The importance of an online product catalog

Home Inside FCNews The importance of an online product catalog

by John Van Cleve Weller Jr.

Much controversy surrounds the question of whether flooring retailers should feature product pricing and a “product catalog” on their websites.

While statistics show the vast majority of consumers still visit flooring retailers’ showrooms to discuss their investment and “touch and feel” the product to purchase, the decision on which showroom to visit is made well before they get in the car. In fact, 85% of consumers shop online to decide which products they are interested in before visiting a showroom to make a final choice and purchase. This online shopping means the consumer is researching products, examining offered options and, most importantly, comparing prices.

No one wants to enter a store and be surprised by the price of their selected flooring. It can lead not only to disappointment, but also possible embarrassment. The rise in many retailers, not just the big box flooring retailers, to include pricing and special deals on their websites means all retailers need to do this to compete. The big box retailers know a consumer will not visit a store without knowing the price of their chosen product.

So why are smaller retailers not including this information?

A recent Google search for hardwood flooring in a city in Florida returned top advertising results for Lumber Liquidators, Simple Floors and Home Depot. In the organic search, below the paid advertising, were again Lumber Liquidators and two local companies. Five companies were visible on a laptop screen after the search was done; a consumer is likely to open two or three when re-searching and making flooring decisions.

Marketing firms agree if a consumer cannot find what she is seeking in four clicks or less, they leave the site. Once completing the research on their preferred flooring, marketers agree if the pricing isn’t available within a maximum of four clicks, the opportunity for a sale is lost.

A good example of an effective website is Lumber Liquidators, the 18-year-old hardwood flooring retailer that is the largest of its kind in the country. Lumber Liquidators posts a year-over-year net sales increase of 22%, according to the company’s filings. This increase continued even during the housing crisis and recession.

The brand’s online marketing is one to emulate.  Heavy promotion, prominent pricing, links to product images and an extensive product catalog with detailed information is the focus of its site. This is presented in an easy-to-navigate format that is not overwhelming. The brand’s consumer research has obviously shown that easy-to-find, immediate and accurate information is demanded from potential customers to convert them into sales.

This is just one piece of its strategic sales puzzle, but an essential one. Additional examples of successful websites are Simple Floors, with an extensive product catalog featuring pricing for each category, and Home Depot, which also offers easy access to a flooring product catalog, again complete with pricing.

Keeping consumers engaged and on your website will not only increase search engine optimization but assist with potential showroom visits.

Independent retailers often try to substitute product catalogs with links to manufacturers’ websites, which take consumers away from their website and can lead to a lost prospect. The largest retailers in the U.S. are spending large sums of money on Internet visibility and then making it very simple for consumers to get product images and pricing information. Like it or not, these companies have set the bar for what a consumer now expects from a flooring retailer’s website.

Independent flooring retailers cannot compete with the big box stores in advertising dollars. But thanks to technology it is possible to increase search engine optimization through website engagement and attract store visits by showcasing product images and pricing as an easy resource on their websites.

Today’s increase in user-friendly technology allows retailers to create their own online catalogs. Additionally, the rise of companies such as FloorForce, Carpet One and some manufacturers offer cost-effective and highly efficient systems for personalized and easy-to-maintain website product catalogs.  These products ensure that independent flooring retailers can at last compete with the big boxes in one area of their successful marketing practices.

John Van Cleve Weller Jr. is the vice president of marketing for FloorForce. For more information on how to start using the social network today, visit floorforce.com or email socialnetworking@floorforce.com.

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