Consumers Know About Windows, Don't Know About New Technology

GlassBuild America offered a range of seminar topics to attendees, including yesterday's "What Do Consumers Really Think About Windows?" which took a unique look at the consumer replacement window market.

The session consisted of a live-video feed of a consumer focus group as ten participants were asked questions about their experiences with window replacements in their home. The ten members of the focus group were asked to describe such aspects of the process as what factors were important to them when it came time to replace windows in their homes, what after effects are most noticeable since the replacement and their experience with research and purchasing of the windows. Two people in the group did the majority of the window replacement installations themselves, while one person had a friend do it-though the friend was a professional contractor by trade. Everyone else hired contractors.

All of the consumers did some amount of research into windows before the purchased and most took at least four months to learn about products before making a decision. When asked to rank the factors most important to them concerning the windows they chose for replacement, eight of the ten ranked energy efficiency as number one.
"It's not that I wanted the most energy-efficient [windows], just [windows that were] very much so," said one participant as to his selection of replacement windows.

All ten put price within the top four important factors of the decision-making process.

Other interesting things that came up during the hour-plus broadcast was that when shopping for windows, most of the group were only introduced to one brand of windows by salespeople-though two were also shown competing brands in an effort to explain why the brand the contractor was selling was "better." When asked if they were familiar with or were told about "self-cleaning" glass, the participants expressed surprise that such an innovation existed and none had been introduced to it during the sales process.

"I've never cleaned a window in my life," said one participant, who vocally expressed interest in the idea of self-cleaning glass.

"I'd like to know more about it, how it works, how it gets mud off the outside or fingerprints off the inside," she said when asked what sort of questions she would have about it.

Of the consumers in the focus group, each indicated that they thought that some sort of gas filled the space in multi-layered glass and that if it didn't, it should. Only one person could name any kind of gas used in IG units. When asked why gas was important in a window, he further indicated that he wasn't sure but that he believed it was the "newest technology."

At least two people in the focus group replaced wood windows with wood windows, citing the look as the reason they opted to stay with the same kind of material.

"I bought the house because I liked the look of it, and I wanted to keep that look when I replaced my windows," said one participant.

Overall, however, aesthetics were not highly ranked in the factors of immediate importance in the decision making about window purchases. Factors that the participants said were important to them included safety features, easy maintenance (upkeep, such as paint), warranty, price and comfort, all of which the participants were then asked to rank according to worth.

Brand name was not an immediate concern for any of the group involved and two indicated that they had any familiarity whatsoever prior to the window selection process taking place; one of the two said he was familiar with a name brand because of its support and promotion on a home remodeling show he watches and, though he looked into the brand while doing his research he opted not to purchase that brand. The other participant said she read home improvement magazines and recognized a name brand from there.

"There was zero brand familiarity with all the brands I looked at," said one panelist.

Of their sales experiences, one participant indicated she had a very positive experience with a low-pressure salesperson who made her feel comfortable, and another participant said that her experience was the opposite, having had a very pushy salesperson. The latter indicated that though she completed the purchase of her replacement windows through the salesperson, she did call the president of the company more than once to discuss the situation. A third participant said that she opted not to go with the lowest bidder because she felt that he didn't take her seriously and that he had asked the single woman if her husband would be making the decision with her. Of the married participants, not quite half said that their significant other was involved in the decision making process.

Where warranties are concerned, eight of the ten members of the focus group ranked warranties as number five or below in the pecking order of important factors for replacement window decisions, more than one saying that they didn't really believe that a "lifetime" warranty was realistic.

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