How brands help retailers close sales

Home Inside FCNews How brands help retailers close sales

Brands are considered an interface between the company that makes the product and the end user. People can more easily identify a range of offerings if they have recognized labels, which, in turn, boosts sales for retailers, experts say. In addition, branded products can command premiums since they are considered a step above commodities in the consumer’s eyes.

“If the company behind the brand has a good reputation, then that’s even better,” said Jack Yan, CEO, Jack Yan & Associates, a global media and communications company headquartered in Wellington, New Zealand. “It means the consumer can more readily identify the goods.”

Consumers are increasingly discerning about where they spend their money, and more often use brands as decision-making short cuts, according to published reports. For starters, it provides assurance in the knowledge many other people have made, and are making, the same purchasing decision. This develops confidence in their choice and minimizes the risk of “buyer’s remorse.”

“No one wants to spend the money to do a job twice, so they’re looking for quality products, even if they’re more expensive,” noted Brad Scott, senior director, Landor Associates, a New York-based provider of brand consulting, creative and design services. “A trusted, venerable brand often provides that necessary shortcut.”

This observation is backed in a study done earlier this year by global brands agency Millward Brown. Peter Walshe, global brands director said the company’s Value-D survey shows low prices alone are not enough to impress and keep customers—even in times of financial strain. Just 7% of those polled made purchases based on price, while 81% said brand was a bigger motivator.

“Too many brands fail to fully optimize their power and instead overemphasize price and downplay desire,” he explained. “The consumer usually desires a brand first and then considers the price to determine whether to purchase or not.”

A strong brand helps establish a customer expectation that the product will enjoy a long life without failure. It also infers the brand strength has been earned because the manufacturer pays attention to quality. “Name recognition is comforting to buyers because they have a sense of reputation and quality based on the many touch points they’ve experienced from that brand in the past,” said Pecanne Eby of Brand Mentoring, a Denver-based brand consultant.

Established brands are often backed by extensive marketing campaigns communicated through a variety of touch points, such as websites, print, online and television advertising, point-of-purchase displays, and direct mail. Complementing these promotions is co-op advertising, a tried-and-true method for preserving the look and feel of a brand while creating a cost-effective promotional solution for retailers. “Partnering with these companies can bring quality leads and drive consumers to the store,” reports Darren Braunstein, executive vice president and COO of Worldwide Wholesale Floor Coverings, a N.J.-based flooring retailer with locations in Edison and Lawrenceville.

However, advertising campaigns will only work if the retailer does things in line with a brand’s values. For example, if a certain product has a reputation for being hardwearing, it will not be reflected in a business which maintains a low-quality showroom. “If the retailer doesn’t continue the brand promise,” Yan said, “a lot of the work a company invested into every marketing touch point before the consumer walks into the showroom will have been wasted.”

This correlation extends to more than just the store décor. “We’re talking also about customer service, everything from the way the phone is answered to how the retailer website looks,” he explained. “Respect the way the brand is, and get the materials necessary from the company to make the advertising work.”

A strong brand provides customers with reasons to believe their investment is justified because of the value of the benefits they’re gaining through ownership. “Apple would never be where it is today if its products could be purchased at highly discounted prices,” contends Sean O’Rourke, vice president of hard surfaces at Avalon Carpet Tile & Flooring, a New Jersey-based retail chain with 14 locations. “That establishes the value of brand whether it be flooring, furniture, clothing or jewelry.”

Interestingly, in its most recent BrandZ study of the world’s top 100 brands, Millward Brown said Apple’s portfolio of coveted consumer goods propelled it past Google to become the world’s most valuable brand last year, ending a four-year reign by the Internet search leader.

Walshe told Reuters Apple is “doing what luxury brands do, where the higher price the brand is, the more it seems to underpin and reinforce the desire. Obviously, it has to be allied to great products and a great experience, and Apple has nurtured that.”

