For those builders whose size prevents them from even having a full office staff, the thought of having an information technology (IT) group is out of the question. In the past, this has meant that builders of these sizes have either had to forego sleep and family life in order to have an e-commerce-enabled website, or forego the website itself. Notice I used the words, "in the past."
Stamford, Conn.-based Sarata Corporation is unveiling eSalesCenter, a new Internet-based software technology that allows smaller builders with smaller staffs maintain an online sales and design center. The program is designed to augment a builder''s existing website-no matter how simple-and turn it into a one-stop digital marketplace where buyer and builder can design and customize home plans. Sarata promises to save builders time and money while virtually eliminating incomplete orders, miscommunications, errors, change orders and design delays.
"This technology is designed to help builders deal with the mass customization trend so ubiquitous in home building today," says John Naftzger, v.p. of sales and marketing for Sarata. "It allows buyers to make material and product choices from home and instantly communicate them to the builder and manufacturer through the computer."
Homebuyers are able to view a builder''s plans and options, take virtual tours of the homes and markup plans online. Other home products such as mortgages and furnishings can also be viewed and selected over the Internet. All orders are archived according to each individual buyer''s profile, providing complete records throughout the process.
Sarata''s software is invisible to the buyer, as it is designed to "run behind" the builder''s own site and offer services as if the builders themselves were running it. The builders also have much control over how the site is run, including whether or not to include product prices or the extent to which plans can be customized. Also, advertising banners are largely up to the builder. Such as a builder who uses one brand of window will not see another''s advertisement above any of the site''s pages.
The cost to a builder is dependent upon their dollar volume and site traffic, but Naftzger emphasizes the benefits are more than worth it. "The annual fee is easily made up for in the time and materials savings," says Naftzger.
The software is currently in beta testing, but many builders have been eagerly signing up. "Our affiliated builders have been overwhelmingly enthusiastic," says Dave Wrocklage of Epoch Corporation, Pembroke, N.H. "eSalesCenter is unbelievably exciting. It will cure so many of our headaches and change the way we do business for the better."
Systems builders such as Epoch have been especially receptive, as the different packages they sell can be customized to include all available options and then be easily modified. All three audiences-manufacturers, builders and buyers will find the software easy to use.
"We''re trying to eliminate as many of the headaches and aggravation of the process as possible for the manufacturer and builder, without losing the creative excitement of building a dream home for the buyer," says Naftzger.
The first version of the program is scheduled to be brought to market later this year. Sarata prefers to have interested builders call in and be "walked through" the program, so they are encouraged to call John Naftzger at 518-581-0271 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.