August 22/29, 2016; Volume 31, Number 5
By Jim Augustus Armstrong
Every flooring prospect has an unspoken question on her mind: Why should I buy from you instead of your competitor? If you don’t effectively answer this question you could wind up losing customers. One effective way to answer this question is by creating differentiation. I recently spoke with Lindsey Waldrep, vice president of sales and marketing for Crossville Tile, to get her thoughts on creating differentiation.
It’s tough to be a retailer right now. They’re getting hit by the box stores, slammed by online dealers and by unethical dealers, and it seems that everyone is offering cheap price. What can retailers do to combat this?
Waldrep: When retailers establish their business models, they should really be cognizant of whether they going to be a volume dealer or operate on high margins. Next, they should bring in the appropriate product to support that business model. People in the flooring industry tend to be hoarders. We want to stock every sample, every board, everything in our warehouse. I believe that a more curated approach to your offering that ties in with your overall business model is more effective.
Commoditization is a big problem with flooring retailers. What are your thoughts on the importance of creating differentiation?
Waldrep: Creating differentiation is important; it’s your positioning in your market, what is it that you’re trying to do in your business model. A lot of times retailers want to be all things to all people. I think this is a mistake. People who shop for makeup at Walgreens are not going to buy from the cosmetics counter at Saks, and vice-versa. Know who you are, know who your audience is and create your experience for that audience.
How can creating differentiation boost referrals?
Waldrep: Retailers should revisit the jobs after they’re completed to take photos to show their customers—on Faceboook, for example—what they can do. Somebody might see that and think, ‘Oh my gosh! That’s so-and-so’s house down the street. I love her kitchen. I’m going to go buy from that flooring store.’ To me, those photographs are part of having a referral system. It’s part of that word of mouth. And who doesn’t like to brag about having a beautiful space or a beautiful home? They’re going to tell all their friends that you featured their new floors, and they’re going to be honored that you took the time to show them off.
What else can retailers do to create differentiation?
Waldrep: Using vignettes is very effective. There are a lot of retailers out there that either don’t have vignettes, or they don’t keep them updated. People want to see more than just a little chip or sample. If it means that you have to build them in a separate area of your showroom so that you keep your front of the house neat and tidy, then so be it. Always have something rotating and in production, then get photographs every time one goes up. So, if a customer is going for a particular look, you can say, ‘Oh, you know what? We used to have that in a vignette.’ Then pull it up on your iPad or a photo album to demonstrate that you can create that look for her.
By following these trategies, you’ll take a big step towards creating more differentiation in your market.