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Knowing Your Market

27th June 2008

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Ultraframe, as the UK’s leading designer and manufacturer of conservatory roofing systems, constantly strives to ensure that its knowledge of the conservatory market is second to none. It does this by conducting regular research with consumers, which will mean that new products and services for retail installer customers closely meet the requirements of end users. 

Whilst Ultraframe works closely with its fabricator and installer customers to develop new product and service initiatives, it also realises the importance of such consumer research and continually tracking what is happening in the external environment to ensure that all offerings are targeted to the current needs of the ultimate end user.

The latest research conducted by Ultraframe had the business objective of understanding the wider home extension market and ensuring that Ultraframe and its customers are in the best position to maximise the opportunities that were identified.

The research objectives were:
• To understand consumer attitudes towards home extensions
• To identify key barriers towards building home extensions
• To explore the decision making process and the importance placed on adding value and benefits
• To understand how and where conservatories fit into this market

Consumer focus groups from different lifestyle groups and stages were interviewed in locations around the UK. The groups were also split by those who had considered a conservatory/extension and those who had bought a conservatory/extension – it also probed into what had stopped others from making a purchase.

 What consumers told us about conservatories

Ultraframe used a professional market research company to help provide the insight into consumers’ behaviour. With each focus group consisting of 4 couple groups, the moderator who ran each group had a carefully selected programme of topics and questions to put to the respondents – these included exploring their perceptions of conservatories and home extensions, including likes, dislikes and perceived benefits and disadvantages.

Findings did in fact confirm a great deal of what we already know about our industry and its products. One surprising finding was that many consumers have an antiquated perception, wrongly believing that conservatories are only available in set sizes and that there is not a bespoke option for them to create something unique and more contemporary than the standard Victorian and Georgians which populate many housing estates – an issue which clearly needs to be addressed by more varied retail marketing by installation companies.

The resulting findings are now being fed into Ultraframe’s product innovation strategy and consumer marketing, which is mainly executed via the inspirational website www.ultraframe-conservatories.co.uk.

The recent effects of the ‘credit crunch’ have seen house prices fall and house sales slow down considerably – perhaps now more than ever, homeowners are choosing to improve their property rather than move, with conservatories being one of the quickest and most cost effective ways of achieving this. So, despite the doom & gloom in the economy, it looks like these light, bright, extra rooms remain in demand provided that the retail installers sell all the benefits and not a simplified version that doesn’t tell the whole story.

Historically, the industry has tended to think of two distinct consumer groups, which Ultraframe had christened Idealistic Dreamers and Practical Planners. The former are usually empty nesters, no mortgage, their dream to have a conservatory is a long held aspiration and so their connection to a conservatory is more emotional. Practical Planners, on the other hand, are younger and typically have family members at home. Their main drivers are usually more practical than emotional - space and value for money, being just two examples. Once decided, these buyers tend to go full steam ahead to get one.

To check its understanding of the market, in addition to the focus groups that were run regionally, Ultraframe also had over 5000 postcodes from consumers who had recently bought an Ultraframe roofed conservatory profiled by one of the top companies in this field. This provided statistical support to the `softer’ qualitative research.

Profiling statistically confirmed that there are indeed two main customer types and the profile itself of the 5000 post codes provided a great deal of insight into those who clearly have bought an Ultraframe roofed conservatory. These tend to be over 45, married or living with a partner, and with no more than 2 children. The older the consumer, the more likely they are to have mature children who no longer live in the family home and these people view their conservatories as an adult space, somewhere to relax in and enjoy the view of the garden. They enjoy household incomes of up to £60k, so have a fair amount of disposable income to spend. They invest in stocks and shares, and suffer from low financial stress. So what do they spend their money on? They typically run at least one mid-range car and enjoy hobbies and activities such as DIY, gardening, the theatre, the arts and wine consumption – the latter most probably being consumed in their Ultraframe-roofed conservatories!

In conclusion then, no matter which audience you are interested in, it’s important to remember a number of important factors which need to be ‘sold’ to the target consumer. A conservatory is a more cost effective way to expand the home; it’s quicker than other options and less hassle and the space it delivers is certainly unique. Always ensure that the consumer knows you are experts in your field and this expertise permeates every aspect of what you do from the first advert/brochure they see right through to the showroom/salespersons visit and on through installation and after-sales. Trust, reliability and re-assurance are key motivators when consumers are choosing a retail installer – ensure that you maximise your chances of success by stressing these `hot buttons’ at every stage of the process.

The blending together of a local presence and a national brand is also a key way to gain the trust of the consumer – and with Ultraframe having been supplying roofs and only roofs into the market for the last 20 years (along with some of the finest and most innovative marketing materials), we feel that we offer the local retail company everything that they need to meet the consumers requirements.

- Ends -

Ultraframe deliver innovative and top quality conservatory roof systems for the trade which suit all styles, all applications, all consumer types and which offer excellent value for money.

The market leading company invests heavily in research and development to provide the most technologically advanced and stylish conservatory roofing solutions, maximising light and space. Ultraframe are at the forefront of conservatory design and its systems are mainly used in the home improvement sector but also in new housing and commercial applications in the UK and Europe.

In 2006 the privately owned Latium Group, which has many interests within the glass & glazing and home improvement markets acquired Ultraframe. The Latium Group is owned by entrepreneur Brian Kennedy. For further media information:
Mark Hanson
Ultraframe (UK) Ltd
Salthill Road
01200 452375

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