January 21/28, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 17
Merger creates flooring industry’s first directory and consumer-centric platform
By Steven Feldman
New York—AdHawk, a 3-year-old company founded by ex-Googlers that helps businesses optimize their digital advertising campaigns, has acquired FloorForce, the largest digital marketing agency and website platform for the flooring industry. The acquisition is part of AdHawk’s larger strategy to expand its presence in the flooring industry.
Its first product, flooringstores.com, is designed to equip retailers with the requisite tools to succeed online and provide consumers a digital destination to make informed buying decisions. The website is scheduled to go live in the second quarter of 2019.
“Since partnering with FloorForce in 2016, we’ve helped thousands of flooring retailers simplify the reporting and campaign optimization work that is necessary to run a successful digital advertising campaign,” said Todd Saunders, CEO of AdHawk. “While working with these retailers, we noticed they needed help beyond digital advertising. Flooring-stores.com removes the headaches that flooring retailers encounter while bringing consumers to their digital storefront.”
Saunders noted that FloorForce has an “incredible” amount of data, adding, “We’re in a position where we can digest that data and turn that into actionable insights and recommendations.”
FloorForce’s core competency has been designing retailer websites and driving leads with Google and Facebook advertising, according to John Weller, cofounder of FloorForce and CIO of flooringstores.com. “Our new company, which comprises engineers, data scientists and designers, will enable us to build smarter websites and digital marketing solutions to deliver results that, quite frankly, have never been possible in our industry. We will be able to identify real-time trends in the market that will be extremely useful to manufacturers and retailers alike. With these insights, we will focus on building solutions to deliver personalized experiences and product recommendations to shorten the length of time to get the consumer to purchase.”
According to FloorForce, manufacturers benefit via the opportunity for direct-to-consumer marketing. Most manufacturers have no way of getting their brand messaging, nor their products, in front of a consumer other than their website or to put a display in a retailer's store. According to Weller, flooringstores.com will introduce consumers to brands and products they are more likely to want, rather than what they would randomly find at a big box store.
“Flooringstores.com is going to be the largest directory site in the flooring industry,” Weller said. He likened it to a cars.com or autotrader.com for the flooring industry in that it will introduce consumers to manufacturers, products and retailers in one simple environment. “As the consumer gives us more information about what she is looking for and where she lives, it’s going to start filtering through the catalog to give her all the options available and the retailers associated with those products in her market.”
This is how the experience will work: When a consumer types in the product she’s shopping for, she will discover every retailer who carries it in her local area. When she chooses a particular retailer, she will be taken to a retailer page that reflects everything she is interested in, including the product catalog, store history, hours of operation, phone number, etc.
It doesn’t end there. If the consumer makes a phone call, it will be answered by a call center that operates 24/7. As Saunders explained: “The call center will capture the consumer’s information and drop the lead into the retailer’s lead center. “But we’re also handing the lead over to the manufacturer so the manufacturer now has the ability to continue to market to this consumer and so does the retailer as a joint effort so they can stay on brand with this consumer.”
A changing paradigm
This process deviates from the typical path of the consumer who first visits a manufacturer’s website and is then directed to a local retailer’s website via a dealer locator tool. According to Weller, many manufacturers spend money to bring consumers to their site to educate them on their brands and products, but there’s a drop off or disconnect once they visit the retailer’s website from the look, feel and the branding.
Weller noted that flooringstores.com is aimed at improving many problems in our industry. “Right now manufacturers face so many issues they can’t control—such as what happens in the retail store or on a retailer’s website. They don’t have insight as to what happens on the phone between the retailer and consumer. All those things are controlled in our environment. Here, we can help the manufacturers educate a consumer, introduce them to their aligned retailer and deliver that consumer into a retail store knowing exactly what she wants.”
Using the new system, every manufacturer will be able to showcase their products and catalogs to consumers as they look for retailers in their local market. “We would love to have every single manufacturer [on board] so consumers have the full plethora of options from which to choose,” Saunders said. “Where manufacturers start paying is when they want to have a brand page or use our pipeline to drive traffic to their brands and then drive consumers to retail stores asking for those brands.”
Any retailer can have a free store page on flooringstores.com, but the significant advantages begin once they upgrade to a premium page, which includes unlimited leads. “We’re going to be driving traffic to this website,” Weller explained. “If you pay for the premium listing and are using a FloorForce website, we'll allow you to utilize the call center during off hours for your website and all your digital marketing. Every single phone call is answered by a person who will take that information, put it into a lead center and get it over to you immediately.”
AdHawk is ensuring consumers will find their way to FlooringStores.com in a variety of ways. First, it is producing a significant amount of meaningful content from videos to buying guides. Second, it is investing significant capital in pushing the FlooringStores.com brand, which, in turn, generates leads and sales for retailers and manufacturers. Finally, they are using their background and understanding of SEO to their advantage with flooringstores.com name. When people search online for a retailer, 60% of the searches include “flooring stores near me,” which will place the site high up in organic listings. Saunders believes this is a huge advantage. “Coming from Google we understand the importance of good organic and SEO searches. So we should see a huge organic lift because most of the searches are ‘flooring stores’ or ‘flooring stores near me,’ and that’s our domain. We will be covering our bases with a paid media strategy, a massive content strategy and an aggressive organic strategy.”
With the acquisition, AdHawk will retain all 30 FloorForce employees, who will join the 60-strong AdHawk team—half of which are software engineers. “The flooring industry now has a very large, venture-backed, technology company that is solely focused on putting its retailers, manufacturers and consumers first,” Saunders said. “John and his team bring a ton of expertise but also the passion for making sure we move the industry forward. This acquisition is a rare fit, pairing our digital experience with their deep industry knowledge.”