It was a changing of the guard for Carpet One Floor and Home members who met in Montreal, Canada, to learn how to differentiate their businesses. Carpet One President Eric Demaree addressed the membership for the last time as he announced his plans to retire at the end of 2018 after 13 years with the organization. 

Before leaving the stage to the sounds of Bon Jovi, Demaree told retailers to, “Take a good long, hard look at the human side of your business,” before introducing the incoming president, John Gilbert. “Thank you for your kindness and welcoming me to the organization,” Gilbert said. “It’s been overwhelming. But the amount of kindness that has been displayed toward me in the last week and a half is amazing. I look forward to working with each and every one of you.”

The kindness was palpable throughout the C1Xperience, or simply C1X, which immersed members into an accelerated agenda that featured impactful speakers and focused networking. John Venhuizen, president and CEO of Ace Hardware, encouraged retailers to stay strong against big-box competitors, inspiring them to play smarter, more strategically and “wow” things to life instead of “how-ing” them to death.

Col. Nicole Malachowski shared her story of leadership, perseverance and triumph that many were able to translate to their businesses and lives. Now retired from the United States Air Force, Malachowski is the first woman pilot on the Thunderbirds Air Demonstration Squadron. 

“Failure is the price of entry if you want to achieve something great,” Malachowski said. “Failure is part of the path to reaching the next level. If you’d like to be safe and comfortable and maintain your status quo, you are more than welcome to do that. But if you’re searching for a higher goal or moving on to the next level of your business or your personal life, whatever that dream, or goal is, failure is the price of entry for achieving that.”

Commitment to Customers

Continuing to drive the key message of owning the customer experience from start to finish, the summer convention discussed the power of supporting core cooperative programs and initiatives, the difference a strong commitment to customers can make, and ways to convert more leads to sales.

Today’s consumer wants to feel empowered and rewarded, said Theresa Fisher, senior vice president, visual merchandising and brand development at CCA Global Partners. And in order to take customers on a pathway that goes from complexity to a single choice, Fisher urged members to draw inspiration from companies that are leading the way even outside of the flooring industry.

“I urge you to take the time to go into an Apple store, go into a Starbucks, and then go back to your own store with the eyes of a customer,” Fisher said. “Are you over assorted? Is there an opportunity to edit? Maybe to bring it in a little bit?”

With new eyes and the help of the co-op’s Destination: Carpet One store design, members have the ability to create a truly customer-friendly showroom.

“The convention is an opportunity to motivate yourself and get a first-hand look at new trends,” said Bob Becker of R.A.P Floor Coverings of Plain City, Ohio, which joined Carpet One just one year ago. He saw a need for the support and backing of the co-op as he set out to build and grow as a revamped business.

Attendees experienced a new and improved show floor at this year’s summer convention. The new C1XPO floor layout offered more space dedicated to showcasing all displays and products. 

“I love the way the [new format] is working,” said Ariane Emerson of Emerson Carpet One Floor and Home in Baton Rouge, La. “It seems to go together more like a showroom; it’s cohesive and you get to see all the lines together in the same category. It’s easier for me, personally, to visualize how it will fit in my showroom.”

Emerson, who grew up in the business under her father’s direction, has taken more of a leadership role as she grows with the business and prepares for its future. 

Converting Leads to Sales 

In an effort to effectively generate leads and provide tools to maximize lead conversion, Bevin Andrews, senior vice president of marketing, CCA Global Partners, spoke to the importance of increasing local listings in Google’s Search Engine Results Page. By claiming their Google My Business listing, which feeds local listing results, retail members can increase visibility and opportunities for leads.

Marett Carpet One Floor & Home has witnessed first-hand the many benefits of strengthening digital marketing with the help of Carpet One’s One Stop Digital (OSD) program.

“From hearing from Carpet One how many people start their shopping experience online, we didn’t feel like we had a strong presence there, so we knew we needed to make a concerted effort there,” said Craig Marett, manager of Marett Carpet One.

Focusing on organic efforts, creating pages and enhancing websites, OSD is helping retailers increase online visibility and appear higher in web searches. Marett Carpet One has earned that increased visibility by updating its Google My Business listing: “We provided the OSD team with everything they asked for. It just took a little bit of effort on our part and they took care of the rest. It was really pretty easy on us.”

An augmented intelligence (AI) chatbot will be added to the Carpet One website this fall, programmed to provide common conversational paths that will grow over time. The goal of this feature, according to Gary Redmond, director of digital marketing, CCA Global Partners, is to be an industry-leading resource for customers by giving them a tool that helps them research their next project.

“It’s great to come and stay on top of new products and advertising programs, especially the digital online advertising,” said James Higgins of Higgins Carpet One Floor and Home in South Portland, Maine. “About 80% of our advertising dollars are now digital.”

In the business for more than 30 years and a Carpet One member for 25 years, Higgins has seen a lot of marketing initiatives during his career. “I would say the digital space has made advertising easier. Instead of deciding what TV station, radio station or newspaper to use, you just have one website and market it that way.”

Higgins says business is very good, crediting the current success of his operation to the programming and support of Carpet One, in addition to what he calls the “Trump Bump”.

Carpet One is offering a review building tool that utilizes text requests, so that reviews can be requested on third-party platforms such as Facebook, Google and industry specific sites like Houzz.

“There’s no better time than now to take control of your online reputation and really drive more word of mouth marketing,” Andrew said.

The new Mover Program which was rolled out at convention has been created in partnership with Updater, a resource that streamlines almost every aspect of moving, which can often be a very stressful process.

“Updater is an app that lets you take care of all of those tedious, time consuming moving related tasks quickly, easily and all in one place,” said Amanda Fischer, senior marketing manager at Updater.

Assisting with everything from forwarding mail to connecting utilities, Updater has partnered with CCA Global Partnership to now directly connect movers to flooring solutions.

Creating an entirely new way for members to market their local businesses to people during the moving process, the Mover Program is designed to introduce local brands to moving consumers at the right time.

“When people move, they spend a lot of money, often on products for their new home, like flooring,” said Fischer. “According to the National Association of Home Builders, in the first year after buying a new home, American’s spend an average of $10,000 on renovations, they are four times more likely to try a new brand, and 85% of them will choose the first brand presented to them. The goal of the Mover Program is to make your local store that first brand.”

While there was an emphasis and much excitement surrounding new programming and initiatives, not to be forgotten were existing programs and resources like CCA Global University, which trains sales professionals through a full suite of programs and interactive courses.