This year’s meeting was held in the nation’s capital and Spano said it was a fitting place for the group to “continue to make our own history. Our purpose is not politics but to connect as a memmbership. And just like our forefathers left their businesses and families to build a stronger nation for the common good we have a room full of entrpreneaurs and visionaries who have come together for the greater good.”
In fact, executives said the group has certainly being getting stronger as overall sales continue to outpace the industry in general and, even more impressive is that 21% of the membership reported increases of at least 20% over the previous year.
With that in mind Frank Chiera, FA/FC’s vice president of marketing and advertising, said now is the time to not only go on the offense, “which we’ve already been doing for the last few years, but to ramp things up to a new level that will help drive consumers to our members’ stores ready to buy.”
To help accomplish this, FA/FC rolled out a bevy a programs, services and products all designed to differentiate members from the competition and also build confidence in consumers they made the right decision to shop at their local FA/FC store.
Three years ago, FA/FC’s leadership introduced its “Where Friends Send Friends” campaign, with the idea of utilizing the power of the Internet—especially social media—to create a virtual library of marketing tools centered around consumer testimonials and referrals based on their shopping and buying experience at an FA/FC dealership.
And it’s working, as Chiera told the membership, last year the collective efforts of members and FA/FC accounted for 62 million impressions. Still, “We’ve only just begun our journey to differentiate ourselves and become the most recommened flooring store.” In fact, for 2015, the buying group is seeking with members to get 20,000 consumer reviews.
The reason is simple: 93% of shoppers are influnced by social media.
To help achieve that, the group has partnernered with Bazaarvoice to hep capture and discimate consumer reviews in ways that will allow members to achieve higher rankings in local searches as well as manage the responses.
Trey Simonton of Bazaarvoice said the company works with 20% of the top Fortune 500 companies, including over 3,000 top consumer brands. In fact, “you’ve probably already interacted with reviews Bazaarvoice helped, such as from Best Buy, Expedia and so on. Our goal is to take reviews to the next level.”
He noted, “We’ll make sure reviews are safe and no foul language is used.” Also, while most reviews skew toward the positive—about 86% of the ones captured by Bazaarvoice are 4 Star or better—and “we expect the percentage to be higher for Flooring America—authenticity is critical.”
In other words, wiping away all negative reviews or having just 5 Star reviews posted is not the best strategy. Spano said, “That’s why the system allows members to respond to reviews as it shows they are concerned about why someone may have had a negative experience. It is also a way for members to showcase how they resolved a negative and turned it to a positive.”
When it comes to consumers and their use of technology, Chiera said the person—including everyone in this room—should be considered a “cross platform” user, meaning they are not just going online via their phones, tabliets and computers, they are utlizing numerous online platforms to socialize, research and shop.
According to a report by Google, “The New Multi-screen World: Understanding Cross-Platform Consumer Behavior,” 90% of all media interactions are now screen based and 38% of daily media interactions are done on smartphones.
“We do it ourselves, and so do our customers,” Chiera said. “So we need to be everywhere and at all points of media, including traditional; we can’t just stick to one mediam. To prove the point, he noted how FA/FC is currently helping members get localized content across 11 social media platforms.”
As part of all this is the next generation of F.A.S.T. (Flooring America Social Tools), which is a fully automated social media program. The latest version gives members enhanced functionality, including a better operating tool and ways to report and track, as well as more flexibility and control over publishing content. In a sense, it’s a natural tie-in to the group’s new partnership with Bazaarvoice.
Along with this, Andy Valeriani, FA/FC’s senior director of online marketing, discussed the group’s My Floor app for consumers including its room visualizer. “It’s simple, clean and meant to get your customers’ creative juices flowing by allowing them to see what different styles will look like in their own rooms. They can even share it on Facebook to get opinions from friends and family. They can also send it to their local FA/FC store so you have a natural lead.”
The app is free for consumers, and along with being available at the usual app stores, consumers will be able to download it directly from a new website design the group will be launching for members this summer.
Chiera said the new website will be fully-integrated so members and consumers will be able to interact easier than ever. “It will not just be mobile friendly, it will be fully mobile, or tablet responsive, and will reflect what the consumer expects to see when stepping into a fashion-forward store.”
He added we are now at the point where “fashion and technology connect as we’re going to lead the conversation by converting it to action.” For example, beyond being able to walk into a store and show the saleperson the product they are seeking because of how it looks in their own homes, having consumers print out a coupon or being able to request a measure.
Spano said the group’s big picture vision of all this is to “amplify the feedback our members get every day.”
Chiera noted everything is an evolution of the Where Friends Send Friends campaign, which this year is being called, “The Most Recommended Flooring Store in Town.” And after three years of pushing the message, he said members in general are recognizing and understanding the benefits. “Every store now has at least one iPad and some have 10 or more for their staff to use when helping a customer—it brings a unique feel to our stores.
Spano pointed out how with each enhancement the company has made to its programs more of the membership has climbed aboard. “When we added the pricing app, we saw a spike in engagement, and we’ve seen a 60% increase in usgae of the second version of our CASH app.”
For members like Howie Stein, president of Eddy’s Flooring America in Worcester, Mass., “who has been with the group through its highs and lows, I couldn’t be happier with the direction we’re going in. The best part of Flooring America is it is on the cutting edge of technology and reaching the millennials, who are really our next group of customers. It truly is unbelieveable the focus of where we’re going is far ahead of the industry in general and I’m ecstatic to see it.”