is Editor of Plumbing & Mechanical Magazine.