Rob Menefee, CEO of Flooring America of Woodbridge, Va., has found that the online customer who is directed to Flooring America stores via the Armstrong’s website spends more money than other customers.
“I don’t know why that is, but the average sale of their online customer is larger,” Menefee said.
The bigger ticket order is just one of the many benefits flooring dealers are realizing with Armstrong’s enhanced website, which they say has driven quality customers into their stores, which in turn has boosted sales.
“The leads are well qualified and prepared to make a purchase,” Menefee said. “In comparison, CCA’s e-marketing is broader, and sometimes the clients are not ready to purchase or are just e-shopping around. Either way, this push by Armstrong is by far the most aggressive and professional.”
Chris Taylor, regional manager, CarpetMaster Carpet One, Latham, N.Y., said the Armstrong website and marketing initiatives have generated increased business for his store. “Armstrong creates the demand for the floors, and its online advertising and merchandising programs—specifically for Elite dealers—closes the loop from online to in-store with no loss of continuity. “It is a genuinely innovative concept,” he added.
Menefee said the manufacturer’s website has noticeably pushed store traffic into his stores, or created leads he seizes. “Many clients just call in and we go to them, or they call in and we order samples for them to pick up here at the store. That way, we get to meet them.”
Discounts and incentives
Armstrong launched its enhanced website about a year ago, and since then has added features and functions to improve its positioning on search engines. If you type in the word “floors,” for example, Arstrong’s website is the first or second to show up on Google (not counting the paid advertisements).
Once on the website, users can find the dealer locator on any page. Type in a ZIP code and users are first directed to those dealers who rank highest in the Armstrong retailer program. Some of the retailers are multi-store operations like Flooring America, in which case several stores will appear at the top of the list.
Each of the premier listings offer incentives to customers such as a 30-day satisfaction guarantee, extended Armstrong product warranties, as well as the services of trained product professionals from Armstrong.
Another popular feature are the discount coupons worth up to $500, or 10% off any qualifying Armstrong hardwood, vinyl or laminate purchase between $1,000 and $5,000. Before printing out the coupon, users enter a first and last name and email address. “Maybe it is the economy but we have found that people like coupons,” said Richard Milliron, Armstrong’s director of e-marketing.
Milliron said Armstrong has experienced more than 20% growth in its “natural” searches—in which case users access the Armstrong site through a search engine. “We’re trying to get the right consumer at the right time and give her the right information so we can direct her to the right dealer. You could say that three rights make a right,” Milliron said. “The flooring shoppers are the bees; we’re just trying to make as much honey as possible to attract them.”
The result has been increased business for dealers, especially in hot-product categories like luxury vinyl tile. “The Armstrong website is generating many leads for my store on Alterna,” Taylor said. “I would say at least 50% of the calls are about Alterna, which means Armstrong is doing a great job showcasing this line on its website or consumers just tend to really like the visuals and concept of this particular floor. Either way, it is generating a lot of business.”
Menefee said resilient sales have spiked in his Flooring America stores as well. “It certainly seems that the Armstrong site is resurrecting sheet vinyl,” he said. “The site allows Armstrong to explain the benefits of the product more thoroughly and we estimate that one out of three leads is interested in Armstrong’s new cushion back vinyl products.”
Retailers agreed the discount offers have resonated with their customers. “Many times we are able to link these promotions directly to sales,” Menefee said. Before launching its enhanced website, Armstrong conducted customer focus groups to learn about buying trends and shopping behavior.
“We found out that somewhere along the shopping experience, customers will do research on a particular product,” Milliron said. “It may happen in the very beginning, after a visit to a store, before the final purchase, but we known at some point they will do research online.”
Armed with that knowledge, Armstrong created a website that is teeming with information. Its “Flooring 101” section walks customers through the entire process, soup to nuts. The “Flooring Project Estimator” area, for example, allows consumers to get an estimate on the cost, including often-overlooked factors such as subfloor removal and installation costs. Throughout the website are reminders to visit their local flooring store.
“[Armstrong] is constantly in contact with us to help dissect the online client,” Menefee said. “Armstrong’s initiative to understand e-marketing has certainly benefited us.”