To say the coronavirus pandemic changed the way retailers attract, engage and interact with customers would be the understatement of the century. Retailers across a host of industries—flooring included—have had to learn how to adapt in a world forever changed by COVID-19. Some businesses have instituted strict guidelines in terms of how many customers may enter the showroom at any given time, while others have adopted various measures to assist customers in sampling product virtually.
At the very least, the pandemic has forced retailers to apply creativity in how they not only present products to consumers, but also in terms of how they set up measuring and installation appointments in customers’ homes. While providing exceptional customer service has always been the hallmark of savvy floor covering retailers, it has become increasingly more important as homeowners express reservations about allowing strangers into their homes.
But as the country gradually begins to emerge out of the pandemic—thanks to the deployment of effective vaccines and better treatments for those who have been hospitalized with the disease—business owners and shoppers alike are becoming more confident in going out and spending money again. Nowhere is this more evident than in the home furnishings and renovation market, which has benefitted greatly from more consumers taking refuge at home and as more workers set up office spaces at home. All this—combined with a migration from crowded big cities to more remote, suburban areas—has contributed to the good fortunes of many floor covering retailers.
In this special section, those specialty dealers who have not only survived but thrived thus far through the pandemic opened up to share the best practices and tips they employed to keep their businesses afloat during these challenging times.
Following are some of those retailer strategies and tried-and-true tips:
IT PAYS TO BE PROACTIVE
We took advantage of our stocking positions
greatly during COVID-19. We bought multiple truckloads of material so we had good stock of some of our best sellers. And when inventory got tight from most of our suppliers, many customers turned to us to help complete their projects. We gained a ton of new business this way and really helped set us apart from our competition.
Sterling Carpet & Flooring, Anaheim, Calif.
QUALIFYING THE LEADS
COVID-19 forced us to more aggressively qualify leads to ensure that they were serious about purchasing. This has had a positive impact on the efficiency of our sales process. We’re not making pointless measures;
we are closing at a higher rate and increasing our margins.
Marshall Carpet One & Rug Gallery, Mayfield Heights, Ohio
SEIZE THE OPPORTUNITIES
COVID-19 significantly increased our online leads. We have always gotten a lot, but they
have increased even more since COVID-19. This has challenged us to produce a better solution
to properly following up on them. As a result, we have started working with a new CRM
and came up with more formal processes for handling online leads. This has been great for
us and COVID-19 was the catalyst to get us to improve our system for handling online leads.
Rose Carpets & Flooring, Massachusetts
UTILIZE VIRTUAL CONSULTATIONS
COVID-19 has certainly changed our views for the better on how we interact with our customer. We realized that we immediately needed new ways to interact virtually with our clients, and we implemented the ability to schedule consultations through our website for private appointments, online chats and virtual design consultations. This led to generating more leads and creating a
more dynamic and meaningful relationship with clients.
FCA Associates, Shorewood, Ill.
SHOW AND TELL ONLINE
We have a virtual area rug store that has images of all available rugs online so customers can easily scroll through the 1,500 options that are in stock. Customers can also choose to chat with one of our design reps online who will offer them products that fit their preferences. From there, we can send the carpet directly to their home. You could still do business with us without feeling like you have to put yourself and loved ones at risk.
Eckard’s Home Improvement, St. Joseph, Mo.
COMMUNICATION IS KEY
While it has always been important to have multiple channels of communication available, it is now more vital than ever. Our best practice is to communicate with a customer in the way that they prefer—be it text, email, phone, virtual, in-person, etc. We offer many ways to work with us so that today’s consumer can select how they like to shop and communicate. This makes us easy to do business with and, therefore, provides the premium customer experience we are trying to achieve.
Great Western Flooring, Naperville, Ill.
KEEP MANAGERS, EMPLOYEES IN THE LOOP
The leadership of all eight of our stores used to meet in-person every month to discuss how business is going and how we can improve. These meetings started occurring more often once they went virtual, which made it easier to collaborate. Tasks that usually fell on the leadership in each individual building now became a decision made by all. I was able to sit in on an interview for a new hire at one of our other stores that’s 60 miles away, and all were able to give input if we thought this was the right person to hire or not.
Custom Carpet Centers, Orchard Park, N.Y.
To see the full breadth of tips, see the Feb. 15/22 print edition of FCNews.