Nearly two decades into the new millennium, the rapid growth of technology has changed every facet of life, including how consumers make purchases for their home. Though as our business and social circles expand and become more global, the consumer experience is becoming more personalized, a theme that connected events this winter, Flooring America’s and Carpet One’s Winter Convention in Washington D.C. and the International Surface Event (TISE) in Las Vegas. Modern consumers are constantly surrounded by digital marketing from both obvious and not-so-obvious sources. With a deluge of stimuli, what does it take to stand out in the flooring industry? A strong digital presence and a personal customer experience.
With improvements not only to cell phones, but also to data coverage and mobile-responsive software, the path-to-purchase now invariably begins online.
“Customers start the journey online, so we want to make sure our retailers have the right websites, traffic-driving tools and customer engagement pieces in place whether it’s on social media or virtual reality,” said Frank Chiera, senior vice president of Flooring America at its Winter Convention. “Then we want to make sure when they step foot in the door, when they call our stores, that the sales professionals can convert that lead into a sale opportunity.”
To meet customers where they are, retailers need a strong web presence, which begins with a strong, professionally-designed website. Many buying groups, such as Carpet One and Flooring America, offer website building services to their members, giving members access to the resources they need for a successful website that also integrate with other group benefits (i.e.: direct mailers, eblasts, digital advertising).
“A key element of your membership is all of the tools that we provide to make you successful,” added Keith Spano, president of Flooring America. “You don’t have to go outside the tent, you don’t have to go look for a resource. We have it all for you. And our marketing programs are all encapsulated into a nice bundle that integrates with everything we do. We’ve already created the wheel. There’s no reason for any of our members to recreate the wheel.”
With a strong website, full of information and resources, social media is a tool to expand and communicate with your audience (and to ultimately generate more leads).
According to Shannon Vogel, director of social media at Creating Your Space, who presented “Social Media Boot Camp” at The International Surfaces Event this year, social media should be used to create and foster a relationship with your customer base—and then direct them to your website for more in-depth information. To create relationships on social media, share experiences, help consumers see what you do every day, and listen to them in order to help solve their flooring problems, Vogel suggests.
“People want to shop with people,” she says, so show them who you are via social media. By building relationships with your local customer base, you can create brand advocates, increase brand loyalty, and increase leads and sales.
Even with all this change, at the end of the day, flooring is still a tactile, physical business. Consumers still want to come into a brick-and-mortar store to see the tile on the sample board and pet the carpet before they make their final purchase. By the time the customer comes into the store, they’re most likely ninety-five percent sure of their purchase. All that’s left is to assuage any last-minute reservations, make sure they have everything they need for installation, and close the sale.
Even at this late stage, creating a personal experience can make all the difference. Are they shopping for pet-friendly flooring? Send them home with a “doggy” bag of treats for their best friend. Is the installer coming out to their home for an estimate? Have the installer call (or text) and offer to pick up coffee on the way. These little personal connections will turn an average experience into an exceptional one and create a loyal customer who will boast about their new floor all over social media.
What do you do in your store to create personal customer experiences? Share your stories with firstname.lastname@example.org.