More than half (54%) of female shoppers use the Internet prior to visiting a flooring store. This finding is part of the 2009 Female Shopper Ideal Showroom Experience Research Study.

The national study, commissioned by the World Floor Covering Association and conducted recently by Clear Seas Research, also identifies five challenges for retailers: achieving her initial consideration; getting her into and keeping her in the store; assisting with product selection; becoming part of her purchase decision; and providing the ultimate shopping experience.

Achieving her initial consideration. The survey shows female consumers want to make informed decisions; 54% of respondents said, “the better the look and content of a flooring retailers’ website, the more likely I am to visit the retailer.” Other findings: 47% said, “I decide what type of flooring I want before entering the showroom”; and 22% only go to the showroom to negotiate the best price.

Getting her into and keeping her in the store. “I would like the salesperson to show me new products I may not be aware of,” agreed 84% of the survey group. A majority  (88%) said, “I will leave a store if the salesperson is too pushy.” The salesperson needs to acknowledge the customer when she arrives in the store, as 47% said, or they will leave the store if the salesperson doesn’t acknowledge them when they arrive. The store floor should be neat and displays well spaced – 59% said they will leave the store, if the product displays are too crowded.

Some do’s and don’ts for the initial purchasing experience include: Do invest in your website; do acknowledge her presence; do try to reduce negative feelings; do share product location and related information; do listen to her; and do be visibly available.

However, don’t assume decisions are 100% price driven; don’t ignore her; don’t be pushy; don’t hover; don’t provide your personal opinions; and don’t assume you know.(Chart 1)

Assisting with product selection. The survey respondents believe the salesperson is a valuable source of product information as well as recommendations of flooring products that may not have been previously considered. Also, the store layout and product displays are very important from an informational and experiential perspective. Seventy-one percent agreed, “My decision can be swayed based on learning about alternative products available.”

Survey participants also weighed in on the ideal store layout. For the front of the store, respondents said they want to see featured products (offerings), 81%; customer service, 62%; and a purchase desk, 49%. In the middle of the store, she wants to see the planning center, 61%; design center, 61%; tile displays, 51%, wood displays, 49%; laminate displays, 48%; and carpet displays, 46%. At the back of the store would be a child activity area, 60%; refreshment center, 43%; and restrooms, 68%.

Effective product displays should: provide easy visibility of all color choices available; enable her to view options side-by-side or in different scenarios; provide product information for comparisons; allow her to touch and feel various textures; and assist the customer in narrowing down choices and remaining focused. Oversized samples should also be available.

The salesperson should also provide non-cost related information on alternative solutions the customer may not have considered. The flooring purchase is an important decision and the buyer must have enough information to make a smart decision. The salesperson must reduce negative emotions and must not assume budgets are completely fixed. However, a salesperson should be careful not to talk only about the cost of alternative products, provide personal opinions, or assume to know the female customer’s wants/needs/budget.

Becoming part of her purchase decision. Even though price is very influential and important, 75% of those surveyed say they are willing to pay more for: a higher quality or more durable product. An equal number are also looking for an easier to clean product. She is also willing to pay more for: a more comfortable product, 69%; an environmentally friendly product, 43%; and a better looking product, 34%.(Chart 2)

Make sure your salespeople focus on the positive attributes of the products selected, review the installation process and genuinely share in her excitement. Make sure not to provide personal opinions unless they are totally positive. Don’t be negative during the purchase decision.

In-store interactions can be enhanced by implementing the following features/services to your operation: virtual imaging, 56%; take home (and returnable) samples and interactive displays, 49%; alternate lighting areas within showroom, 40%; samples for purchase, 38%; a design consultant for product selection, 33%; and mock-up room displays, 29%.

Salespeople impact the shopping experience with knowledge about all products, 41%; flooring design knowledge, 40%; options that are within budget and knowledge about installation, 37%; solutions to flooring needs and polite and courteous behavior, 36%; product recommendations by lifestyle, 32%; and professional flooring certifications, 31%.

Providing the ultimate shopping experience. The ultimate shopping experience should heighten positive emotions while reducing concerns surrounding the purchase process. During the purchasing experience she’s likely to feel a range of emotions. She might be optimistic, curious, excited, enthusiastic, cautious, comfortable, overwhelmed, indecisive, and/or determined. Your store must have an environment conducive to efficient decision-making. Additional information should be provided along with options to make better decisions. Products, colors and styles should be easily viewed. Samples should be easily moved within the store to allow her to easily view and eliminate different options. Your sales team must provide positive reinforcement she is making the right decision for her flooring needs.

Ten very influential purchase factors identified in the study are: the price of flooring products; availability of products that meet her lifestyle; salesperson product knowledge; durability of floor covering offerings; product options and choices available to her; customer service during selection process; product installation expertise; discounts being offered; store reputation; and turnaround time from purchase to installation.

The study shows that inviting showroom elements (inside and out) encourage her to shop; proper showroom layout can assist the consumer in making product purchase decisions; specific product displays can be identified as the most useful in helping her visualize the products in her personal space; and how to relate to her puts her at ease and increases her level of comfort/willingness to make a purchase decision.

EDITOR’S NOTE:The findings are based on research conducted on behalf of the World Floor Covering Association, which commissioned Clear Seas Research (a sister company toNational Floor Trends) to conduct the 2009 Female Shopper Ideal Showroom Experience Research Study. The 15-minute online survey was administered to 1,203 female flooring shoppers that recently shopped or were intending to shop a specialty flooring store or a big box location to purchase flooring within a six-month time frame. The study was conducted from Aug. 12-20, 2009. For additional information,

Zeroing in on today's female shopper

Today’s female flooring customer has a busy lifestyle with 60% being employed (48% full-time, 12% part time); 69% are college or post-college grads; 44% have children at home; and 34% are do-it-yourselfers. While visiting the retailer, 84% would like the salesperson to show her new products she has not considered.

She is an experienced value shopper and 71% of the survey group feel their decisions can be swayed based upon learning about alternative products.