From static corporate brochure to always-on anytime anywhere sales supremo, websites have evolved massively over the last 15 years. They’ve become the linchpin to how we live and work. They’re the threads that string most customer journeys together, whether we realise it or not.

Good sites score with consumer and business users by making it easier, quicker, and more convenient to find exactly what you want, when you want it, even when you’re a little unsure what that is. As a consequence, both old and young buy more, more often, and spend a lot more online, anytime, anywhere, using any device. And we love it, or we wouldn’t do it so much, despite our protestations. Chances are, your customers and almost everyone reading this buys a lot online.

But our customer journey is more complicated than it appears at first sight. It’s not a simple binary either or, buy online or buy instore, especially when it comes to high value home improvement products where performance and looks matter to the eye and to the value of the property. Property values are rising year in, year out, and the home is the British homeowners’ most valuable asset.

Online has become integrated into our thinking and way of buying. Most of us, old and young, now integrate seamlessly between the two on our Omnichannel customer journey, only deviating or stopping when we come up against a barrier or break in the journey before finding a way around to what we want. Customers are ahead of the industry. Omnichannel is how they like it, and it’s now up to us, the industry, to make it easy for them to buy from us.

Invariably homeowners research home improvement products online. They look at what they might buy, the styles, colours and choice available, things to look out for and ask, what they cost, and the brands and where they can get them. By the time they’ve got to thinking about where they can see actual product, and then made contact, they’re warm and some way down the customer journey. They’ve a fair idea of what might suit them, but then they want to see if the reality matches up and need help confirming or fine tuning their selection. It’s probably not a coincidence that the resurgence in showrooms has progressed alongside the growth in online. The growing number of showrooms and impressive display areas for hard landscaping, kitchens, bathrooms, flooring, conservatories, windows and doors has helped homeowners buy.

Omnichannel enables merchants and suppliers to join up the touchpoints and sell more, more easily. Crystal’s new website for example - - facilitates it, generating leads for our merchant partners. Having established what they think they want, builders and installers or homeowners want to know where they can see and touch the windows and doors they’ve been browsing, and ask the final questions before ordering. At that point they put in their postcode to find the name, address, telephone number and email of their local supplier. Alternatively, they can call Crystal, if they prefer.

When Crystal’s push is matched by merchants ready to pull homeowners over the line via their Crystal trained staff and smart showroom displays, sales take off.

Steve Halford, Group Managing Director, Crystal Direct.