Who and what is driving traffic to retail stores?

Home Inside FCNews Who and what is driving traffic to retail stores?

To some ears, traffic is a dirty word and conjures anxiety, stress and the occasional bout of road rage. For retailers, it is the magic word, essential for a profitable business. For them, something like the 12-day traffic jam outside Beijing last month would have been a dream-come-true, with dollar signs behind the wheel of each car in a seemingly endless stream of revenue.

However, not every person is in the market for floor covering, just like everyone who walks by your store may not be ready to buy the day they appear. The challenge is attracting the stream of traffic that would conceivably purchase from your store. In other words, how do you attract the buyer who is in the market for floor covering?

Manufacturers and organizations are going to great lengths to guide her to your store, making sure she is confident and prepared to make a purchase, and it often begins on the Internet. She begins by educating herself on the Web; learning about various product attributes, seeking out the big-name brands, checking product reviews from her friends and family, comparing products and prices, looking for credit and financing options.

Only after all this research, which typically took place in the store not so long ago, does she finally enter the brick and mortar store. Marketing experts note 70% to 80% of the buying market is researching online and if your store doesn’t have a strong presence on all the Web channels, you are alienating all these shoppers from your store.

In a time when Americans are saving at a greater rate than in the past, she expects you to help her. With this, manufacturers are implementing a number of fall sales and promotions to help retailers finish the year on a high note. Promising her savings on her purchase has proven to be an effective method of getting her into the store.

Validating what is online is also important. Credibility and transparency are critical, whether your website has your supplier’s logo, links to blogs and information, reviews from product users or recommendations from trusted celebrities. She is checking your social media presence for local reviews on your store’s customer service, reliability and deliverance on your guarantees. She is checking for the word of professionals, such as celebrity TV designers, that the products you tout are really worth the hype and the price.

A handful of companies shared with FCNews how they are helping retailers grow profits for the last quarter of the year.

Helping her choose Anderson Floors

At Anderson, we have a social media strategy that will break sometime between the second and third week of October. We think that social media is one of the most effective ways of targeting customers in the home decorating

market or those who have a passion in that area.

Our customer starts learning about flooring on the Web and we help her with that on our website, with the scrapbook or the educational sections. Then she goes to our dealer locator to find a store to go into and buy what she likes but our new strategy will expand that experience.

As complex as the new developments in marketing have been, we have been working very hard to recognize social media. Using it effectively for a customer that buys our product only every seven to 10 years has been a challenge. We think we solved that. Our goal is to be the largest hard surface provider in the market. We want a head start and our website is a piece of that. We also have a very exciting fall promotion called the All American

Flooring Sale with pretty aggressive marketing (see full story on page 3). We are trying to maximize the customers that do come in to Anderson retail stores. We have a strong presence on do-it-yourself shows and HGTV. But if a customer is in the market for flooring she will go into a store on her own, and we want to help her choose Anderson.

Armstrong generates brand recognition via website, consumer advertising

There are few flooring manufacturers, if any, doing more than Armstrong to drive consumers to retail showrooms. In fact, we send a consumer to a retailer every two minutes.

Our marketing strategy involves following the consumer throughout the entire shopping process, from pre-shopping to interest trigger (such as whether she is redecorating or replacing a worn out floor), through product exploration, to final selection and purchase. Because we think all these phases are important, we remain flexible in our approach. We realize some people shop in stores, some on the Web, while some want a brochure.

Consumer advertising is at the forefront of our strategy to create exposure—and buzz—for our portfolio of products. We lead the industry in consumer advertising by reaching more consumers on a more frequent basis. Advertising supports our strong brand awareness and equity.

Why is this important? Because research shows us that consumers are much more likely to purchase flooring if it is a brand they know and trust. Fortunately, our brands have terrific awareness. Great brands are tremendous assets to retailers by helping bring people into the store. For flooring purchases, an area which most consumers have little experience, a meaningful brand says “here is a product in which you can have confidence.”

