There is no doubt 2013 was one of the best years for the overall industry in recent memory, and with many of the key indicators flooring looks to remaining positive, executives at Mohawk Industries told members of its ColorCenter and Floorscapes aligned networks to “Own the Moment” at the company’s annual Solutions conference.
Jeff Lorberbaum, Mohawk’s chairman and CEO, said the factors that matter most to the specialty dealer were pointing up in 2013 and are expected to continue throughout this year and beyond. The fighting and much of what goes on in Congress “doesn’t follow the fundamentals of our industry,” he said, so don’t let that affect how you plan for the future.
Lorberbaum pointed to such things as a continuous rise in housing starts, how the average price of a home is increasing and how there are fewer houses “under water” (owing more on their mortgage than the home is worth).
And, because “everyone pulled back” over the last six-plus years, he said, “There is a lot of pent-up demand.”
Tom Lape, Mohawk’s president of market development for residential and commercial, told the audience of 500 dealers the industry is “staring at one of the biggest opportunities in our careers.” For the retailers, he noted, “You made it through the most challenging times in our history” and this is the chance to be rewarded.
But, Lape cautioned the audience they didn’t make it through the recession sitting still, and “you can can’t sit still now.”
Part of that, Lorberbaum added, is to embrace technology and, more specifically social media. While the actual product is still the most important thing, and “Mohawk is doing everything it can to be your supplier of choice, but in this area to say you can get along without social media is like having no highways or phones. Today, technology is the entrée into the marketplace.”
He described social media and the Internet in general similar to rolling a snowball down a hill. “It starts small at the top but at the bottom it is huge and everything along the way is caught up in it.” When it comes to the Internet, “it has taken away all the hassles and made things cheaper and easier to obtain.”
In addition, Lorberbaum said the Internet has swallowed up things people at first said consumers wouldn’t buy online. “Just about every barrier to what people said couldn’t be sold online has fallen.” Floor coverings is one of the few products in which the majority of it is still sold the traditional way, “but things are transitioning and you need to as well in order to succeed.”
Noting how more customers than ever are doing their research online before heading out of the home, he said Mohawk has the means to give a “comprehensive way to drive them to your store,” adding the company can even integrate with what each individual dealer is doing, specifically through its new The Cloud initiative.
Kent Clauson, Mohawk’s vice president of brand and digital, said The Cloud is “where the physical world intersects with the digital world. Everything we are doing digitally is to help drive consumers into our dealers’ stores, and especially our aligned retailers.”
The Cloud is about four key areas:
• Digital presence. This contains seven sub-areas which offers everything from traditional website development to a new mobile website to online search support and more. The mobile part is extremely important, Clauson said because “in 2014 mobile usage for searching the Internet is expected to surpass desktop usage.”
• Online reputation: This includes a ratings and review platform, easy claims processing, Google Business Assessment, SAP reputation assessment and more. “With 90% of people going online to research products and stores, you’re online reputation is critical and Mohawk can help dealers boost theirs through a variety of methods.”
• Lead generation: This is a comprehensive suite of products that includes everything from traditional direct mail marketing to online and even social media direct mail as well as a host of other offerings.
• In-store: This last part features such items as consumer finance, including leads from active cardholders, store planning that includes layout and redesign services, and consumer credit kiosks along with enhanced kiosk functionality.
“Today’s digital technology provides business opportunities that were unimaginable just a few years ago, Clauson emphasized, and “all the services we are providing in The Cloud are designed to help both the retailer and the consumer win.”
Inspire and Educate
David Duncan, Mohawk’s senior vice president of marketing, told dealers, “We are defined by moments and right now we are in the early stages of a multi year recovery of large product investments and we need to own these moments.”
In doing so, he added, “We need to drive customers, and that requires resources and an understanding of how the customer is shopping and learning.”
Duncan said being aligned with Mohawk makes all this easy as the company has and continues to invest in customer research as well as being committed to bringing out marketing programs that touch consumers emotionally.
“The word we live in today is all about content,” he explained, “and at Mohawk we spend everyday creating content and broadcasting online—and in person—in a meaningful way with real people talking.”
As an example, Duncan added the company’s License to Spill Tour in 2013 reached over 100 million consumers.
For 2014, he said the company is upping the stakes, by noting Americans’ love of pets, as approximately 70% of homes have a pet. We love our pets and we will do anything for them”
As such, the company unveiled its SmartStrand Unleashed promotion with Animal Planet’s Puppy Bowl X, which aired during the Super Bowl to an audience of approximately 10 million viewers. Mohawk was the offical carpet sponsor of the event, with the “gridiron” surface the puppies played on made from the company’s unique fiber. Along with promoting SmartStrand carpet on TV, Mohawk implemented a digital campaign, inviting fans to Instagram a photo of their dog watching Puppy Bowl X for a chance to win a dog-bone shaped SmartStrand bound carpet.
