Friday 1st March, 2013
“My first year was like a whirlwind, it has been an incredibly dynamic learning experience yet hugely enjoyable and rewarding. Perhaps the steepest part of my learning curve has been to understand the channels to market and how certain elements of those channels are resistant to what I believe is much needed change, not because they are closed to new ideas, but because those old ways of doing things have been hugely successful and have made a number of businesses household names. I refer of course to the direct sales model.
“As our products evolve, so does the value proposition, the simplistic approach of enhancing your home with a relatively low cost, yet perfunctory solution is all well and good, until of course you examine the real needs and wants of the consumer wishing to add space.
“Ultraframe did exactly this, as I joined, Ultraframes Managing Director, Iain Thomson had already committed to undertake extensive market research which would underpin our future product development strategy. The research unearthed some alarming feedback on the buying public’s perceptions of conservatories. Looking at the decline in conservatory sales, we suspected that there was something else happening with demand, other than the general economic situation. What we found was that the British love affair with the conservatory appears to be over.
“The lack of temperature control was one of the key criticisms of current conservatories, which impacted on the perceived usability, with restricted daily usage even the smallest of investments would result in poor value for money. This led us into the development of Loggia.
“Another major area of negative feedback on the standard conservatory was poor styling and lack of personalisation, hardly surprising when in real terms, the conservatory has not been developed. During in-depth interviews, couples who had already bought a conservatory were shown additional features such as Livinroom, cornice and initial Loggia concepts, without exception all couples said that they would have modified their buying decision, even at the higher buying price. This then goes against the conventional wisdom of the direct salesperson, who generally believes that sell-up opportunities can often lead to indecision, over-pricing and the potential loss of a sale.
“However, even in my brief time in the industry, I have detected a polarisation in the market, with forward thinking, showroom based retailers providing choice, advice and ultimately great products which meet the aspirations of the buying public. These retailers will form the core, rather than the minority of conservatory and extension providers going forward.
“Without question the highlight of my first year has been the launch of Loggia which helps pave the way for future product development as we move into the provision of light and space alternatives to extensions (as well as conservatories).
The launch of Loggia by Ultraframe was heralded by many as a much needed game changer for the beleaguered conservatory industry. The take-up of Loggia throughout the Ultraframe dealer network is very much on plan, Joe goes on to explain:
“We are delighted with the adoption of Loggia, with over 70 showroom models either already installed or in the pipeline. What has been more pleasing is that a number of retailers have already taken orders, using our carefully developed marketing collateral to position Loggia as an affordable, beautiful extension.”
The consumer campaign to which Joe refers, began in early September with the Daily Mail running a four day competition to win a Loggia, in addition to a number of high-profile consumer awareness initiatives in a broad range of consumer press, Loggia also took centre stage at the National Home Improvement Show at Olympia at the end of September. “The feedback at the show was incredible. It’s the first time we’ve been able to gauge the reaction of the general public to Loggia face to face and if we ever needed proof, the show delivered that in a powerful way. We picked up over 100 solid leads from the show, which we have fed into the network – this consumer facing approach to our marketing is vital – we need to challenge preconceived ideas about glazed extensions and we will continue to invest in high-profile consumer shows.”
Since the launch in June, Ultraframe has also carried out further market research to test the general public’s attitude towards the benefits of Loggia. Joe Martoccia was able to tell Conservatory Magazine that in its latest poll, 70% of 1000 people polled preferred the aesthetics and functional performance of Loggia over a standard conservatory offering. The home owners polled also concluded that on average they spend less than two hours a day in their conservatory but would significantly increase this time if it featured better temperature control. “The findings of this latest research are incredibly valuable and demonstrate that our business development strategy is on the right track.”
Joe concludes: “I still have a lot to learn, but prior to Ultraframe I spent almost ten years working in the housing industry, working with the self build community who know exactly how they want their home to look, but critically they know how they want their house to perform. The conservatory industry needs to realign itself to the exact needs and wants of the increasingly discerning home owner – choice is at the heart of all big purchasing decisions – whether it’s a new kitchen or new bathrooms. The extension market is the same – one size, or one colour, doesn’t fit all.”