To help customers select lighting and plumbing products, remodeler Holly Bertsch, co-owner of Taylor’d Home Improvements, in Champaign, Ill., teamed up with online retailer Bellacor. A tab on her company’s website takes clients directly to BellacorPro’s Virtual Selection Center. “We send clients here right after our initial meeting,” Bertsch says, because having them choose products early in the process helps her to create a more accurate estimate. It also gets clients excited about the project, is convenient, and offers products customers can’t find in local stores or showrooms.

Site users can search the selection center for products by price and by style, such as “transitional,” “contemporary,” or “traditional,” so Bertsch uses the site to help determine a client’s style to better direct the design process. The site also helps Bertsch up-sell during a remodeling job because clients often see products they like and then opt to upgrade other parts of the house.

Ann Meyer, BellacorPro account manager, says the company offers the site as a tool for professional designers, builders, remodelers, and project managers. Meyer notes that Bellacor’s consumer site includes product pricing, but that the generic professional site doesn’t include the Bellacor logo or pricing, so “clients can make pre-selections and go to the designer for pricing.” Designers can create a project portfolio for each client and e-mail them the final selections. Information in the portfolio — images, product name, item number, brand, and pricing — is controlled by the designer. Designers have the option of listing the price with a specific markup percentage included.

A few years ago, Bellacor sold only lighting products, but the company began expanding into plumbing fittings, furnishings, and home decor and now lists more than 250,000 products. Additional advantages to professionals using the Virtual Selection Center include: trade pricing, monthly promotions, access to product specialists for custom quotes or questions, direct shipping from manufacturer to jobsite or the designer’s office, and commercial products.

The site is free, but designers must complete a registration form and work with an account rep to set up their site. BellacorPro currently has 28,000 registered professionals.

Bertsch says that the site has improved over the years and has become more interactive, with better images. She receives leads from the selection center tab on her website and charges a markup for users who just order products from her. She controls pricing for those users who want to order the product and have it installed by Taylor’d Home Improvements. “I could mark up a product high enough and tell the client that installation is free, or take the price down and charge for installation,” she says.

Her one complaint is that she can’t choose which products are included on her selection center site. “I would take out some of the home decor items and focus more on fixtures because it can overwhelm clients,” Bertsch says.

—Nina Patel, senior editor, REMODELING.