Although the residential replacement business has been slower for many flooring retailers this year, now is the time to invest in technologies that will help you make the most of every sales opportunity. QFloors President Chad Ogden joins us to discuss software that can help drive store traffic, increase leads and boost sales.

This is the third podcast in our Technology for Retailers series, so if you haven’t heard or read the previous episodes, be sure to go back and listen the other topics in the series:

Floor Trends: There's a long list of different types of these technologies that can help retailers improve sales and drive traffic to their business. Can you walk us through some of the examples?

Chad Ogden: We did that first podcast about business management software, and that's the hub. If you think about a wheel, it's turning around and around and that business management software is like the Hub. If that if that hub is not working really well, these other things that we're going to talk about today is just going to make it worse.

There are these other technologies and one of their biggest purposes is to drive sales, lead and volume. These are all different technologies that you can use to do that.

FT: Let’s talk about each type.

Ogden: The first is visual estimation. You’ve probably seen either on an iPad or even on a computer, where you can get a broad diagram of a floor plan of a house or a business with all the walls and everything in there. Then you can place products in that diagram. The software can tell you how much you're going to need for that specific product. The whole idea is, you have this diagram, you put a product in there, and then you figure out how much you're going to be need.

FT: Are these estimation technologies different than the visualizers that a lot of manufacturers are promoting on their site?

Ogden: They are. So we'll talk about room visualization here in a second. That's another type of technology that'll help us drive marketing. In our industry, there's a couple that are pretty prominent. There's probably four or five, but RFMS Measure is a pretty prominent one as well as Measure Square.

In estimation, there's two different divisions that you need to be aware of. There's what we call retail estimation/retail replacement and commercial. I want to divide these and make clear that there is a very definite estimation. The estimation companies sell these products differently.

In retail replacement estimation, most people are using iPads. Usually, they don't have the diagrams already, and they're going to the residence and they will pull out an electronic measuring device that's connected to an iPad, and they can quickly draw the room or the space with all the walls and everything with the laser measure and the iPad. That's the current technology.

Why is this a marketing tool? People usually think of this as a calculation help tool. Well, you're coming in to somebody's house with a laser measure and doing this diagram. It has been proven that the close rates for somebody that does this goes way up. You can also use this technology for other things like training new employees and stuff like that. But really it is a marketing tool, and if you use it that way, it will really help increase your sales.

FT: Let's talk about commercial.

Ogden: Commercial business in general is very different from residential replacement builder. I'm talking big jobs like hospitals, hotels, and office buildings that are very big with multiple floors. If you do not have estimation software, I don't think you're in business. The whole bill about commercial is, how many bids can you put out as quickly as possible and get in front of people. The more bids that you can put out, and the faster you can do it, and the more accurately you can do it and the more successful your business is. In the commercial world, you usually have an estimator that's their whole job, that's all they do. They sit behind the computer all day. That's the purpose of commercial software, you have a monitor that's the size of your room, or two or three monitors the size of your room at your desk. It's not an iPad. The more bids that you can turn out, the faster the more accurate, the more business you're probably going to get. And that's why this is a marketing thing.

Often, those commercial projects have really strict budgets. You have to be able to drop new product in and figure it out as the scope of the project may change what you're alluding to. It has to be accurate and fast. You make one mistake and the whole profit could be out of the whole project. So that's why this estimation piece of software is so important and being able to not only use the estimation, but get the bid.

Once you get the quantities, get that bid out professionally, looking to the person as quickly as possible, that whole bidding estimation process is critical, and the estimation software is the first part of that.

FT: It sounds like whether you're doing residential or commercial, the estimation technology is a must-have for someone who's taken their business seriously. The next thing on the list is digital marketing, and obviously digital has been a huge topic of conversation over the last several years.

Ogden: The most basic part of digital marketing would be a website. I think you need to have your website be unique and differentiating. If your website looks just like everybody else's, you're not differentiating yourself. It needs to be professional. I would spend a good chunk of money on website technology and making sure it’s getting done correctly. There are companies out there, just like in the estimation, there are floor covering specific companies that do websites and then there's people that do custom. Some people don't know where to start, you're going to want to get one of these companies to help you.

