March 13/20, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 20
By Lindsay Baillie
Underlayments are more than essential components that complete a hard surface or soft surface installation. They are also valuable accessories that help increase margins and generate higher ticket sales for specialty retailers.
According to various underlayment manufacturers upselling from an entry-level product to a specialty underlayment is achievable through comprehensive product education. This focus on education starts with the retailer and follows through to the customer.
“Retailers should take the time to educate themselves and their team on the benefits of a good quality carpet cushion,” said Todd Betz, territory manager, Innocor Foam Technologies. “Then they can help educate the consumer on all the benefits of a better cushion such as how it will last longer and make the carpet feel better underfoot.”
Deanna Summers, marketing coordinator, MP Global, explained that there are many features to talk about when upselling underlayment. It is important for retailers to learn the various underlayments they sell and share that knowledge with others. To help retailers learn more about underlayment, she suggests talking to the underlayment manufacturers as they should be able to help with point-of-purchase information.
“A retailer will likely have more opportunity to create interest in value-added underlayment, a product many customers may not even know about but should,” Summers said. “Oftentimes the customer will be much more particular on color and style vs. performance. Underlayment upselling is a way to hone in on performance characteristics the customer may not have given much thought to.”
Once a retailer is properly educated in underlayments, he or she should make it a point to include it in the conversation about flooring. “Making the subfloor an integral part of the discussion for any flooring project is the best way to ensure the customer gets what is needed for the subfloor, and the flooring professional maximizes the overall product offering in the sale,” said Thomas Trissl, principal, Schönox. “It’s a clear win for both.”
In addition to educating retailers and RSAs, experts say consumer education is also necessary. “Offering consumers product options and educating them on the difference in these options allow them to make more informed buying decisions,” said Colleen Gormley, marketing coordinator, Diversified Industries. “In order for a consumer to invest more in her purchase, it should correspond with some distinguishable value.”
That distinguishable value is what MP Global’s Summers believes makes upselling underlayment easy and rewarding. Once fully explained, the products essentially sell themselves. “Upselling underlayment for new hard surface flooring is a win-win opportunity every salesperson should take advantage of as often as possible.”
Proponents believe premium underlayments can enhance a newly installed floor in terms of wearability and lifetime performance. They can also provide noise reduction, insulation, moisture dissipation and greater comfort underfoot.
“Other talking points can be specific to the type of floor in which the customer is interested,” Summers added. “For example, underlayment selected for use under laminate flooring should be both firm enough to support the overlaying floor but offer sufficent flexibility to smooth out little subfloor imperfections, helping eliminate any rocking of laminate panels.”
Another advantage Sarah Remillard, product manager, sports and reaction surfacing, Ultimate RB, pointed out is a quality rubber underlayment can make an inexpensive laminate or engineered wood floor sound like an expensive wood floor—adding even more value to the customer’s purchase.
Ultimately, providing customers with accurate product knowledge to make informed buying decisions help RSAs gain customer loyalty. “Not only do you increase your profit from the upsell of one product, but you retain that customer for future purchases,” Diversified Industries’ Gormley explained. “Additionally, customer satisfaction should increase when using a higher quality product.”
While educating customers on the various products can help upsell underlayment, it is also important to ask the right questions. This is crucial for purchases involving ceramic and stone underlayment which are all based on specific applications. As Julia Vozza, marketing manager, M-D Pro, explains: “The retailer simply needs to know the right questions to ask their customers when selling tile underlayment so they can find out the specifics about the particular application their customer is buying for.”
Some of these potential questions may include: Is the underlayment being installed below grade or in areas where moisture is a concern? Is the tile installation in an area where the tile would need to transition up to a thicker flooring surface like hardwood? Is there a need or desire to install an in-floor radiant heating system?
Dale Asp, business development manager, Impacta Floor Underlayments, suggests retailers also find out what the customer is looking to achieve with her new floor covering. From there the retailer can discuss the different options available while presenting underlayments that possess the greatest value. “When looking for a quality underlay product the benefits must be worth the increased cost. A quality underlayment can provide superior support for the flooring above, thus ensuring the new flooring will look and perform well for many years to come.”
Good, better, best
Another proven strategy retailers can utilize is the tiered model, experts say. “Most retailers are familiar with the selling of the good, better, best [flooring] options for their customers,” said Ann Wicander, president, WE Cork. “Retailers who are successful in selling our underlayments use the same principle.”
When presented in the showroom, this model can help customers understand the differences between entry-level and specialty underlayments, along with the varying price points. “We’ve seen dealers really make it easy for customers to see the benefits by putting out a cushion walk in the store so they can feel the difference between a good, better or best cushion, which really helps them to realize the benefits of a higher-end product,” Innocor’s Betz explained.
In addition to using a cushion walk, Future Foam recommends showing customers a sample book—some of which can be custom made for each dealer. “These sample books fold up nicely so they are very portable,” said Mark Foster, Midwest sales manager. “They show the features and benefits while providing a walkable demonstration. Assisting the customer in an actual demonstration on how her carpet will feel over selected cushions is always a good way to help her decide what she truly wants and to show how more comfort can come from choosing the right cushion.”
Jack McMahon, vice president, Carpenter, suggests retailers flip the good, better, best model on its head and start with showing customers their best quality underlayment. He then recommends briefly explaining the cushion’s merits and closing the sale with the confidence knowing the RSA has offered the customer long-term value. “Better cushion will increase the consumer’s satisfaction with her carpet. Additionally, successfully selling better cushion is another way to reflect well on the retailer’s status as a strong business that believes in adding value to each sale.”