Online and On the Mark

I’m old enough to remember my first web experience around 1994. I searched for “horses,” and got 20 results. Total. Not 20 pages. Not 20 million. Just 20. And at the time, that was awesome.

Several years later I entered the workplace, and we had one computer that was hooked up to the Internet. This computer sat in a very public place so the user could be supervised. The Internet was new. Scary. Dangerous. Who knew what time-wasting activity I was going to use it for?

In reality, I was using it for researching online auction sites for a news video I was writing. eBay was also newish at the time, and I justified my first eBay purchase as “research.” I had to walk to the bank to secure a money order to mail to the seller.

Fast forward to 2011, and 75% of all North Americans have Internet access in their homes.

600 million people worldwide are Facebook users.

Every second, there are 34,000 searches on Google.

“Horses” now returns 274 million results.

At NORDYNE, we take the Internet very seriously. We closely monitor HVAC shopping trends, and have seen a dramatic spike in Internet usage among homeowners for HVAC research.

It makes sense. Yellow Pages usage is on a steep downward slope (some cities such as San Francisco are even starting to ban it), and word-of-mouth referrals are still strong in HVAC. The Internet takes word-of-mouth away from the water color and into the realm of social media. Now when homeowners need a contractor recommendation, they ask their Facebook friends, do a local search or read reviews on Yelp.

The other reason the Internet pairs nicely with HVAC is that HVAC is most often not a planned purchase. According to the 2010 American Home Comfort Study, 48% of homeowners purchased a new system because of a breakdown. When consumers are in crisis mode (“I need air conditioning now!”), they go online for fast answers.

HVAC does not get the average consumer’s heart pumping. Let’s face it. HVAC is not thrilling like buying a car or even new kitchen appliances, but can be just as expensive. We can probably assume most people don’t read the ads or pay attention to postcards unless they are in immediate need of service or repair. So traditional advertising must cast a wide net in order to snag those few who are tuned in to HVAC. Wide nets can be expensive.

With the Internet, it’s different. If a homeowner is online Googling “air conditioner repair St. Louis,” that homeowner is already in the buying cycle, past awareness of need and into the research phase. This consumer is primed to buy either service work or a new system. We want to be where this homeowner is. Smaller net.

Over the next year you’ll see many changes from NORDYNE in regards to online marketing. We’re investing in search engine optimization for all of our consumer websites, and optimizing our dealer listings so they show up in that “air conditioner repair” local search. We have revamped how consumers navigate our sites. No longer are they a brochure online, but rather an interactive searching experience that will encourage homeowners to linger longer and research more with us.

www is where the world is going. And we’re going too.