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Meet Simon James, Head of Marketing At VEKA Group

Simon has worked at Independent Network for 6 years. Find out more about him in this interview.

Much like our trusted uPVC window and door installers, without our hard-working team members, Independent Network would be nothing. We want you, our customers, to get to know our team better, so we will be hosting a range of interviews to ask them questions about their job roles at Independent Network, as well as their opinions on the industry and where they think it’s heading. For this blog, we sat down with Simon James, Head of Marketing, to find out more about him, just continue reading.


How long have you been working in the uPVC industry?

It’s been almost 6 years since my career in uPVC windows first began. Prior to that, I had 17 years’ experience working in PVC flooring, so it’s safe to say that I know my stuff.

How long have you worked with Independent Network?

I started working with Independent Network, or Network VEKA as it was known back then before the rebranding, 6 years ago.

What has been your favourite Independent Network campaign to date?

Unsurprisingly, the first consumer campaign I was involved with stands out as my personal favourite, which we referred to as “Look For This”. We knew from our own research that there were multiple, recurring themes of what consumers did or didn't want when buying windows; less hard-sell and pressure, more trust and independence. We also knew that what the consumer was describing was matched incredibly closely with what our network of trusted, local installers offered. However, as they weren’t aware of Independent Network, they couldn’t enjoy this better experience for themselves, as they didn’t know it existed – just like two perfectly matched people who haven’t met each other yet.

Our “Look For This” campaign was created to combat this, to make the introduction and connect the customers to the trustworthy installers they’ve been looking for. For the campaign, we used the logo device as the call to action – if you want someone to tick all your boxes, look for the Independent Network logo or endorsement on that business to be reassured that you’ll get exactly what you want. The “Look for this” slogan was the start of a journey that has seen consumer brand awareness doubling in the last couple of years and no doubt made that introduction for many homeowners who have since gone on to complete their project with an Independent Network member.

As a marketer, how do you adapt to the ever-changing ways in which people consume information?

The answer is in the question – we adapt. We work with experts to ensure we remain up-to-date and responsive to how the various channels, which consumers use to get their information are changing. In the social media sphere in particular, this can be incredibly rapid. The breadth of channels is ever-changing too; we still need inspirational photography, attractive brochures, advertising and PR, as well as a website that can provide vital information and facilitate the progression of interest to enquiry. Clearly, we recognise a need to be active on social media platforms, such as Pinterest, while using softer messaging via bloggers, influencers and news generation surveys.

We also work hard to ensure the platform or channel content relates to the consumers’ path to purchase, from building brand awareness in the early stages and creating inspirational content in the consideration stage, through to the creation of specific technical and product information to accommodate for the decision-making stage. We also need to be aware that certain devices and times of the day even play a part in this mix. A higher proportion of research is done on mobile devices, whereas a higher proportion of decision-making is done on desktop devices. It’s complicated but that is just the world we live in today; in terms of gathering and processing information, we never stop having to adjust constantly, whether it be finding the right balance of online spend for PPC ads or checking the website for cold spots or areas to adjust to improve the overall user experience. As consumers, we are all ruthless; if we don’t get the information we want in seconds, we’re out!

How do you think consumer buying patterns have changed over the past 5 years?

In some ways, our industry is still quite conservative when it comes to the buying process. We know that people still like to visit a showroom if possible. If not, they would like an installer to visit their house – not a salesperson. Local companies, recommendations by neighbours and friends are still the most important factors. The biggest change in buying patterns over the last 5 years have undoubtedly been product based. Around 75% of windows are replacements of replacements, so quite a discretionary purchase. We’re now  seeing homeowners embracing coloured frames massively, especially greys, along with a resurgence in premium style products, such as vertical sliding sash windows, heritage style flush windows, and lifestyle-enabling products, such as bi-fold doors. People are putting a lot of thought into these purchases and are proving willing to invest in additional aesthetically pleasing and high-performance aspects, such an energy efficiency and security, for a product they know will stand the test of time.

Do you think consumers still want the BOGOF deals or have they become more educated in quality over offers?

Research shows us that consumers distrust the BOGOF offers, crazy discounts, the too-good-to-be-true “I have to phone my boss to OK this price” offers, and the pressure to sign-up there and then variety; these methods have all generated a position where the consumer is cynical and expecting a bad experience from the offset. Happily, the internet has really helped organisations, such as Independent Network, to shift this position. The use of multiple online reviews have helped. Independent Network has an approval rating of 98% amongst homeowners, which is an impressive statistic. As well as this, it’s also now relatively simple to at least get an idea of the likely cost of your windows online thanks to various price generators, which has led to the democratisation of information, which enables the homeowner to enter a scenario as an equal, without having to take the word of the salesperson sat in front of them as gospel, as they tell them their windows really should cost £10,000 but that he can do the job just this once for £4,000 Price is a big factor and always will be, however, we see the lack of influence of these sorts of offers as consumers are looking for quality and trust.


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