The idea of ecommerce is still in its infancy within the world of flooring. While the concept has found success within some home improvement-related industries—like home décor, furnishings and even electronics—flooring is a much different animal. What makes online sales less than ideal for retailers and consumers alike is the fact that flooring is best sold in-person where shoppers can see and feel the real thing. Photos, and even today’s popular room visualizers, while useful tools in the selling process, rarely close the deal on their own.
However, as the digital age continues to grow into maturity, there are some savvy retailers who are taking the bull by the horns. Some have implemented digital sales strategies that move the consumer through the online shopping experience into an at-home purchasing structure; others use the online sales approach as an extension of their in-store strategies. Whichever the approach, dealers today are implementing new programs that utilize ecommerce opportunities.
Floor Covering News spoke to several of those dealers about biting the ecommerce bullet and their best tips on how to successfully sell online.
Pleasant Ridge Flooring and Design
In the past five years, I’ve seen about five to seven strictly showroom-style stores close up in my area. I’ve seen about three new ones pop up—all of those new companies are strictly a shop-at-home/online business.
I look at how I operate in my personal life. I buy my clothes online, I buy my groceries online and I’m even looking to purchase my next vehicle online. So, we’re reading the writing on the wall. We are in the process of setting up a website [that would promote a shop-at-home business model]. I feel that customers get too confused and overwhelmed when they enter a showroom with 10,000 samples. Keep it simple. It also keeps overhead to a minimum so we can keep our prices lower, which helps with the sale—price is a huge factor when selling a job. This will be our business model moving forward.
What we do online is an extension of our physical showroom. Our service area simply extends nationwide. What you see in our online showroom is what you can expect to see in our physical showroom. A purely online model does not work for us.
Our customers began reaching out to us and asking if we could ship product to their area. Instead of saying no, we found a way to say yes. Since then, we’ve polished the service side of that business. There is no checkout cart, however. Each customer connects with a knowledgeable flooring specialist that helps them find and purchase their flooring. We have worked on becoming a one-stop, trusted source whether the customer is in front of us in the showroom, talking to us on the phone [or online.]
Currently, 100% of our sales come from online. That being said, we are opening a new company called the Louisiana Flooring Company to pair with our online store. With our new showroom, we expect our first year to be around 50/50. However, online sales are our priority.
We believe online sales are the future in all industries, including flooring. What makes our industry different is that installation is also part of the equation. We try to be a great resource for installers, empowering them to run their own business, while giving them access to thousands of products and to use our “buying power.”
Any steps in the online buying process for your buyer is putting you in the right direction—especially at the local level. You do not have to have a full-blown, 100% online commerce platform. You can use it more as an informational tool for your consumers and allow you a chance to be more approachable—converting them to in-store sales.
We just started with the FSU program by Broadlume. There is a small element of ecommerce with the program on certain products. One that I know of is DIY carpet tiles. In this case, the consumer would order online and have it drop-shipped to their home. For other parts of the program customers can’t order online—they have to order from us—but products are drop shipped to their home for a flat rate. Samples, too, can be ordered from our website. FSU provides all the sampling and fulfillment. It’s super nifty, actually! Samples come in a nicely designed box, labeled and arrive in three days. The e-commerce I don’t even have to manage.
At first, I wasn’t really attracted to online sales of flooring. We were just looking for a way to get more leads and better marketing. The online sales portion was a side benefit.