The first thing we ever sold online was an aboveground pool to a doctor in Virginia. We did the whole thing via email, and I’ll never forget it. That experience would end up speaking to an entire sector of our company.
We’ve been online as an e-commerce retail operation since 1996, in addition to our brick-and-mortar construction firm. And we’ve been slowly evolving as we
respond to customer needs and market changes since then. It’s a much more competitive type of business, because our competition is not other local pool professionals — it’s everyone in the country.
Ever since that first online sale, aboveground pools have been a cornerstone of our Internet business. Our best-selling version is Wilbar’s Voyager LX, which we’ve carried for four years. Last November, we added a new stripped-down 42-inch version from Splash Pools, which we hope will sell well when the season begins.
We’re vehement about having our customers check the Better Business Bureau. That way, they know we aren’t a fly-by-night Internet operation, and feel more comfortable with their purchase. In addition, no matter the type of sale, we speak to virtually every client by phone or in an online chat session. We don’t mind talking to them at length about whatever they want to know.
Selling aboveground pools on the Web is, of course, different than in a traditional store. We can’t display them on a showroom floor, but we use similar principles to draw clients in online.
For example, we rely on something called “eyeball placement.” This technique is based on scientific data that examines where people’s eyes are drawn when they open a Web page. We make sure to put the most important information about the product in the place where someone will look first. There is much more information on other parts of each page, but this way, potential clients get the vital facts immediately.
And like a showroom, we change up our online display all them time to keep it fresh for returning visitors to
We also make sure to be very careful when choosing how many brands to offer. When selling online, it’s key to give the customer plenty of choices, but not too many. If they’re overwhelmed, they will go to another Website.
Many of our online clients are do-it-yourselfers, and as a result we have found success promoting the fact that someone can buy a product, and with a little elbow grease, create a vacation spot in their own backyard.
Buyers can act as a general contractor for themselves and hire out things like plumbing work. Some of them will even send us photos as they put the pool together to show how easy it is.
We tell consumers that these relatively simple aboveground pool projects also make it easy to keep track of their kids. Not only can they involve them in the process, but the kids will stay at that pool to swim all summer. I have three teenagers, and 90 percent of the time they’re at home. I always know where my children are. That peace of mind goes a long way.
Like the kids hanging out in the pool, we also spend a lot of time on social networking. We rely on Internet-style “word of mouth” — such as the “like” feature on Facebook — to increase our relevance. We are active on Twitter, Digg and other sites as well, and also utilize pay-per-click ads on Google, Yahoo and Bing at certain times of the year.
Once, a private contractor searching online contacted us to supply pools for soldiers in Iraq who needed to cool off in the scorching weather there. Let me tell you, that felt great. If not for our online presence, he would have found someone else.