Wherever we turn, people are telling us that working from home and shopping on the Internet are becoming the new norms. Is that true? Not yet, but COVID-19 has required many of us to work out of our homes and forced us to navigate the virtual mall — the Internet.

If you cannot leave your house and you want groceries, gardening equipment or a new toilet, you have to research it, shop for it and then order it all online. Yes, stores are back open, but why not take the easy route and buy internet products that have been recommended on social media? It is the safe-smart play.

So, as 2020 has finally come to an end, there are more online shoppers than anyone ever predicted, and they are tuned to find their business and home solutions online. Is your showroom ready to make its claim to be the e-plumbing source in your local markets? This is an opportune moment to get your website ahead of the competition and open another gateway to expand the presence of your brand.

This opportunity is so significant because of the poor design and upkeep of many plumbing supply websites. Currently, there are two market segments that have dominated the plumbing web presence. The outright winners are the big hardware box sites. They have invested significant money and time to ensure they effectively service anyone with an interest in their product mix and make it easy to find the products they both need and desire. These websites’ product offerings reach far beyond their regular store inventory. They offer elegant plumbing fixtures manufactured in both the U.S. and Europe. You might be surprised to see the wide range of luxury products they promote.

The other strong players are the plumbing industry mega brands. They win by investing in SEO, purchasing key Google AdWords and having somewhat recognizable brand to folks outside the plumbing industry. Because local plumbing showrooms sites are such an unmapped maze, these big brands have gained e-market share by default with design driven by homeowners along with the design and building trades.

Create a virtual showroom

My question to you is: If it costs six figures to open a new showroom, why not remodel and re-open your e-showroom leveraging your team’s market knowledge, your key vendor’s product data and hire an in-house webmaster to curate and support this necessary showroom addition? The first two steps are obvious and not a large expense. The final step — hiring a full time, in-house webmaster — is a significant investment. So, let’s dig a bit deeper.

Most plumbing, lighting and decorative hardware websites are powered by a handful of companies that have been around for decades. Each of these companies have reached out to any and all bands to collect their product pricing, description and pricing data. They compile all that rich information into one database and label each piece with its product group, making a curatable data package available to anyone who wants a data-rich website.

Back in early search days, Google was looking for pertinent data and the websites with the most data were moved up higher on the list. So plumbing websites were winning their local search page battles simply by posting loads of unorganized data. Since those simpler times, Google’s algorithm has matured into a sophisticated A.I. spider which has been programed to find and deliver the best possible solution for the inquiring professional and homeowner. It is no longer just looking for mounds of data. It is the curated sites that now win Google’s attention. Google rewards sites that have taken the time to arrange data to create an easy-to-navigate website coupled with an educational e-shopping experience.

All of the companies supplying the data and design for plumbing websites incorporate powerful and labor intensive tools to curate and arrange their vast data collections. These filters give your team complete control on what is presented to each and every visitor to your website. This is why you should take the time and hire a person to manage and maintain your showroom’s website.

The tools offered by the web management companies are simple and can drill down to a specific product in a specific finish. Your newly appointed webmaster does not have to have a technical background. They do have to be comfortable working with and interpreting data, and have the patience to put their head down and work through a lot of filters to create the right experience for your targeted customer base. While always giving priority to your most profitable, not most popular, items.

This past year’s unique biological and cultural events have accelerated the digital world’s part in our everyday lives. This is presenting significant opportunities to those brands and individuals who take the time to better understand the digital wants of their markets and implement that knowledge in their company’s websites. This is not an easy task, but the ones who dial in best will secure the high ground for a significant period of time.