Amish Furniture Creators Get Help Selling Wares on Web

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Amish-Furniture-Home.com keeps faith with Amish tradition, adds high-tech web magic.

What I really appreciate about the new website is the backend. We can do a quote so much quicker. We can handle a larger volume of customer questions, changes, and inquiries.

The Amish are known for their simplicity, their love of home life; their firm sense of timelessness and their painstakingly beautiful furniture. They are not known for their savvy, nationwide Internet marketing tools or their interactive customer service systems.

So recently, an Ann Arbor-based company stepped up to bridge this gap between old world beauty and new-age technology. Amish Furniture Home's newly-launched website is breaking new ground in Internet furniture sales and distribution. The site-- Amish-Furniture-Home.com--offers customers everything from just-in-time order tracking to interactive customization of fine wood pieces for every room, in stains and styles that add up to about 1200 choices.

The concept of melding Amish tradition with high tech innovation works beautifully, said John Paul Narowski, director of IT and website optimization for the family-owned company.

"The Amish love making the furniture and leaving the sales, service, and website design to someone else. It's a win-win situation," he said.

Nell Narowski, John Paul's mother and Amish Home co-owner with her husband Wladyslaw, agrees. "The Amish now have fax machines and many families and builders share a phone. We can fax our orders down and get them confirmed. We have been able to be of service by shipping this beautiful furniture all over the country."

Nell, who has a background in marketing, has found that furniture can be recession-proof. "We have noticed that our customers, who are looking for value and quality in their purchases, have not gone down with the recession, but have increased. They want to pass these pieces on to their children."

And the website's functionality helps close the sale, she said. "What I really appreciate about the new website is the backend. We can do a quote so much quicker. We can handle a larger volume of customer questions, changes, and inquiries." Nell said that many customers tell her they spend hours, even months, pouring over selections and planning their orders.

The carefully crafted wood pieces are heirloom quality. Depending on size and complexity, an order can often take three to four months to build, stain and ship. "It would take four months or more if we had to use regular mail to send orders and get confirmations," said Nell.

The new website has increased the exposure of Amish Furniture Home and the reputation of Amish crafting, Nell added. "People across the country tell us they had no idea the Amish made such beautiful furniture in so many styles." The website offers short articles on Amish history, language, beliefs and practices, along with design ideas, recipes and a blog feature.

Debra Stewart, business office manager for Amish Furniture Home, says the new system has sparked an increase in sales since its launch. "February and March have been statistically low sales months for us, but this year we have been able to serve a larger pool of people (with the new website features)," she said. The result was at least a 20 percent increase in sales for the first quarter of 2008.

"I can more easily track an order, what a builder has and what the finisher has, so I have a better understanding of where products are at and when they will be completed," Stewart said. The system enables them to check product progressions much more quickly so that customers can have their order updates in a more timely fashion.

Company president Wladyslaw Narowski, a carpenter, started Amish Tables.com twelve years ago, because he wanted to be in a "family friendly" business. Having such an efficient system "has taken a big load off," he said.

When he and Nell started the company, originally called Amish Tables, they were looking for a large table for their growing family. They fell in love with the furniture and the philosophy of life of its crafters, and made many visits to forge relationships with the Amish before they started collaborating.

"Some 12 years ago when I saw these long beautiful tables -- perfect for large family gatherings -- I could see this was a niche market," he said. "No one else was offering these large tables."

Their son John Paul joined the business and immediately saw a way to bring his skills in web marketing into the mix. He developed Amish Furniture Home to the point where the company's online offerings can now fill every room in the home. There are offerings for the office as well. John Paul has now launched his own website enhancement business, Metasprings.com.

The company has made a new hire to help with order fulfillment and general customer service needs. Although both Amish Furniture Home staff and their customers can now access account information and manage the process more efficiently, direct, personal contact with customers is still central. "It has actually increased our ability to give personalized services," Stewart explained. "We notify our customers at every step in the shipping process. We want to make sure they feel comfortable and informed during the entire process.

More growth is just around the corner. Stewart said there is a vendor show next week in Elkhart, Indiana. "By the end of the month of May, we will have new product lines."

"The Internet has helped us reach a larger audience than we ever imagined. The new system enables us to handle a great amount of details and orders, and manage shipping and delivery of the handcrafted Amish made furniture all over the USA. It's all American made, high-tech and delivered to your door," said Wladyslaw.

Contact Amish Tables/Amish Furniture Home at http://www.Amish-Furniture-Home.com or call toll-free 1.866.632.6474.

By Kate Ernsting, Excelsis Communications, (734) 645-9046.

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