Almost 70 percent of automotive glass technicians and company owners believe their business will grow in the new year, according to a glassBYTEs.com™ poll. And a big focus for 2014 will be ramping up technology usage.
“For our company, Auto One Glass & Accessories, we believe 2014 will be a great year,” says David Zoldowski, whose company is headquartered in Brighton, Mich. “We are planning a number of changes. Auto glass makes up about 35 percent of our gross sales. Auto One is offering mobile glass service at six of our 18 locations.”
The company has been involved in e-commerce since 2003, when Auto One’s website underwent some dramatic changes.
“A good friend of mine, one of those Internet genius types, put our company ahead of the Internet curve and placed the right keywords on our site to make Auto One number one or two in organic placement in our state, depending on keywords searched. … Once we had established placement, we have steadily worked to maintain and improve it. Today, we believe 25 to 30 percent of our new customers come to us as a result of some type of Internet-related search. Well over 65 percent of our new or existing customers get our stores’ numbers on some type of electronic look up.”
Taking technology a step further, Zoldowski says the company recently rebuilt the site again for compatibility with smartphones and tablets.
“Once we saw smartphone use start to rise, we pushed even further into mobile web design and launched a completely mobile version of the site to minimize content and focus on the things that mobile users need most,” he says.
Auto One also developed a lead generation system to help the company interact with customer’s 24/7 by directing afterhours calls to the mobile team.
What is the next big technology wave? Video, Zoldowski claims.
“Look at the explosive growth in online video on YouTube or Netflix. Consumers are starting to expect video the way we all used to look at print advertisements. At the corporate level, we are currently working with a local videographer to develop technical product-related videos,” he says.
Over at St. Paul, Minn.-based City Auto Glass, Mike Schenian also sees the benefit of video.
“We’re looking to utilize streaming video of vehicle pre-inspections for customers that cannot be physically present when we arrive to perform the work, as well as for collaboration between technicians when assistance from a more experienced technician is needed,” Schenian explains.
However, the company is also taking a slightly different route than Auto One with technology. City Auto Glass has equipped mobile technicians with tablets.
“We will continue to expand upon the capabilities of our tablet-equipped mobile technicians,” he says. “We are working on real-time invoicing via the mobile point of sale application with the goal of dispatch-to-invoice in less than two business days on average.”
Moreover, the company is programming automatic email notifications to go out to customers letting them know that technicians are in route. Similar notifications are also being set up to go out to insurance agents informing them of job completion, according to Schenian.
In another initiative, the company is looking into a paperless accounts’ payable workflow.
In the coming year, 33 percent of automotive glass technicians and company owners expect business to be up by more than 30, while 33 percent expect business to be up between 11 and 30 percent, according to the glassBYTEs.com™ poll.
Another 22 percent of those who answered the question selected “It’s anyone’s best guess” as to what 2014 will bring.
Finally, 12 percent of those polled expect business to be up by 1 to 10 percent in 2014.