The Web is important with this, too. We are focused on providing the best online experience for our customers with even more inspiration and ideas to help increase product sales offline and aid dealers build in-store sales. Millions of shoppers search for a retailer via Armstrong’s residential flooring site annually and hundreds of thousands of Armstrong.com shoppers use the store locator each month. The most important aspect of our site is to make it easy for consumers to find the products they want, and to drive them to our loyal retailers.

Beaulieu is in the ‘fine’ consumer print

Beaulieu of America provides our dealers with expert retail advertising support services. These include Bliss branded ad materials, direct mail and flyer templates and customizable radio and TV spots to run in your markets.

Beaulieu also provides retail advertising expertise through its dedicated retail agency to assist dealers in planning and orchestrating sales promotions and special events to build store traffic. We are also a frequent advertiser in flooring special interest magazines aimed at consumers in the market for flooring. These publications are distributed nationally and are available to shoppers at bookstores, supermarket chains and big box retailers. Bliss ads in these magazines direct them to the brand’s website dealer locator to find the store nearest them.

To help spread the word about Bliss, Bliss dealers and build traffic, Patricia Flavin, our senior vice president of marketing, has appeared on “Home Live,” a nationally syndicated radio talk show aimed at the DIYer. Beaulieu even helps dealers directly by sending “Bliss Ambassadors” to help them with promotional activities.

Beaulieu is also in the process of completing a totally new website which will be part of a strategy to boost its online presence and support its dealer network even more. The new website will be state-of-the-art and will be a great asset for our dealers.

Mohawk’s brand makes for a confident purchase

Our consumer advertising program allows us to showcase new products and continue building the Mohawk brand, which has twice the consumer recognition of our closest competitor. Brand recognition is important in building consumer confidence, especially for home furnishing purchases.

Websites are a critical component in building store traffic. Studies suggest as much as 70% of initial, meaningful contacts between a business and its customers now come through websites, and we know that flooring consumers are researching products and retailers online before they make an actual store visit.

Mohawk has crafted its consumer website, mohawkflooring.com, to accommodate this. Detailed product information and website functions like an easy-to-use room planner allow consumers to see how different Mohawk floors will look in their homes. Website viewers can also select neighborhood stores, and the products on the site are updated automatically according to inventory.

In addition, Mohawk’s Dealer Website Services allow our retailers to incorporate much of this functionality into their store websites, providing a professional Web presence that builds consumer confidence and trust. To learn more, visit mohawkdws.com.

This was a focal point in our planning for the Mohawk Anniversary Sale that begins Oct. 1. We tapped into consumer research studies to find the strongest consumer incentives. We then built the event around powerful, value-building rebates on both soft and hard surface products.

HGTV personalities and Mohawk spokespeople Chip Wade and Taniya Nayak have been tremendous ambassadors for Mohawk, and their efforts have certainly helped consumers feel comfortable selecting Mohawk products. We also know from their personal appearances at stores that they can build store traffic, not just with mainstream consumers but also with designers and other important audiences.

Mullican on the screen

This year is perhaps the most aggressive in our company’s history in terms of public exposure, advertising and promotional investments. With 2010 marking our 25th anniversary, we made a big leap into television advertising by partnering with HGTV as the exclusive hardwood flooring sponsor for a giveaway sweepstakes, the HGTV Urban Oasis Giveaway.

Mullican Flooring provided 800 square feet of hard- wood flooring for a 900-square-foot New York City apartment decorated by noted interior designer Vern Yip and developed by HGTV house planner Jack Thomasson, both major celebrities (FCNews, Aug. 16/23).

Our HGTV partnership has resulted in national exposure through media events about the sweepstakes and HGTV-developed advertising about the sponsors. We also posted our own web ads about Mullican products on HGTV.com. Because of the venture’s success, we also plan to do a follow-up print ad campaign related to the partnership. In addition, our marketing department produced a video ad featuring the company’s solid prefinished floors. The ad is currently airing on two popular home improvement television networks, HGTV and DIY, and is also posted on YouTube.

