By Ken Ryan
“Survival of the fittest” is a phrase that originated from Darwinian evolutionary theory, but it may as well have described how many Shaw Flooring Network (SFN) retailers approached business during the COVID-19 pandemic. Dealers of all sizes were forced to adapt and innovate in order to navigate through the uncertain terrain that the pandemic has created in 2020.
Fittingly, seminars on innovation were highlighted during day two of the virtual SFN conference—an event that has been held in-person every two years since the inception of SFN.
Heather Yamada, director of consumer marketing for Shaw, ran a session titled, “Innovation out of necessity,” a seminar that drew scores of SFN dealers. Yamada was joined by Travis Lowe, president of U30, a market research firm based in Knoxville, Tenn.
“We know necessity is the mother of invention,” Yamada said. In that vein the session presented an opportunity for flooring dealers to understand how other dealers have innovated during COVID-19 to better meet their consumers’ needs.
Yamada posted several statistics to illustrate how COVID-19 has changed the way consumers are living. For example, she said 82% of us are spending more time at home than before the pandemic; 69% are spending more time online, and 56% are spending more on home improvement projects.
Lowe’s group, which talked with both retailers and consumers in forming its research, came up with eight ideas for dealers to target consumers during COVID-19 and beyond:
- Online Consult: Virtual consultation with an RSA who will provide recommendations, photos and take-home samples (shipped or curbside).
- In-Home Appointment: Following all recommended COVID-19 protocols, the RSA would set up in-home appointments during which they would bring sample options for customers to see and touch.
- Video Tutorial: Video tutorials demonstrating DIY flooring installs for customers to themselves.
- Curbside Service: Offer the ability to pick up samples, view the flooring product, touch and feel the material and purchase flooring all in a curbside service manner.
- Virtual Design: Virtual consultation with a designer who would recommend options direct to consumers and could include a one-on-one appointment in-store to finalize the purchase decisions.
- Social Media: A store’s social media accounts will show samples of their COVID-19 protocols (sanitizing, social distancing, etc.).
- One-on-One Appointment: A personalized one-on-one appointment with just the customer and the RSA that is social distanced, private and in-store.
- Room Visualizer: The digital tool would take a photo of consumers’ rooms, including all furniture and current decor, and show new flooring options.
Lowe said all these ideas have upsides as well as potential barriers. It’s up to the flooring dealers to consider the pros and cons and make it work for their customer. “People are open to shopping for floors online more than ever and we need to find ways to meet them there,” he said.
Yamada added, “The best practice probably isn’t doing one thing, it’s doing a combination of things.” She said Shaw has seven tools to support its dealers, among them Floorvana+, a virtual online tool to help consumers see flooring in a room or in their space; and Velocity, a digital marketing solution to help retailers coordinate their online initiatives, including curbside samples and virtual consultations.
(Look for more coverage of the 2021 Shaw Virtual SFN Open conference at fcnews.net.)