People used to spend hundreds of thousands and millions of dollars on TV ads. The other part of that would be placing digital ads, things like social media campaigns or search engines. But you've got social media like Facebook and Instagram and things of that nature where you're actually placing ads that will pop up and people will see. These SEO search engines with Google, that means is that when the somebody does a search for carpet or ceramic tile, your name is coming up on the list. So all of this is kind of an encompassing thing on digital marketing. Plus, you have drip campaigns for emails. You're dripping people with emails. There are companies out there that specialize in floor covering digital marketing.

The other thing that digital marketing does help you with is gaining leads from all of this digital marketing. You're collecting leads of potential customers, digital marketing companies are passing those leads back down into the business systems, the Erp systems. So that they can be managed from there. So there's a connection between the estimation and the business systems to.

FT: What about room visualization?

Ogden: Room visualization is becoming very common in the industry now. What room visualization is, you'll have a picture of a room, you could even have your cabinets, floor, walls. You can start taking products off the internet and flopping those products down onto the floor or wall or cabinet and seeing what your room would look like with different products inserted into that room.

A lot of people will have a room visualizer on their website that people can click on and then they can grab their products off of their websites and drop them into there. They can see what the rooms going to look like. This is what you're competing against. If you don't have a room visualizer, if you don't have a website, you don't have estimates, you know you're this is what people are doing out there.

I have seen recently that not just on a website visualizer, but as you walk in the store, people are putting up these big kiosks with these big monitors so the customers could just walk up, put their pictures on there, or local pictures of their own house, and then they can put the products in from the store right there. Those are the kinds of things that is becoming even more prominent, not just on websites, but in in store experience for room visualization.

FT: How does a retailer work through the fact that so many manufacturers are offering visualizers?

Ogden: The manufacturers are doing it to try to sell their own products, so this would be where you're going to take the products that you sell from different manufacturers and giving a bigger offering. If you're only relying on a manufacturer, that's going to limit because the manufacturer A is not going to put manufacturer B's products in their visualizer. For the retailer, this allows them to take products from across all vendors and put them into one, which is what the customer is going want to see. They're going to want to compare products from different manufacturers.

FT: So, through all of these technologies so far, you've been talking about collecting leads. So, once you have those, what’s the next step?

Ogden: The CRM software is the next step. All that means is that you're going to collect these leads in one place and be able to track and pay attention to who you need to be calling. That is something our industry has never done a really good job on, especially on the retail side of things. They have all these leads, and they never follow up. The CRM is designed to try to track and pay attention to, and make sure that those leads are being followed up on. You paid for the lead to get it, now it's becoming more crucial than ever follow up on it, because those leads aren't even in your store yet.

There are many different CRM packages and solutions out there. I know most of our customers right now are preferring to download the leads directly into our software and then manage them from there, because now they're inside of one package. They don't have to have an external package. I would say if you're not really advanced, these external CRM systems are probably not for you. You're going want to buy a CRM that's already integrated with another package

FT: I'd like to talk about the comeback kid of the pandemic: QR codes. It seems like they've really come back full force the last few years.

Ogden: So QR codes are becoming really big. You have a show room, and traditionally, you have it tagged with what the samples are, their names, their prices all that kind of stuff with an actual tag that you're putting on there. With every time that a price is changed by a manufacturer, you would have to go back, reprint the tag and put it on there again.

The idea behind it is, you put the QR code on the sample and that takes them to either your sales person or the customer who a website that has a tag on their website. So instead of the tag being on the sample, the QR codes are on the sample.

So usually, the people that are out there right now that are managing your normal website have technologies where they can manage a store, a sample program type of website with QR code.

FT: I guess the next step after you've made the sale is getting a review and keeping in touch with your customers.

Ogden: Yes, there's a couple of really popular messaging and review software products out there. They do two things, most of them. Some of them specialize a little bit more. But the two popular names are Podium and Swell.

Both of these softwares have an aspect to them where they can organize messages that are coming in from customers. It's usually through cell phone technology. Let's say, a customer goes to your site, they want to ask you a question. They put their cell phone number in and that cell phone message goes to a message center, then somebody can manage that and respond to the customer.

This kind of software is a must to be able to make sure you're not dropping the ball with the messaging coming in. Once you get the cell, you want to send a review request to the customer so that they will fill out a Google review to be put on your website.

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