For many retail sales associates (RSAs), the resilient category is complicated. There are new products being introduced all the time, and sorting through the benefits and features can become a quagmire. We asked some of the category’s leading marketers to offer their best tips for product knowledge training to help RSAs maximize their understanding and to help them grow sales in luxury vinyl tile (LVT).
Below are tips from...
- Jeff Francis, Director of Category Management, Shaw Floors
- Jenne Ross, Director of Marketing, Karndean
- Piet Dossche, USFloors’ President and Shaw’ EVP Hard Surface
- Seth Arnold, VP Residential Marketing, Mohawk
There is a challenge, not only for consumers but also our customers, regarding the information coming out of resilient. The manufacturers may be to blame for that, and I’ll tell you why. Just look at the acronyms that we throw around in the market: WPC, LVT, SPC. There’s a lot of different things that we talk through inside Shaw that everybody understands, but as it gets to our consumer, and even some of our customers, depending on how long the retail sales associate has been in the flooring industry or comfortable with resilient, it’s a lot.
There are three main points: innovation, a simplified marketing and sales plan, and investment. First, there’s so much innovation. One of the real challenges is making sure when we launch a new product, why is it different than the innovation that was brought out two years ago or five years ago? From the retailer’s perspective, where does this product fit in their portfolio, and how do they explain why this is a new innovation to their consumers? We have all the sales history, we have all the color trend analysis. We can scale down to the zip code level, so we can really know which products to add to a portfolio and we can help the retailer with their product mix.
Second, we have to do a better job of equipping our teams with the associated features, benefits and how they solve a problem or a concern for the consumer. In years past, territory managers may do a lunch and learn and go through a 15-page PowerPoint. Shaw is trying to take a different approach. We’re trying to keep it simple to more of a bite-sized one pager that talks about a specific attribute that can directionally relate to our consumer.
And then there is the investment that Shaw’s making. One of the investments we are making is one-page sales sheets that territory managers can automatically send to their retail customers. The links are live, and anytime there is a change to a product, they are getting the latest updated information.
Karndean Designflooring offers three types of LVT: gluedown, loose lay and rigid core. Because we offer more than 250 products, we feel it’s important to lead with the concerns of the customer (rather than the construction or format of LVT) and use those initial qualifiers to inform the construction of the product that best fits their home.
- Start with durability messaging (waterproof, easy to clean, etc.) to help the customer determine if LVT is right for their lifestyle.
- Follow by discussing color and the layout of the floor, as this will help to inform the LVT construction that best fits their needs (gluedown, loose lay, rigid core).
- Discuss items like install time and subfloor preparation last. This is not a main concern of the customer, as they will be paying the retailer for these things.
- With the addition of design strips and borders Karndean Designflooring gluedown sales allow for increased margin and a look that can’t be shopped at competitors down the street or at big box stores. These upsells not only add margin to retailer sales, but value to the customer’s home.
There are a lot of products in the market right now in the rigid core segment. WPC, SPC—not everybody understands what the difference is. Most dealers only understand one thing: one is cheaper than the other. And they migrate to the cheapest product without realizing you take your ticket sales down and your margins down because 35% of $3 is a lot different than 35% of $2. They can’t help themselves because they fear that if they don’t migrate to the lowest denominators, they’re going to lose a sale. We are trying to educate them that these two and have a perfect spot to coexist in the market and have been constructed to fill two different needs an applications.
We are putting together education and marketing that is very simple, in plain English and not technical, that talks about what WPC is all about and what SPC is all about. It takes reinforcing, time after time. WPC is made with more air in the core and is a fit for a comfort residential application, and SPC is constructed for performance, toughness and light commercial application. Sometimes the simple message is best. If you don’t overcomplicate it, you will bring the message home better.
Aside from just having the proof points and a very pleasing format, we need to enforce the messaging with the right visuals that immediately draw meaning for the consumer. We have to assist the message that we tell the RSAs with point-of-purchase pieces, banners, posters, with visual prompts. We are embarking on a major push to push Coretec into a consumer brand. You will see continuous enforcement of this in social media and other media to drive that message home.
The surprising thing is LVT is not that complicated. The benefits that it offers to a consumer are very straightforward: it’s waterproof in nature, it’s a very durable, and it’s very easy to clean compared to traditional wood products. Sometimes our industry tries to go into a lot of the minutia to convince retailers that one product is better than another, when at the end of the day, the consumer walks in and just gets confused by all of that. For us, what we’re trying to do is anchor all of our training in what’s most important to the consumer and help make it easy to trust and easy to compare.
We’ve found that the best results for training are hands-on, in the store with our sales people, walking the retail sales associate through features and benefits. Another play from the Mohawk handbook is to get people’s attention at trade shows. A big part of our trade shows are providing demonstrations of the extraordinary features and benefits that consumers are interested in—in a way that’s interesting. Part of the challenge is to be consumer oriented rather than product and feature oriented. Sometimes we get so technical that the consumer totally loses interest.
All Pet is a great example where it brings together the combination of easy to clean, waterproof and scratch resistant. Those are three benefits that we know for a fact that the consumer cares about; seven out of 10 people that walk through the door have a pet, so your odds of telling a story that they can relate to go up. We’ve done everything from giving pigs a bath on stage to having a unicorn show up at our show as a way to demonstrate that there’s something interesting going on with this product. We follow up with similar smaller scale in store demonstrations. Obviously, we can’t, we can’t bring a unicorn and a waterfall to every store in America, right? With store owners, what we’re trying to do is to really present something exciting and engaging, and we find that many times those owners will bring back those big exciting stories to their sales force.
With the launch of Pergo, we have had higher than expected demand. We’ve been, fast and furious trying to get all of the Pergo displays into the marketplace so we can turn on all of the advertising, all of the promotion and start really driving people to specialty retail as a premier destination for Pergo. July 15 is our promotional launch, and all of our sales reps are going to be out in those Pergo stores conducting product knowledge seminars, making sure that retailers understand what truly differentiates Pergo. What does high performance really mean? That really boils down to deeper visuals, deeper protection from denting, and then deeper warranty protection. We’ll be shipping demo kits to the retailers so they will see how the demonstration and performance is done.There’ll be able to ask any questions. And then as we’re driving demand into those retailers, the retailers can perform the exact same product demonstration for the consumer.