By Steven Feldman—After attending countless flooring events over the last 27 years, I kind of know what to expect from each and every one. After all, the framework of every event is more or less the same with a few new wrinkles thrown in for good measure. And then there was FloorCon.
Call me skeptical, but I tend to live my life without having lofty expectations. High expectations often breed disappointment. As for FloorCon, the Broadlume (the parent company of FloorForce) folks were hyping this event for quite some time. Actually, they were also hyping last year’s virtual event, and you all know how I feel about virtual conferences. So, on Nov. 16, I traveled to Sarasota, Fla., with my curious streak in full throttle. When I left on Nov. 19, that curiosity was replaced by legitimacy, excitement and a breath of fresh air.
First of all, Broadlume deserves all the credit in the world for putting together as useful and educational an event as it gets for retailers. Forget that it was their first attempt. It was as professional as any industry event I’ve ever been to. Credit goes to Jeffrey Bieber, vice president of marketing at Broadlume. Who knew that a techie could double as an event planner.
In a two-day span at FloorCon, you had keynote speakers—including former Washington Redskins Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs (he coached the Redskins, not the Washington Football Team)—you had 16 educational sessions across four tracks, and you had America’s Floor Source’s Jason Goldberg opening up his playbook to the approximately 300 retailers in attendance. Oh, and the event culminated with a plated dinner, award presentations, a 10-piece band and nearly 100% of attendees raising their hand when the Broadlume team asked who would be attending FloorCon 2022 next year.
If there were any skeptics of Broadlume before the show, those skeptics turned into believers. After all, representatives from just about every major group and manufac- turer were in attendance.
So, what was this all about? Broadlume has created what it calls the flooring industry’s only end-to-end technology system that allows independent flooring dealers to simplify their systems, optimize their marketing investments, increase profits and create the best consumer experience. It boasts having a 160-person team, the technology and the funding needed to make software for the 21st century. Broadlume also announced that they recently raised $40 million from some of the most notable Silicon Valley tech investors to further accelerate their platform. Today, the Broadlume platform serves more than 3,000 retail locations across all its systems. Here’s the best part: retailers can take all or part of the offering. They can sign up for just a website, just the CRM or they can take on everything.
As John Weller, chief innovation officer, explained, it’s all about generating more business for dealers and creating the best consumer experience. The fact that Broadlume has purchased FloorForce (websites), Creating Your Space (websites), Freetail (room visualizer) Retail Lead Management (CRM) and RollMaster (ERP) shows that they are here to build an all-in-one platform. It’s what all these things do together that creates the seamless experience.
It begins with the consumer searching for flooring on Google—or any search engine for that matter. Since Broadlume is owned by former Google-ites, Todd Saunders and Dan Pratt, they know a thing or two about SEO and paid advertising. (Kind of like if I built the security system at a bank, I would know how to break in.) Anyway, the Broadlume retailer ranks high on every flooring search. The consumer will then be emersed in a better experience than she will have on any other website. She can search that retailer’s extensive product catalog. She can upload her own room to see how the products she earmarks will look in the actual room. She can order samples. She can chat with the dealer via text message. All the while, the retailer is getting the lead and can contact the consumer about scheduling an in-store visit. Everything that the consumer is doing at home is housed on the retailer’s system called Dealer HQ, so all her activity can be accessed in store.
At FloorCon, Broadlume revealed its retail selling system that connects the online experience to the offline showroom. The selling system will house private-label products from between 20 and 30 vendors. There are four distinct brands that offer everything from value to performance to luxury. How was it received? You tell me. There were nearly 75 dealers enrolled in the beta program at the beginning of the year, and during the first break of the show there was a line out the door with retailers looking to sign up. Not bad for $30,000 a pop.
One thing—Broadlume is making it unequivocally clear is that it is neither a buying group nor a manufacturer. As Saunders told me repeatedly: “We are not a buying group, we are not a manufacturer and we are not a supplier. We are a technology platform. Our retailers have been telling us for years that in order to build an all-in-one platform, it can’t stop with technology. It needs to connect all the way to the showroom.”
I wonder what Broadlume will do for an encore.