In addition to the on-air promotion, Mohawk participated in a “live” Puppy Bowl Expo hosted by Discovery Communications, Animal Planet’s parent company, right off Times Square in New York the week leading up to the Super Bowl. The event was open to the public and visitors were able to experience a real Puppy Bowl game on SmartStrand carpet and also meet Mohawk’s “Mo,” a messy, four-legged yellow lab, who is acting as the official mascot of the promotion.
But before anyone from the public got a chance to see how SmartStrand could hold up to a Puppy Bowl, attendees to the Solutions event were given a sneak peak as Mohawk not only had Mo on hand to greet the aligned members, the company staged a mini Puppy Bowl.
“This one has legs,” Duncan said, “lots of legs. And it’s all about tackling life’s messiest moments. Mohawk will go to any length to get real people talking about our products. SmartStrand Unleashed is just another example.”
Elise Demboski, vice president of creative services, said the Puppy Bowl was just the beginning of Mo’s adventures and the SmartStrand Unleashed promotion. In January, Mo made his debut as the world’s first canine correspondent on “The Better Show,” a nationally syndicated lifestyle and entertainment program airing to one million viewers every weekday. Mo will be a regular on the show throughout 2014 and will have his own 12-series webisode, called “Mo’s Next Mess.”
She noted Mohawk aligned retailers will benefit from the fully integrated campaign, which is designed to “generate powerful consumer leads.” In addition, Mohawk is supporting retailers with SmartStrand Unleashed point-of-sale kits, advertising tools, social media content, digital banners, customizable press releases and fully loaded event kits.
Speaking of in-store tools, Demboski said last year Mohawk introduced a kiosk to show and simplify the showroom for the consumer. “Mohawk has created a stress-free shopping experience with this,” she said. “If it is complicated people will not use it.”
As proof of how it is working, she said 88% of the dealers who are using it said it helped them close a sale within the store, and 75% said it has helped them sell higher end goods because salespeople can help consumers more easily understand the differences in benefits of each product, from fiber construction to price point.”
One final component of the SmartStrand Unleashed promotion is that through Mo, Mohawk is raising awareness for pets in need through a partnership with the Petfinder Foundation. In support of the partnership, Mohawk is donating $2 for every “like” the company receives on its Facebook page. In addition many of the puppies that participated in the convention’s Puppy Bowl were actually up for adoption and some were immediately scooped up by the many dealers who lived nearby.
Mohawk hasn’t forgotten the human element either, as Demboski said the company is not only continuing it partnership with Operation Finally Home for the third straight year, this year it will be making it largest commitment to date to the non-profit which provides custom-built, mortgage-free homes for wounded and disabled veterans, as well as spouses of the fallen.
Mohawk has committed to donating flooring for 30 homes in 2014 and, as a result, it was named the organization’s exclusive national flooring provider. “We take great pride in being a domestic manufacturer, but we also believe in doing our part to make our country a better place to live and work. Operation Finally Home embodies values that the entire Mohawk family holds dear—from our employees to our retailers and their customers.”
Products, Products Everywhere
While Mohawk had plenty to showcase to its aligned dealers in terms of ways it can help through technology as well as national promotions that dealers can also tie into at the local level, products are still the most important part of any retailer’s arsenal. And for 2014, Mohawk has gone out all out with offerings in every product category in which it participates. And, it is not just products, it’s a wide breadth of products in all price ranges and across all construction platforms.
For a complete review of the numerous products, along with a new SmartStrand display Mohawk is introducing, see the story in our digital edition.
Robert Boehm of the Longest Yard in Nutley, N.J., and a ColorCenter Elite dealer, was impressed with what and who he was seeing. “It’s nice to visit and talk to all the vendors and see what is going on. We opened a new store this past May and I really like what Mohawk has done with its store design approach—from the displays to the kiosks to the signage. Everything matches and goes together; it’s very professional looking.”
Craig Press of Impressive Floors in Bedford, Pa., who has been aligned with Mohawk since opening his store in 2001 and upped his commitment four years ago when he became a ColorCenter Elite member, feels he “made the right move. I’m always amazed at the benefits you get being an Elite member—Mohawk does so much for you.”
From Mohawk’s new soft and hard products to even those of vendors such as Congoleum’s new Z-oN flexible flooring, he liked what he was seeing. “You have to feel confident you have the best supplier behind you and with all that Mohawk has to offer, how can you beat them?”
In the end though, it was all about “owning the moment” and keynote speaker and former Olympic speed skier Vince Poscente told the audience exactly that. Whether you are going downhill at 125 mph or running a business on a daily basis he said it is “about the moment. And, if you know you tried your very best and know your best can be the best in the world, then you will have no regrets.”
Sure, he added, “we all hit bumps along the way—financial, health, etc.—but we are not defined by the bumps themselves, it’s how you respond to them. So own the moment; have fun.”