Over time, a reputation for reliability from a company that stands behind its products makes for a truly admired brand. “In our experience, the most valuable brands in the world are defined by a commitment to an idea or promise that is delivered in a clear, powerful way at any point where a customer can engage with the brand,” said Justin Wartell, director of brand strategy at Interbrand Design Forum, a retail brand consultancy based in Dayton, Ohio. “Brands are big ideas that create meaning, drive choice, and connect to the customers who choose them.”

Retail salespeople can leverage the power of the brand name to reinforce the customer’s perception that she is making a wise value decision, industry members say. “Consumers will upgrade themselves knowing they are going to get a better quality product, with a believable warranty, from a brand they know and trust,” Braunstein said. “It helps our salespeople to trade up to higher price points.”

Salespeople can reinforce the brand’s reputation and image when communicating the benefits of these products with customers. This can help prospective buyers identify how they would feel if they chose one brand over another. “But it’s important that salespeople understand each brand’s fundamental promise and unique position in the marketplace so they can help buyers make an informed decision,” Eby concluded.

-K.J. Quinn


Your brand can sell

When asked “What do you like least about your job?” retail flooring salespeople repeatedly mention one item: the guarded, suspicious attitude of customers. “It makes the job so much more difficult than it needs to be,” as one salesperson explained it. “I get paid on the sale, yes, but I make my living on referrals and repeat customers. So, my best bet is to get them a floor they’ll be happy with. I can feel that lack of trust problem when it’s happening, and I just go ahead and address it head on—I tell them getting them the right floor is in the best interest for both of us. That nearly always clears it up and helps them see me as on the same team, having the same goals.”

That is an example of taking responsibility for one’s own brand. That salesperson is telling his customers how he is relevant, how he matters in the customer’s mission. Your brand—what your customer believes about you, what you are famous for—is full of potential to help you work effectively with your client and prevent loss of sales from customers continuing to shop elsewhere.

A powerful support to your brand, as you work to demonstrate that you can be trusted, is aligning with product brands that consumers know and trust. That bit of wisdom you’ve heard since you were a child, “You are known by the company you keep,” still applies today. It can keep you out of hot water, and it can boost your credibility. Showing your customer the Armstrong and Bruce brands, and explaining the quality and performance advantages they bring to the equation, reinforces your commitment to the customer’s satisfaction. You are “walking the talk.”

Armstrong has built its brands through decades of maintaining focus on superior service and products, and this effort has led to the company being first in the minds of consumers for quality and trustworthiness. Our retailer partners know that Armstrong is dedicated to making them look good by having the products and quality consumers want, and supporting the retailer in ensuring satisfied customers. And the homeowners who live with our floors keep coming back to Armstrong retailers, and to Armstrong and Bruce flooring.


Brand relevancy =brand success

If there’s one thing we live by at Beaulieu, it’s that our success and the success of our dealers depends on how relevant our brands are to consumers’ needs. Our customer is predominately female, so there are certain things we are always mindful of to make sure we’re on the same page with her.

For example, moms will search for brands they can trust because the health and welfare of their families is their No. 1 priority. And the new generation of women is very busy and appreciate that you tell her “like it is” and make the message to her very simple and direct—she doesn’t like hunting for information while dealing with cranky kids.

That’s why we like to say about our Beaulieu brands, “We’ve thought about her before she got there.” Translated: We’ve anticipated her shopping needs, her home environment concerns and her desires for her family by making our brands more relevant to her—part of her “perfect solution.” A good example is how we’ve designed our award-winning website to communicate the promise of Bliss, so that it leads her right to our dealers’ doorstep.

Another example is the Bliss brand itself. We developed it to make her once-every-seven-to-10-year carpet shopping experience less stressful and time consuming—in a word: Blissful. We’ve also created innovative branded features such as Magic Fresh odor reducing carpet treatment and Silver Release antimicrobial technology to relate to her desires for a clean and fresh home environment for her family. And there are many other examples at Beaulieu.

