Austria: Siko Merges Online Marketing and Traditional Sales Approach

Siko NaturkraftheizungOnline sales models are gradually gaining a foothold in the heating market. While a rising number of companies has addressed customers directly, others leave the task to the installers. Austrian company Siko has found a way to merge both models. The screenshot shows an offer for a solar thermal system from the company´s online shop at naturkraftheizung.com (translated: heating with natural energy).
Screenshot: naturkraftheizung.com
 
In early 2016, Siko set up the online shop naturkraftheizung.com. This web shop presents easily understood information on products and product lines and states consumer prices for components. The consumer will still buy the product from the installer, which will also create the offer and price the installation. “The idea is to allow customers and installers to browse the web shop together and offer consumers transparency in pricing and options," company founder Wolfgang Sief said.
 
As easy as possible for the installer
Sief cannot really put a figure on the share in sales being made either via the web shop or by the traditional approach, as both systems intertwine: Offers are often requested by phone, sent by email with a link to the web shop and then ordered online. “We intend to keep the three-stage sales model. But we also would like to make it as easy as possible on the installer,” says Sief. Although some of these installers remain sceptical, the web shop has been well received by most of them, Siko said. 
 
The key product, Naturkraftheizung, which is also used as the brand name, primarily consists of a plug & play heat pump, including all components and connections for an integration of solar collectors and photovoltaic modules, which can be mounted onto the same system frame. Solar heating systems are sold with about 30 % of these units, according to Sief.  
 
Remote access for supplier and installer
Since 2015, every Austrian customer has received an app for his or her mobile phone. The launch in Germany is planned for summer 2016. Consumers can use the app to view the performance of the heating system, including its solar thermal yield, at any time. The heating system can also be controlled by app commands. Features include some directly related to solar energy like free cooling. When this option is activated, the heat pump will switch to cooling mode whenever there is sun-generated electricity available. “Most installers set up the app together with the customer when they install the heating system,” says Sief.  Data is stored at the heating device in the customer’s home. It is also possible to set up a remote access point for Siko or the installer to allow them to respond in case of maintenance or service issues.  
 
Since 1980, Siko has planned and developed renewable heating designs. The company manufactures its own solar collectors in Tyrol and is, by its own account, Austria’s oldest solar energy company. The second-generation family business was founded by Arthur Sief and is now under the management of his sons, Christoph Sief and Wolfgang Sief. Siko Solar Vertrieb was renamed to Siko in spring 2016 because it started offering complete heating systems, of which solar is just one component. 
 
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This text was written by Eva Augsten, a German freelance journalist specialised in renewable energies.
 
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