By Ken Ryan
Grapevine, Texas—If you didn’t know better you may have thought you were attending a technology summit rather than Flooring America’s summer conference with its heavy emphasis on all things digital.
There is a reason for that, according to Keith Spano, president of Flooring America/Flooring Canada, International Design Guild, and The Floor Trader Group. “This is how we communicate today and we need to embrace this,” he told attendees during the conference, whose driving theme was “Building Buzz.”
Indeed, there were plenty of data points offered that suggests the digital evolution is transforming the retail flooring market. For example, research revealed shows the average person now spends more time online than TV, newspapers and radio combined. Snapchat is the No. 1 social media channel followed by millennials, just ahead of Instagram.
Today digital marketing is the conduit through which to tell your story and see it spread exponentially. To that end, Building Buzz was about helping its retailers thrive in this new world order. At the conference, members learned how to supplement the social and digital programs provided through the Co-op, such as FAST, a proprietary local social media syndication platform, and G1, its Google search and SEO platform.
According to Frank Chiera, senior vice president of marketing and advertising, while there may be some “naysayers” questioning the immediate return on social media investment, the statistics bear out how important this medium has become. Chiera and others noted it could be difficult to measure the conversion rate from social media advertising to sales simply because social media is about getting the word out and connecting with community. Through that sustained effort sales are expected to increase—eventually. Research cited at Building Buzz showed that 63% of people who request information from a website will not make a purchase for at least three months.
Moreover, studies have found that sales professionals who use social media as part of their overall strategy outsell those who do not by 78%. Flooring America dealers say they appreciate the forward-looking approach espoused by Messrs. Spano and Chiera.
“One of the reasons I joined Flooring America was because they always seemed to be one step ahead of the competition,” said Casey Dillabaugh, president of Dillabaugh’s Flooring America in Boise, Idaho. “In regard to Building Buzz in particular, it reinforced that on the marketing side of the business, Flooring America is making a point for the traditional dealer to think differently about their marketing efforts due to the changing consumer, while giving us practical applications that we can begin to use immediately.”
Mike Foulk, president of Foulk’s Flooring America, Meadville, Pa., said he found the conference very enlightening. “Some things are common sense; however, some things are very helpful, especially for those of us who are time strapped and digitally challenged.”
As a company, Flooring America felt it needed to get ahead of the curve in terms of anticipating trends, according to Chiera. One objective of Building Buzz was to help independent retailers understand what they can do to make their brands be seen and heard in local markets. Increasingly that is done by digital means.
“Our members know they need to embrace our program and invest in it because this where they need to be,” Spano explained. “They all are the best buyers for their markets but when it comes to marketing they trust us to make the best decisions for them.”
Building Buzz was also a coming out show for Floor Trader, the division that is now under the auspices of Flooring America. Spano said Floor Trader is enjoying a breakout year with 50 showrooms expected by year’s end, up from 35 at the start of 2016. “We have new visuals, new merchandising and an e-commerce platform for Floor Trader. We are driving that outlet value proposition. At this conference Floor Trader is going from ‘herd to heard’ in the market.”