Flooring America: New initiatives set to ‘take the boring out of flooring’

Home Inside FCNews Flooring America: New initiatives set to 'take the boring out of flooring'

August 4/11, 2014; Volume 28/Number 4

By Jenna Lippin

Dallas—With the continued goal of developing new ways to drive consumers into Flooring America/Flooring Canada stores, the group’s management team kept members engaged and enthusiastic through the launch of new and expanded programs and partnerships at its summer Connextion convention here Aug. 4-5.

In fact, Keith Spano, president, went so far as to proclaim Flooring America is seeking to “take the boring out of flooring” with new marketing, advertising and online initiatives along with product partnerships to attract customers. And, with more customers comes greater opportunity for repeat buyers, positive reviews and more recommendations, all of which translate into increased traffic and profitability.

In illustration, in its new three-year plan Flooring America is promoting itself as “the most recommended flooring store,” one of the biggest initiatives the group is currently undertaking. The Road to the Most Recommended campaign will actually quantify consumer response to help back up the tagline.

“In order to quantify that we are the most recommended we will conduct a research study with past customers to determine their level of satisfaction and if they would recommend [Flooring America] to a friend,” explained Frank Chiera, vice president of marketing and advertising. “Our goal is 4- to 5-star reviews from 90% of those reviewed.” Members have been asked to accumulate 10,000 positive customer reviews, 200 before and after photos, and the coveted high ratings.

“There are two parts to quantifying,” Chiera continued, “the marketing component and the qualitative study by a third party that asks consumer preference of one brand over another. This reveals why they bought from us, whether they looked at other places and if they would recommend us.”

New partnerships

To help drive more traffic into Flooring America stores, the group is providing members with a pre-scheduled promotion calendar so they can allot marketing dollars for national sales in advance. A major component of these promotions is Flooring America’s partnerships with iRobot (new) and Tempur-Pedic.

Braava from iRobot is a GPS-controlled robotic floor cleaner that can clean floors completely on its own. This exclusive partnership with Flooring America will be featured in the group’s Hard to Beat Flooring Sale in which the Braava will be offered as a promotional item when a consumer purchases hard surface flooring.

“What resonates with our customers is that iRobot is a cool, techy product,” Spano said. “It’s small, easy to store and easy to ship. It’s a great incentive for consumers to buy with us rather than anybody else. Advertising is part of the promotion, but we are definitely encouraging retailers to advertise [on their own].”

The initial response from members to iRobot was positive, with a number of retailers expecting a superior sales opportunity with the futuristic device. “That opportunity to have a floor cleaner with your purchase is really something,” said Judith Guck, president, Classique Floors, Portland, Ore. “It’s a new gadget and we all love new gadgets. It feels like a really good fit for [Flooring America].”

The partnership with Tempur-Pedic is part of Flooring America’s Ultimate Comfort Sale, which will feature the group’s Innova carpet products tied with a brand consumers recognize.

Product spotlight

Flooring America’s manufacturer partnerships are important as ever with new programs from IVC, Mannington and a private-label laminate offering with the two companies in addition to Shaw.

Celebrating the 10-year anniversary of its relationship with IVC, the group and manufacturer collaborated on the   refreshed NaturCor sheet vinyl program, which features new, exclusive patterns and revamped merchandising that includes easily removed samples. The product selection features modern, “funky” designs—geared toward the targeted Millennial market—at the affordable end of the good/better/best program. “We thought [Millennials] would be a little more daring than baby boomers, so we brought these designs to a price point Gen Y could afford, and kept traditional patterns toward the higher end,” said Paul Murfin, co-CEO, IVC.

Victor Morningstar, vice president of Waynesboro Flooring America in Waynesboro, Pa., is eager to continue his positive relationship with IVC. He anticipates NaturCor “to be great for us. They’re a great company and stand behind their products. They’re just good to deal with.”

With 20 SKUs of hardwood, Mannington stepped up a collection targeted exclusively for Flooring America. Two stairstep displays include one 5-star Downs sawn-face product with a 3 mil wear layer and wide-width planks. The other highlight is a 4-star Floorcraft hand-scraped line with a selection of unique visuals.

Lastly, the proprietary laminate program under the Floorcraft brand, which started hitting stores in July, includes a good/better/best program that helps the salesperson walk the consumer through the categories, leading to upsell opportunities. “Some of our members who were a little doubtful originally have been raving about how great [the laminate program looks],” Spano said. “We’ve turned them into believers with the exclusive products. The Plus warranty with product from top manufacturers create a winning combination.”

Retailers were enthusiastic about the new programs, particularly the laminate. For example, Eric Lyday, head of sales and marketing at One Stop Flooring America in Mount Vernon, Ill., said while his store is within a “huge LVT market,” he expects to see positive results from this laminate program. “The Floorcraft display has a lot of nice looks that I think will be positive for our laminate program.”

Online presence

Another major initiative for Flooring America was the furthering of its digital presence. The group has integrated a considerable amount of social media content in member campaigns, posting content for retailers to help motivate them to use platforms like Facebook to engage with consumers.

As well, a new Instagram initiative will help integrate the increasingly popular visual app into social media presence along with refreshed website templates to help streamline the consumer experience.

“The website today has been a workhorse for us,” Chiera said. “It’s had traffic and generated a lot of leads. But our website needs to just be updated and modernized. It is more personalized for the members. We want to treat it more like a Houzz site, so we need to get more photography of actual jobs that our members do across the country and then populate them on a website so everyone can see them.” Instagram photos automatically populating on member microsites will help achieve this goal.

“As a small company, it’s hard to stay on top of social media but [the group] keeps on top of marketing for us and that really helps,” Morningstar said. “They’ve done industry research and know what’s important for us, steering us in the direction toward things [like marketing to Millennials] and that’s one of the benefits of being a member of the group.”

Part of the new web and social media initiative is a niche marketing campaign to help cater to and attract Millennials with a streamlined Internet experience, Latinos with Spanish-language signage and members of the LGBT community with photography featuring diverse families.

In other Flooring America developments:

•Members were encouraged to convert their showrooms to the Vision concept to help improve the consumer experience. “All of our marketing and advertising with Vision screams ‘hip, fun, cool!’” Spano said. “Our new merchandising does that as well. If [members] are still using displays from 14 years ago that message isn’t getting across.”

•My Floor Guide, an in-store tool for customers to easily find product and pricing, goes live Oct. 1. According to the group, My Floor Guide could potentially remove the need to print out price tags for displays.

•Members were encouraged to sign up for Google Business View, which provides a 360-degree interactive photo tour of their showrooms, bringing the interior of businesses to life, similar to Google Street View.

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