Online Brochure Builder reduces costs by over £13,000 in first 12 months

Applied Energy Products Limited manufactures and supports some of the world’s best-known heating, water and air management brands. Their products range from electric showers, heated towel rails, extractor fans and storage heaters in the domestic sector to air conditioning and total washroom solutions for the commercial sector.

As a result of this spread of products, the range of applications is varied and requires several specialised teams whose task is to respond to tenders. The Tender Teams would receive a set of plans from an architect for either a commercial or domestic development and would be asked to submit a comprehensive response.

The outcome or end product is a typed manuscript detailing all of Applied Energy’s products required for the development in question that includes both product and associated product catalogue reference. Applied Energy have several brands which are included within an extensive range of product catalogues, the product catalogue reference needed often required reference to several product catalogues, each of which had to be included in the response.

This was a poor waste of resources on several counts; firstly the client was likely to already have the catalogue but as this couldn’t be taken for granted they would be sent another with every proposal; with the catalogues been distributed multiple times to prospects and customers there was the need for a greater print run and storage of the catalogues; the extra weight of the catalogues also had an impact in the cost of postage, thus making it more expensive to respond; finally, as a catalogue needed to be sent out with every tender then post and not email had to be used, resulting in a greater delay in the response time.

Additionally, because there were a number of people in each of the Tender Teams there appeared to be no real consistency in the way the document was produced; fonts, size and page layout were all decided by whichever individual provided the tender.

From the customer or prospects point of view, this required the need to wade through the relevant product catalogues to find the specification on each product one by one, this made the task for the customer labour intensive and complex since there could be more than a dozen products in the proposal. In addition, if the development proposal was successful, recipients would also need to use the information in marketing materials, this resulted in more work because sections would have to be re-typed and pictures scanned from the catalogues.

Applied Energy’s website, although comprehensive, did not contain all of the specification information found in the full range of product catalogues. Applied Energy had recently had a brand face lift and the new look needed to be translated to the website.

Applied Energy and Quiet Storm met to discuss how we could aid the continual improvement and maintenance of the web service, delivery standards and resolve the issues related to product information. The challenge involved reducing the effort of putting the information on to the website whilst also providing a reward for the users, in terms of encouraging their increased use of the website, so it needed to be regarded as the most up to date information and, for Applied Energy, who needed to be able to justify the maintenance costs of ensuring the information is kept up to date.

Quiet Storm had experienced this problem many times before when creating product driven websites where the client has hundreds or, in some cases, thousands of products each requiring a detailed specification. The client historically produces a catalogue once a year as a result of two months intensive revisions, new products added and obsolete products removed. The normal method of including this on their website was to simply take the brochure and transfer the new information to the website in a static format.

This meant that content maintenance has to be carried out twice and, in both cases, the information very soon becomes dated. With print, people expect content to be right only at the time of going to press and accept that the older the catalogue the more likely it is that something has changed. On a website however, this level of tolerance does not exist and there is an expectation that the website is accurate and up-to-date, if this is not the case then users will stop using the website. Another key benefit of a website is that it isn’t restricted to physical paper size, so the information does not have to be abbreviated or diagrams shrunk until they are barely readable or viewable just to fit on a page but, if you are simple transferring the information from print to web then these advantages are lost.

Brochure Builder was developed by Quiet Storm in response to this problem and provides a neat solution that addresses the method by which most customers manage their product information.

Given all the benefits and features that a website offers, it made perfect sense to utilise this as the lead tool for presenting Applied Energy’s product information. Key advantages of using the web for product information include obvious features such as dynamic searches; links to relevant documents such as installation guides, health & safety sheets, etc; storage space was no longer a consideration as all product information can be easily included, images are readily available for download and viewable to full screen size if required, product information is available 24/7; the information is easy to find reducing less people time, plus lots more.

Using the website to manage product information also makes economic sense. The updating of product data becomes much more manageable by allowing the website to be continually updated and managed in real-time thus providing correct up-to-the-minute data to the user in addition to removing the previous two-month battle to republish paper-based catalogue to the website.

This has meant that now, when Applied Energy need to produce tender information, they use a web-based platform, customising documents to recipients; creating documents that are standardised and consistent across the company in terms of layout, font, text size, etc; inserting relevant product specification sheets - the information from the web page is specified and formatted to fit on an A4 sheet; each page has a number and the document has an index created dynamically at the end of the product selection; every product also contains the specific web URL so that if more information is required then it may be efficiently accessed.

Once the document is created it is date stamped and automatically archived. The advantage of the document being generated in an electronic format (PDF) makes it very easy to email and, only if required, a hardcopy can be printed and mailed thus reducing storage, mailing costs and staff time.

From a users perspective this makes for a much quicker turnaround – sometimes days less, there is no risk of the information getting lost in the post; information can be transferred by copying and pasting from the electronic document and the document is indexed and is in a consistent format – regardless of who the author might be.

The website now offers the most up-to-date and comprehensive version of all of Applied Product’s information and users, once registered, can create their own brochures online. Furthermore, this has reduced the overall demand for brochures as the website now attracts more visitors who are confident that this is the latest version of Applied Energy’s products and, thanks to the product information being the most up-to-date source, and they can also quickly download the annually produced catalogue in PDF format without having to register.

“The Brochure Builder has improved the level of service we can offer our customers and reduced overheads both in labour and costs associated with producing tenders and the general print and distribution costs of product catalogues. It has increased the value of our website to users as they know that this information is as up to date as it gets.” Joseph S Barrasso, E-Commerce Executive, Marketing Communication Team, Applied Energy Products Ltd. He goes on to say “It has saved over £8000 in the first 12 months and this takes into consideration the cost of implementing the software.”
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