Ensuring that our brands stay relevant and our dealers have happy, spending customers also means we don’t waste time coming up with irrelevant features or messages that may sound good but don’t really resonate with her needs.


Consumers already know us

It’s known in the sales and marketing world that two brand gauges are consistent predictors of increased sales, even in a down market. They are brand awareness and purchase intent.

When discussing brand awareness, we know that women—who make most laminate purchasing decisions— buy brands they know and love. Formica enjoys a staggering 92% brand awareness, which is similar to brands like Starbucks, Sony and Honda. We don’t have to spend time constantly introducing ourselves and establishing who we are; consumers already know us.

When it comes to purchase intent (the percent of people who would consider buying your brand the next time they shop), Formica also ranks high, with 78%. High brand awareness without high purchase intent is certainly possible, but it isn’t desirable. For example, the well-known Oldsmobile brand is now nothing but a memory, thanks to low purchase intent.

It’s been noted that in nearly every consumer category, a certain group of shoppers (around 10% to 15%) simply purchase the cheapest option available. However, brands definitely affect the decisions of the remaining 85% to 90% of shoppers.

Over the last several years, we’ve talked a great deal about the power of the Formica brand. The conversation continues, and fortunately, having such strong brand awareness and purchase intent already in place has allowed us to focus more intensely on other critical elements, such as our manufacturing capabilities.

With our recent expansion project in Barnwell, S.C., we are able to produce our high quality laminate flooring SKUs right here in the USA, which we believe enhances the brand even further for those customers who value American-made goods.


Built with innovative products and superior service

Over the past 74 years, the Mapei brand has become a recognized worldwide leader in the manufacture of total systems for the installation of floor coverings in commercial and residential construction. Our surface preparation products condition floors and walls for the optimal installation of tile, carpet, wood, vinyl and decorative concrete. Our installation products include mortars, grouts, adhesives and admixtures that ensure customers’ satisfaction with any floor covering they choose. Innovative new products developed by our R&D department continually keep the Mapei brand well-positioned in the minds of professional contractors and do-it-yourselfers.

A second branch of Mapei that has rapidly begun to expand into the American market is our Concrete Restoration Systems (CRS). Mapei’s CRS products help repair damaged concrete in commercial and industrial projects as well as infrastructure settings such as bridges and wastewater systems. These repairs range from the application of waterproofing and corrosion inhibitors to restoration of damaged areas in horizontal, vertical and overhead structural concrete.

Mapei has also developed a special family of self-leveling underlayments and screed mortars to level and smooth interior and exterior construction surfaces.

Throughout all Mapei’s manufacturing processes for adhesives, sealants and other chemical products for the building industry, we have maintained a strong commitment to the environment and to sustainability. We work continuously to have all our locations ISO 9001- certified for Quality Management and ISO 14001-certified for Environmental Management. We regularly review our product formulations against emerging technologies and reformulate when appropriate to produce even more environmentally friendly products.

Mapei is ready to meet its customers’ needs with the best products, customer service and technical support in our market today and in the future. These characteristics have given the Mapei brand international recognition and strong customer loyalty.


The power of Mohawk

The average homeowner only makes a flooring purchase every five to seven years. As a result, most shoppers have little knowledge about the flooring category in general and lack the time needed to become educated on the topic. The power of the brand comes into play in a big way for infrequent purchases, such as flooring. Strong branding gives consumers peace of mind, allowing them to feel confident about their investment.

Mohawk is one of the most well-known brands in the flooring industry. As a company, we have invested heavily in the brand for years by way of national advertising, public relations, merchandising, point of sale, product assortment and promotions, to name a few. These efforts have resulted in high consumer recognition, significant association with quality, and extensive Mohawk brand loyalty.

