Online success for retailers means in-store foot traffic

Home Inside FCNews Online success for retailers means in-store foot traffic

Engaging, localized content provides best results

By Jenna Lippin

As 2014 draws near, the importance of an Internet presence has become increasingly apparent. More and more retailers, including small business owners, are embracing the use of websites and, therefore, are taking ownership of some of the best sites in the game. In the flooring world, a successful website is one that brings a consumer into a brick-and-mortar store, creating more opportunity for a relationship and ultimately a sale.

Before a purchase is made, a potential customer begins her research on the web. Every retailer’s goal should be to hold a top place on the first page of results in the initial Internet search. “Consumers no longer just search the web to find a phone number or the address of a store. They want to research and learn about the products they desire,” said John Weller, vice president of marketing for FloorForce, an online marketing and website development company geared toward flooring dealers. “Consumers want and expect instant and thorough information from a company’s website. The website that provides this information better and faster will put that retailer in the best position to capture and, ultimately, sell a customer.”

An ad in the local Pennysaver or Yellow Pages is no longer the answer when trying to bring in sales. In 2013, success begins at your web address. For a retailer working independently—without the help of a dealer or distributor network—Weller urges the use of specific key components for successful flooring websites, from the visuals to consistent updates and in-store offers.

“You have three seconds to capture the attention of a consumer,” Weller said. “Have your value proposition well-defined and visible at first glance. Whether it’s your in-stock products, on-sale items, loss leaders or your impeccable installations, give the consumer your value proposition when she arrives on your home page.” Also, be sure to have a professional product catalog with advanced filtering and product pricing, he added. This feature is helpful at both ends of the spectrum: the consumer who knows exactly what kind of flooring she wants and one who has no idea where to start. With a well-organized catalog and easy navigation, a consumer will find at least one option, make an in-store visit to learn more from the retailer directly and, in turn, purchase flooring.

Even better, Weller suggests, is to “give the consumer an offer to convert from your website to your physical store to make a purchase. This can be accomplished with an online offer, such as a coupon available only on your website, a free estimate/consultation/measure offer, etc.”

Retailers with the most successful websites keep their content fresh; provide a valuable introduction to consumers; leverage top-selling brands to add credibility; offer a full, easy-to-view product catalog, and invest time into understanding Internet marketing. “The experience a consumer has on your website should match the experience she will have in your physical store,” Weller stressed.

Top players create framework

A number of the major names in flooring work diligently to maintain attractive, helpful websites while also providing guidance and resources to help retail partners and members gain traffic to their individual sites. Many retailers find it beneficial to have larger entities provide assistance in creating successful websites.

Mohawk, for example, focuses on developing content for both mohawkflooring.com, its site for consumers, and mohawktoday.com, which provides information and features exclusively for retail partners. “Every year, Mohawk executes strategic national and local campaigns with the goal of delivering qualified consumers to mohawkflooring.com and, ultimately, to our retailers,” said Kent Clauson, vice president, brand management. This includes seasonal promotions and the coast-to-coast License to Spill tour, which are also advertised on Mohawk’s social media pages.

“Additionally, we have made it easy for our aligned retailers to host their own events,” bringing in local foot traffic, Clauson added. “The specific products and styles that consumers see on our site allows them to buy in-store from a Mohawk aligned retail partner. When it comes to closing sales at retail, that’s huge. Everything we do on our site is designed to drive consumers to our aligned retail partners for a fully integrated flooring shopping experience.”

To find a local Mohawk dealer or Floorscapes retailer, the shopper simply enters her ZIP code in the “store locator” area on mohawkflooring.com. From there, she is taken to a list of local retailers and a map where more filtering options are offered, including specific types of flooring and a desired mile radius for search results. Once a store is selected, more details appear, such as store hours, featured products, current promotions and a direct link to that specific retailer’s website.

Also realizing the importance of a strong home site connecting to effective member sites, Flooring America recently decided to bring the focus back to individualized member sites, or “mircosites” as the group calls them. When a consumer visits Flooring America’s main website, flooringamerica.com, she is immediately asked to enter her ZIP code so her search can be localized. “We felt it was important that the microsites became the main driver of how customers found our stores versus [only] flooringamerica.com,” said Frank Chiera, vice president of marketing. “Let’s say you’re in Boston and you’re searching for flooring. If you do a Google search for ‘cherry hardwood flooring Boston,’ what we do is page search marketing and SEO marketing to get local members’ websites found first.”

To help their members create individual microsites, Flooring America provides website templates. While some may appear to be the same, each retailer has the opportunity to create a customized page. “The general thematics of each microsite is the same, but the retailer can completely customize the experience,” Chiera explained. “For example, if I’m a storeowner in Chicago and I sell cabinets and custom countertops, my page can be designed to feature these products. If the store is a Benjamin Moore paint dealer, there is a module that can be added that can create a product catalog with anything additional that member sells for his store.”

Staying social

Both Flooring America and Mohawk stress the importance of the relationship between website content and social media. Constant, relevant posts on sites such as Facebook and Twitter help keep consumers engaged and interested in your store and products offered.

In recent months, Mohawk has been particularly successful with campaigns via social media, including featured lifestyle bloggers and a groundbreaking Twitter party that trended globally. “More than 6 million people were exposed to Mohawk and SmartStrand carpet as a result of the Twitter party,” Clauson noted. “We are holding another Twitter party this month to continue the conversation. We are being creative in our efforts to get in-market consumers to our website so that we can nurture them as leads, and, in turn, send them to our aligned retail partners so the RSA can close a sale.”

Flooring America automatically updates social media contact for it members, but encourages retailers to create their own content for optimal consumer response. “The stores that have actually done a great job have engaged with the platform,” Chiera said. “We post maybe once or twice a day with engaging content. However, if we have a member that does an event for a local charity, for example, those stores have exponential growth from a social media standpoint. When a store adds that hyper-local content—when you develop good content that’s localized—you show you care about the community; those stores have significant traffic increases.”

Once that sense of community is established, potential buyers become more trustworthy and interested in the store, which in turn brings traffic directly to store websites. “People will then stay on the [store’s] website longer and fill out more lead forms. We help things work properly, but if the retailer further engages from the content we provide, it helps growth within his stores.”

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