How flooring retailers can keep pace with mobile customers

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July 20/27; Retailer’s Guide to Digital Marketing

By Amanda Haskin

It’s no secret the majority of the population is on a mobile device at any given second of any day, so it should come as no surprise that a business’ mobile strategy should be an integral part of its marketing plan. According to eMarketer, mobile ad spending in the U.S. accounts for 49% of total digital ad dollars and is set to overtake desktop by the end of this year. By 2019, it is predicted to rise to 72%.

“The key is for dealers to understand the seismic shift in how consumers search the Internet,” said Jay Flynn, vice president of sales and marketing at Creating Your Space, an online marketing program for flooring retailers that focuses on website presence. “In 2009, less than 1% of consumers accessed the Internet via mobile devices. In 2012, it was at 10%, and as of today it is at 33%. It’s just skyrocketing.”

It is now imperative that a business adapt to these trends and make sure its website is compatible on the wide range of mobile devices out there. “Having a mobile-friendly, responsive website is essential to achieving good placement in search results,” said Andrew Valeriani, vice president of digital marketing, Flooring America. “It is also important to ensure that you are giving customers an engaging experience with your brand.”

Mobile readiness was even a key element of Google’s most recent change to its search rank algorithm, much to the dismay of worried marketers and small business owners across the globe who have since nicknamed the update “Mobilegeddon.”

According to Christine Whittemore, chief simplifier at Simple Marketing Now, “Google acknowledged that people are using mobile devices to view sites in different stages of the buying process. It is even more critical now because mobile-ready and receptive sites will be given priority in search results.”

Mobile vs. responsive

The process of optimizing websites is constantly changing. Most digital experts say that creating a separate, mobile-friendly site that is viewable on a mobile device is old news, with new methods centering on responsive design. With a responsive website, the mobile device does the work for you by automatically adjusting a website design for a smaller screen.

“[Responsive sites] are seamless,” said John Weller, vice president of FloorForce, a company that specializes in website development and online marketing for flooring retailers. “Most small businesses don’t have enough time to manage two websites. A lot of companies out there will take some of the data off their regular websites and pour it over to mobile websites, but that’s a very old school way of having a mobile representation. If it’s responsive, the important information on the front of your regular website will show up on the mobile device perfectly.”

Tailored for mobile consumers

Mobile visitors to a store’s website have different needs and attitudes than visitors on a desktop site. Understanding that context will help businesses tailor mobile content.

A store’s mobile site should provide two major pieces of information with ease and speed: a phone number and directions to the closest location. FloorForce makes certain its dealers’ mobile sites are structured with those two elements at the top of the homepage. “First we take the phone number and turn it into a button so people don’t have to dial while they’re driving,” Weller explained. “Then, directions turn into a button that gives turn-by-turn instructions [from a location services app].”

Mobile users are now spending more time on their devices researching, shopping or simply killing time. For those consumers, dealers should make sure that all relevant content can still be found on their mobile sites. “For [the customer] who might be sitting at the airport waiting for a flight or at her kid’s soccer game searching online for flooring, we don’t take out any content,” Weller added. “It’s not just the customer in the car anymore; in fact, we think that may be the smaller percentage of mobile customers.”

Dealers should also simplify the content, making sure images load fast, videos are short and contact information is readily available on every page. “Mobile is about convenience, so give me the bare information,” Whittemore said. “I don’t want fancy stuff that’s going to slow down the experience. But it’s not about having only five words on a page either because content still matters. Content is a sign of quality and Google is looking for high quality pages.”

Whittemore uses HubSpot, a content optimization system to simplify information for mobile users. “You set up the rules. For example, it can be hard for people to fill out a lengthy form on a mobile device, so you might have a modified view of that form that only asks for a first name, last name and email address.”

Katherine Andes, web content developer and owner,, recommends retailers keep an eye on their sites. “Just go on different devices, look at your pages and see how they’re looking. If there’s something that’s not looking good, your web developer might be able to change that.”

And if there is any question as to whether or not a site is mobile-ready, Google has a test site that allows users to simply type in a URL and find out in seconds if the page is mobile-friendly. “Not only are more and more people doing online research on their mobile devices, but [mobile presence] has become an incredibly important factor in search rankings,” said Liz Eure, director of marketing at Carpet Plus, Charlottesville, Va. “If you haven’t tested your website for mobile friendliness on Google, do it now. If it doesn’t pass the test, make any adjustments necessary to make it mobile-friendly.”

Mobile marketing

Due to the especially long buying period for flooring, engaging potential customers throughout that process is imperative. Because so many more people are on their smartphones on a regular basis, engaging them on these devices is a major part of any customer’s journey.

One aspect of mobile marketing is simply advertising on a mobile website. “We do specific promotions for many of our dealers that are just on mobile devices, and they can measure consumer behavior,” Flynn said. “You’re going to see more and more of that as the technology evolves—being able to push different platforms and ads to just mobile devices.”

Text messages play a large role in mobile marketing when it comes to promotional advertising and lead generation. Weller noted that he uses text message promotions with some larger companies, and he has seen high returns on investment. “When a customer goes onto a website, there will be a pop up that says, ‘This month we’re having a sale—give us your phone number and email here,’ and she will get a text message with a coupon or a code. The coupon business is still alive— it’s just different.”

FloorForce also uses text messaging to help its dealers with both conversions and referral and repeat business. The company tracks all phone calls that come into a FloorForce customer and, whether the lead comes from a directory, website or social media site, builds a profile based on her behavior. The data collected during online interactions will determine if she is a new customer who will receive a text with a promotion or a returning customer who will receive a message with the store’s customer service phone number if she ever needs it.

“The beauty of it is that your mobile device is always with you,” Creating Your Space’s Flynn added. “If it’s a Saturday afternoon and you’re going to pick up your dry cleaning, you might recall that text message you got on Wednesday and decide to run over [to the flooring store]. Because it’s always with you, it makes it a much more viable form of marketing.”

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