The Mohawk name is special because we stand behind what we do, say and make. This unwavering confidence in the Mohawk brand resonates with retailers and consumers alike. Mohawk’s commitment to brand investment can be seen with Smart- Strand. SmartStrand is a new fiber with new technologies and new capabilities, but it was unknown. Branding was critical to fostering this carpet’s success. Mohawk used every tool in the toolbox to prove the carpet’s superior performance and create brand evangelists. Our investment has paid off—just seven short years later, SmartStrand is a household name.

A major reason Mohawk invests in its brand is to drive store traffic into our valued retailer partners’ businesses. Shoppers buy brands they know and trust. To establish your retail store brand in the local market, look no further than Mohawk. When you align yourself with Mohawk’s respected brand, you can expect simpler purchase decisions for your customers, and ultimately, a greater profit for you.


Symbolizing design, technology, quality, support

Retailers know the Quick•Step brand name symbolizes products that offer the industry’s best designs, a superior level of realism, natural texture, cutting-edge technology and innovation, consistent quality, low claims rates, some of the best warranties in the industry, and excellent customer service/product availability—all at an attractive price.

Style and design leader. Quick•Step prides itself on being the first to market with the hottest styles, latest trends and most sophisticated features. The brand has the technical ability to produce visuals and an unmatched level of realism that competitors cannot. This ability to accurately replicate virtually any species found in nature as well as the latest aesthetics found in the hardwood industry keeps Quick•Step in the position of being known as the style leader.

Innovation leader. Through strong, consistent performance over the years, Quick•Step has solidly earned its position in the industry as the innovation leader. The brand continues to live up to this reputation with each new product launch. A good example of this continued excellence in innovation leadership is Quick•Step’s recently launched revolutionary GenuEdge Technology. This proprietary technology, found in the Veresque and Rustique collections, creates such an authentic visual that consumers struggle to see the difference between real wood and a Quick•Step plank.

Strong value proposition. Through effective use of proprietary technology and cutting-edge innovations, Quick•Step is able to offer stunning products featuring rich visuals while still keeping the price within a consumer’s budget. A strong price/value relationship means offering consumers a quality product at an affordable price, and is of paramount importance to today’s consumers.

Effective merchandising. Quick•Step effectively showcases its product line in a comprehensive merchandising system. The combined strength of superior products wrapped in an effective selling system sets retailers up for success with the Quick•Step brand.


The dealer’s brand

Tuftex – Carpets of California is Shaw Floors premier brand for residential carpet. Tuftex differentiates itself from other floor covering manufacturers in its emphasis on the dealer. The Tuftex brand is a dealer brand, not a consumer brand. And, as a dealer brand Tuftex is committed to supporting specialty flooring dealers in their marketing efforts.

Tuftex is a California carpet manufacturer known for creating the most beautiful, innovative color palettes and designs in the industry. These colors and patterns enable families from coast-to-coast to create a home according to their lifestyle.

As a division and brand, with its own product development, manufacturing and marketing, Tuftex developed a brand strategy that provides the Tuftex brand with the necessary foundation upon which to build.

The core brand values, are: Reliability (Quality), Style/Sophistication and Caring. These key characteristics should be embodied in our communications at all times. Style/Sophistication. With its West Coast style, color and fashion, Tuftex has created its own segment in the marketplace. Employees with great enthusiasm and the determination to push the limits of what is possible, produce extraordinary solutions, styles, designs and colors. Tuftex is the leader in the development and production of complex, innovative, but nevertheless affordable products that exceed customer expectations.

Quality. Thanks to its high quality standards and the care it devotes to its customers, suppliers and employees, Tuftex is an extremely reliable brand. Tuftex remains true to its Californian origins—made in the USA. Tuftex is highly committed to reliability and quality. Tuftex is the premier residential carpet brand of Shaw Floors.

Caring. Tuftex is firmly committed to the preservation of our environment and natural resources. The company as a whole is dedicated to making a positive impact on nature, economy and life.

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