June 6/13, 2016; Volume 30, Number 25
By Jana Pollack
With more consumers spending hours researching products on the web before heading into stores, it is more important than ever for flooring retailers to have an impressive online presence.
“Your website is really a 24/7 digital equivalent of a storefront or showroom,” said Christine Wittemore, chief simplifier at Simple Marketing Now. “You want your website to start answering consumer questions, educating them and building trust. You want them to feel really good about you, and your website needs to do that.”
In 2015 the average consumer went to 12.2 websites before deciding which flooring retailer to visit, according to John Weller, vice president of marketing for Floor Force, a digital agency specializing in the flooring industry. In 2014 that number was 4.7. “It’s very obvious the consumer’s expectations are to find as much information as possible online so it’s important for the retailer to have the absolute best web representation as he can,” he explained. At the same time, he believes you’re not going to win over a consumer today with just an adequate website. Weller said it’s crucial to have a website with an exceptional user interface and full product catalog.
This sentiment was echoed by Misty Hodge, director of digital marketing at Shaw Floors. She said the main thrust behind Shaw’s web presence is to simplify the process for consumers. “A lot of our feedback from consumers tells us that whether they’re starting a new home or a remodel, flooring can be confusing. We want to say, ‘Hey, don’t be afraid; be inspired and let us inform you along the way.’”
To that end, a major focus for Shaw is keeping the consumer engaged with the website. The company takes note of abandonment rates (i.e., those leaving the site) and uses “heat mapping” to understand how engaged consumers are with the page. Shaw’s web presence is also fully responsive, providing the same experience regardless of the device used to access the site.
In that same vein, mohawkflooring.com was built with the consumer in mind. According to Amy Lutz, director of digital marketing, the primary objective is to enhance the online consumer experience and drive leads directly to Mohawk dealers. “Leveraging search engine optimization best practices, we ensure that consumers can easily find Mohawk online,” she explained. “Once on the site, our interface design helps ensure that consumers fall in love with our products. The site positions Mohawk and its retailers as true partners with the consumer throughout the purchase life cycle.”
A holistic approach
There are many companies that have great websites, but if you don’t have a smart marketing strategy aligned to that website then it’s bound to fall short. So says Frank Chiera, senior vice president of marketing and advertising, Flooring America. He recommends taking a holistic approach when developing and designing an effective website. “Step No. 1 is to have a really smart overall digital marketing strategy that’s layered on top of that website. So the website really becomes a tactic that’s part of a bigger plan.”
To ease the process for retailers, Flooring America offers members microsites that are fully customizable. “The websites are [owned] by the retailer and really feel like individual websites,” Chiera said. “But as you roll up to the corporate level we’re making sure all the conversion points—all the lead generation, all the opportunity to see the biggest ROI from a digital media perspective—are controlled by Flooring America and Floor Traders corporate to drive the most leads down to that store.”
What’s more, the online product catalogs featured on Flooring America dealers’ websites are automatically updated to reflect current inventory. “If there’s an addition or a drop, the retailer doesn’t have to worry about it—the member knows every night we are going to refresh the product library with the latest photos,” Chiera said.
Similarly, at Carpet One Floor and Home, members are given a microsite that can be customized by members. The platform also features interactive tools such as a room visualizer and flooring guide. “We are able to provide our members with analytics, digital intelligence and guidance to help them maximize their digital marketing spend,” said Janice Jacobs, vice president of marketing.
Of course, this strategy extends to mobile devices. Experts agree that an effective, user-friendly website must also be fully responsive to ensure a smooth experience for browsers. “Today, if you’re in the website business and not launching responsive websites, you’re basically an irresponsible website provider,” Weller said.
No surprise then that more sites are being built with the mobile experience in mind. “We know consumers increasingly use mobile devices as part of their shopping experience, so we designed mohawkflooring.com specifically to make it easy to browse products and find a retailer while on the go,” Lutz said. “The site looks beautiful on any screen size, and it’s the exact same content no matter the device. No limited experience for smaller screens.”