While it’s too soon to have hard numbers, we believe our investments have generated significant national attention for Mullican based on the increase of quality traffic to our website.

During 2010, we also revamped our branding by developing new logos—both a general and 25th anniversary logo—and by developing a new website that offers multiple access points for consumers. Our motivation was for this redesigned website to provide an opportunity for consumers to educate themselves about our products and then be directed to one of our trusted retail partners.

NALFA: The driving force for laminate retailers

The North American Laminate Flooring Association (NALFA) was created and continues to exist primarily to bring quality laminate flooring products to market and assist consumers in finding them. A host of online tools first educates the consumer about the criteria that defines a laminate floor’s quality and then drives them to retail in search of NALFA certified products.

During the research process, a consumer is likely to come upon the NALFA website where she can learn the basics of laminate flooring, how to choose the right style, and understand the tests each floor must pass before it can earn the certification seal. From there, she can choose to follow the organization on Twitter and Facebook or read a variety of educational blog posts at nalfa.com/blog. All these channels reinforce the certification seal value and encourage her to ask for it when shopping.

Member and associate member profiles, as well as a listing of NALFA certified floors, are also featured on the website making it even easier for consumers to locate the right product for them.

“The NALFA website has certainly helped drive awareness and sales of the Torlys brand,” said Peter Barretto, the company’s president. “Our NALFA certified products are featured on the site, along with our member profile. It then links the consumer right to our brand site where she can further her consideration and find a local retailer.”

“NALFA has done a great job in promoting the certification seal on its members’ behalf,” added Roger Farabee, senior vice president of marketing at Unilin/Mohawk. “It is engaging the retailer, too. Tools like e-blasts and a consistent dialog through Facebook and Twitter from NALFA help facilitate understanding of the seal and how to sell our certified products.”

To learn more about NALFA and the certification seal, visit nalfa.com.

Quick•Step adds glamour to laminate flooring

Quick•Step, the style and technology leader in laminate flooring, primarily drives consumers into stores through our website. With rich photography and stylish room scenes, consumers are inspired by the website and can begin to visualize a truly extraordinary room with Quick•Step in their home. The website includes important user-friendly basics such as a retailer locater as well as innovative features such as Imagine It, a room visualization tool that helps consumers create a livable, stylish room of their own. Consumers use the design ideas and product information found on the website as a starting point or reference to help narrow down selections before walking into a Quick•Step store.

The main goal is to create a customer experience that not only educates but drives the customer into the retail store.

This year Quick•Step partnered with interior designer/style expert Erinn Valencich, who is also helping drive traffic to Quick•Step retailers by promoting our stylish products and technological advantages, while validating the end-consumer’s decision to buy our brand. Having used our floors for years in her designs, Erinn is thrilled to share her enthusiasm with consumers for high-style Quick•Step floors that are designed for the way she lives. Quick•Step consumers can visit quickstepstyle.com to get inspired with Erinn and learn more about this exciting partnership.

Partnering with Shaw this fall

Shaw is dedicated to partnering with retailers this fall to generate store traffic and increase sales through a four-phased marketing approach including national advertising, local marketing support, Shawfloors.com instant win sweepstakes and consumer savings on ShawFloors.com.

This fall, Shaw enhances its television presence on networks such as HGTV and TLC, by adding the Food Network and Style to reach a broader, home-centric audience. Additionally, Shaw will be featured in leading consumer publications like House Beautiful and Traditional Home. Online banner ads will appear on websites like DIYNetwork.com and HGTV.com, attracting millions of home improvement enthusiasts, leading them to Shawfloors.com to play the sweepstakes and get a savings coupon, and, ultimately, directing consumers to Shaw retailers to purchase.

Thousands of consumers will compete every day at Shawfloors.com for instant-win flooring prizes of their choice. The instant win and sweepstakes game on Shawfloors.com, named “Improve My Nest,” allows consumers to play for the flooring makeover grand prize, flooring gift cards, Shaw Living area rugs and more. Consumers may enter once a day, every day. Every consumer can receive a coupon that can be redeemed at Shaw retailers’ stores.

