If you come to Coverings 2013, consider attending Selling Tile: the Internet, the Industry & the Consumer, a tile industry panel discussion with four tile industry experts who all have a presence online:
Bill Buyok, Avente Tile
Tom Carr, Pan American Ceramics
Dave Milanowycz, Florida Tile
Steve Slutzah, Westside Tile and Stone
You'll hear a range of perspectives about selling tile online, how the Internet affects the tile industry and how it fits into tile business models.
CB: Tom, tell me about yourself and your company.
I am the president of Pan American Ceramics, located in California. We have two warehouses here, one in the LA area and one in the Bay area. We are a Florida Tile distributor and we also import, primarily from Italy and Spain.
We sell primarily to dealers, distributors, builders, design centers and for projects.
CB: What do you love most about tile?
What I love most about tile is the people and the travel.
There is a very wide variety of people in this industry; small installers and large contractors, architects, designers, small businesses and large. You encounter every type of person, including very artistic and creative people as well as clever business people.
Also, tile is manufactured all around the world, so there are wonderful opportunities to travel to very interesting places to source tile.
CB: How does online fit into your business?
At the moment, online is not a big part of our business. We are working on a website to help our clients with information, but we still prefer to work with people on a face to face basis.
CB: Which of the online resources you use for your business do you find most effective and why?
Our website will eventually provide pricing, test data, installation photos, ideas, and more to our existing clients. But we still prefer to do our business face to face.
When you call us during business hours, a live person answers the phone. If someone calls us to ask for a list of dealers in there area, we talk to them and find out how they found us. It is almost always because they went to one of our dealers and got a sample and started searching the Internet and found the factory and then the factory referred them to us. We always refer them back to the dealer that gave them the sample.
If for some reason they still want to "shop" the product, we do not support that. If they have a problem with the dealer they started with, we offer to talk to the dealer to resolve any concerns. We support our dealers and do not support the Internet companies that try to benefit from others' efforts.
CB: What is your opinion on selling tile online? Why?
I realize that there are more people shopping online now, and that many begin online to start educating themselves about what type of product they want to buy.
I also realize that the percentage of sales online is rising, although still very small for our industry, and so we need to embrace it as a reality.
But I still believe that the health of our industry depends on well merchandised showrooms, helpful sales people, and excellent customer service and professional installations. I believe this can best be accomplished at a brick and mortar store that specializes in tile.
CB: Tom, how can people reach you online?
CB: Thank you, Tom! I look forward to our session at Coverings 2013!
What is your take on selling tile online? How do you use the Internet in your business?
I hope you'll join us at Coverings 2013 in Atlanta on Wednesday, May 1 from 3:15 to 4:15pm for Selling Tile: the Internet, the Industry & the Consumer. Registration is free!