Although the floor covering industry isn’t known for being up-to-date on most technological trends, that is beginning to change. Many companies in the industry have developed apps—short for applications—that are tailored to deliver information to your mobile device like a smartphone or iPad. Most often, these are tailored to deliver information pertinent to the user en route, available anytime, anywhere there is wireless Internet.
Just as you select your favorite phone numbers or photos at the touch of a button on your mobile interface screen, product information from your supplier of choice, tips for consumers and design advice is also instantaneous.
Wools of New Zealand (WONZ) has an app to immediately relay the health, sustainability and comfort benefits of its wool. While retail sales associates can use it as a training tool to answer shopper’s questions, the app is also available to consumers so it acts as a take home brochure.
“WONZ is continually introducing new ways to spread the word about wool’s many benefits,” said Hallie Cobb, marketing and training director. “Our new iApp gives salespeople and consumers instant access to the value wool adds to a floor covering purchase.”
Manufacturers are also using apps to reach consumers. For example, a consumer app from Shaw called the Carpet Stain Center provides directions for carpet stain removal procedures for most household stains. According to Dani Brock, Shaw’s Anso marketing manager, the Stain Center has cleaning solutions for close to 1,000 stains.
“The application creates a positive association with the Shaw brand,” she said. “The real-time carpet care information demonstrates to the consumer that Shaw is a trusted source of information and is there for her when she needs us the most.”
Quick response (QR) codes
Manufacturers are also employing QR codes to guide retailers and consumers to their corporate messages. Originating from Japan, QR codes are starting to gain popularity in the west with applications like boarding passes, billboard signage and business card callouts. These square bar codes are readable by scanners that can be downloaded to your smartphones, iPads or tablet devices, which then direct the user’s Internet browser to a website with textual or video information. Mannington’s “Let’s make some noise” campaign is a perfect example of the way companies can link users to videos that relay shared values and missions, in this case the preservation of the domestic job market.
Earthwerks starting using tags in late 2010 and they have been presented to the trade since just before Surfaces 2011, to promote the launch of its LinkWerks line. “We’ve also used these tags on product literature, samples and retail displays,” said Brian Putsche, marketing director, Swiff-Train. “We continue to research similar technologies that will allow us even greater flexibility in putting accurate, timely and informative content directly into the hand of everyone in the chain—from distributors to retail salespeople, and ultimately, the retail consumer.”
Taking advantage of show exposure, Royal Adhesives & Sealants started a QR code campaign at the National Wood Flooring Association show in San Diego. Similar to the distribution of business cards, 3 x 3 cards were printed and flooded the show.
“It was amazing how interested we could get people about QR codes and then eventually about our products,” said Sonny Callaham, product marketing manager. “We are looking to do more promotions with [QR codes] and will eventually put them on every label with a link back to the technical data sheet and MSDS, hopefully with a short video on how to use the specific adhesive.”
Designing and ordering at your fingertips
Several companies are utilizing handheld technology to ease the designing, specifying and ordering process. New for NeoCon 2011, Centiva released its iPad app, Centiva First Step, available in the app store through Apple. According to Amanda Teyeb, advertising and Green Way coordinator, the app is an integrated business tool that allows iPad users to search and review flooring products, share their selections with colleagues, and order product samples immediately.
“One of the key objectives of the app is to bring efficiency to the specification process,” she said. “The implementation of iPads and apps into our customer experience is consistent with our extensive implementation of new technologies in the manufacturing of our products, which has greatly enhanced our environmental initiatives, the quality of our products, and now our product selection process.” A version for the iPhone is currently under development, as well.
Mannington Commercial charted a similar course to the specification process last year with Choices that Work. The app incorporates a product catalog; a sales representative locator; information about the company; a search option via a QR scanner or bar code entry, and a cart for product samples. This two-in-one app/QR feature can order products via either method immediately, while providing Mannington Commercial’s soft and hard surfaces for cross specification.
“Notification is immediately sent to the appropriate sales representative for follow up with the designer to ensure the highest levels of customer service,” said Angie Carter, manager, Commercial marketing. “Rather than trying to be the first out with an app, we wanted to create an app that is connected to real needs and real products, in the real world.” The app is available for iPhones, Androids and Blackberries.
Crossville has also developed an app with a QR reader, dubbed Crossville Q2R (Quick 2 Respond). The app scans Crossville products, and saves all information to an account that can later be accessed on the user’s phone or personal computer at crossvilleq2r.com. Making this app particularly effective is the Sustainable Samples Kit program that incorporates a code en lieu of lots of product brochures. “Through the advanced QR code technology of the Crossville Q2R app, the user can get all the information they need digitally on the phone and online, while also being able to request physical samples quickly throught the app and sharing the products they like via Facebook, Twitter or email,” said Irene Williams, who developed the app with QRHere for Crossville. “Crossville is the first company to use the QRHere technology and it is the only system that gives users the convenience of information capture simultaneously by smartphone and online.” Crossville is also able to track the consumer’s activities through use, providing helpful insight.
Along those lines, Laticrete has a free product information app that provides jobsite product descriptions, packaging details, quick grout coverage estimates and other direct links. Entering the desired product, tile size and joint width, in both metric and standard measurements, can now be done at the job site.
“This is another service we provide at no cost to benefit the contractor and the end user,” said Henry Rothberg, co-owner, Laticrete. “Innovation is part of our culture, part of our history and what drives us to stay on the leading edge of our industry.” To that end, the supplier has just released all its technical design manuals for eBook format download. The first in the series, the Tiles Steam Room and Steam Shower Technical Design Manual, is available on the iBook, the Kindle and the Nook.
Industry technology goes mobile
The industry has used software companies to make life easier, and those companies have reciprocated by developing mobile apps for their software users.
FlooringSoft by Kashmoo. Using a free QR scanner, smartphone users can scan the code in trade ads and be directed to FlooringSoft .com. Stay tuned for a fully native app for the iPhone and iPad that will sync all data with QuickBooks.
QFloors. Its Mobile function allows remote access to QFloors via smartphones, iPads or tablets, for real-time information on pricing, inventory, schedules, reports, finances and more. Coming soon for summer’s end is a native app, AwayToWork, for access in a different format. A monthly usage fee will facilitate additional tools and capabilities.
Sales Pro Mobile by RFMS. Users can enter sales lead records, perform product selections and generate a quote from an iPad, iPhone, Android or any other mobile device. Because data is cloud based, access can be gained
from anywhere an Internet connection is found. Measure Mobile also allows the user to actually draw a floor layout, assign product—carpet, vinyl, laminate, ceramic, wood—and create seam layouts and cuts. The proposal can then be emailed directly to the customer.