ShawAdSource.com and AnsoAdvantage.com offer a wealth of materials available now to coordinate with campaign visuals and messaging including customizable direct mailers, outdoor banners, newspaper advertisements, TV spots and radio scripts. In order to assist retailers in creating an attractive and cohesive retail environment, all materials offer the fashionable fall colors of plum and aqua, featuring Floora the Owl, the Fall Flooring Event mascot who was welcomed last fall.

The Fall Flooring Event runs Sept. 24 through Nov. 8. Visit ShawFloors.com for more information.

Tarkett educates consumers and retailers

Consumer advertising can definitely help drive traffic to a particular store. However, it works best on a local level, where a retailer advertises products carried, services offered, etc.

Simultaneously, traditional media, such as print and television, can help drive consumers to a specific brand and/or retailer. Local print and television ads, especially, can help consumers decide where to buy, once they’ve made their product choice decision. Their decision may be made on information such as proximity to the project, the offering of design and/or installation services, and pricing and reputation of the retailer, to name a few.

Websites can also help drive traffic, especially if the website offers all the tools and information the individual needs to help make a flooring decision. Traditional media, such as print and television, do not give enough space or time to properly present detailed information to help consumers make flooring product decisions. That’s a gap that websites can fill, like our site at tarkettna.com. Sites with product design and color visualizers, product information, warranty information, inspiration, installation instructions, the ability to order samples and, of course, where to buy information can sway a customer’s decision.

With our roomvue, whether in the comfort of their homes or at the retailer showroom, customers have the advantage of being able to see how a new floor design might actually look in their homes before purchasing and installing the flooring. The program gives individuals an opportunity to experiment not only with their flooring choices, but to see how the choices fit in with different décor styles, in different rooms, all without having to bring numerous samples home.

For commercial customers, the site needs all of the above plus technical data, environmental information and a deeper level of product support, such as at johnsonite.com.

Promotions also help drive traffic to retailers but only if the consumer is made aware of them. Hanging a poster in the storefront window isn’t enough, even if the store is located on a main street with lots of traffic and the poster can easily be seen and read from the street.

Again, retailers need to do advertising on a local level and let consumers know there is a sale on a product they may be in the market for. Promotions may help drive the “where to buy” decision if they already know what they want to purchase.

Contact your local Tarkett representative for help.

WONZ grows awareness to raise wool (sales)

Wools of New Zealand (WONZ) is initiating new and exciting ways to drive traffic and increase wool sales. We are proactively building a leading-edge community of partners built on the wants, needs and ideas of the best showrooms and mills in the wool industry.

At retail, we are establishing a growing group of showrooms that are serious about wool, committed to training their retail staff through our online Wool College and open to taking their company in new directions of growth.

Identified as Premier Partners, Showrooms of Excellence, these retailers are supported by WONZ in numerous ways, including exclusive participation in Wool for a Better World, a sales event that is being held in November (FCNews Sept. 13/20).

During the event month, Premier Partners receive a 10% discount on Wools of New Zealand brand carpets and rugs from 20 mill partners. In addition, they are sent promotional and advertising materials and are listed on an event-specific website: WoolForaBetterWorld.com. WONZ is also supporting the event by making a donation to Shear Joy, a Heifer International program.

WONZ is continually adding exclusive programs for Premier Partners, like Miele vacuum coupons and credit card processing advantages. Soon to be added are exclusive products and lead-time advantages along with customized cleaning brochures and a designer contest.

“Wool for a Better World is just one of the many ways WONZ is utilizing the strength of its partners to make things happen,” says Sam Presnell, owner of The Rug Gallery in Cincinnati. “We are excited to be a part of it and appreciate all Wools of New Zealand is doing to differentiate our store and increase our selling power.”

-Emily Hooper

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