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Tech companies serve up digital solutions at TISE

March 4/11, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 20

By Lindsay Baillie

 

Flooring software systems were not the only digital innovations present at this year’s show. Several tech companies—Creating Your Space, Floor Force, Retail Lead Management and Podium, to name a few—introduced updates to programs designed to assist dealers with website development and management, lead generation and CRM.

Creating Your Space put the spotlight on its Visual AR collection, a package of tools allowing flooring dealers to sell multiple products from various suppliers and market them on their websites in a way that is simpler for the consumer.

“The new technology we have built in our system now allows the consumer to choose a product based on the color and style she wants and see it in a room or her own room,” Jay Flynn, vice president, explained. “The consumer can do that with several manufacturers’ products and it is all customized to the retailer’s store and the products that retailer carries.”

At the FloorForce space, updates to its growing product catalog were the focal point. It’s all about making it easier to manage sites. “Right now, if you search for hardwood, we show you all the hardwood available,” explained Todd Saunders, CEO of AdHawk, the company that recently acquired FloorForce. “What we want to be able to do is [predict] what hardwood or carpet the consumer is most likely to pick. Similar to Amazon’s recommended products, we’re coming out with our own based on what the retailer wants to sell and also what is creating the greatest conversion.”

In addition to updates with FloorForce, AdHawk has developed flooringstore.com, touted as one of the largest directories of flooring. “Our goal is to help get products in front of customers; this way consumers aren’t coming to the store to receive all of their education. We want to help them get all of their education online so that when they’re in the store they’re ready to buy.”

Other companies focused on the lead management aspect. To that end, Retail Lead Management increased its presence at this year’s show with its own booth. The goal, according to Jason Goldberg, the company’s creator who also serves as CEO of America’s Floor Source, was to get Retail Lead Management’s new system in front of flooring retailers to show them the possibilities.

“Most flooring retailers don’t manage their leads,” Goldberg told FCNews. “The average dealer manages his leads by pen and paper. If you were to ask the store owner how many leads he is managing, he would probably have no idea. Retail Lead Management allows the dealer and salesperson to track all of their leads, getting more conversion which makes the store more money.”

New updates to the Retail Lead Management system include an analytics package, which helps dealers quickly understand where their leads were captured. “We also just added a new calendar to our software,” Goldberg noted. “In the past we only had listing pages; now we have an actual calendar that allows dealers to see their employees’ tasks.”

In the realm of CRM systems, Podium showed TISE attendees a new tool that allows the company to take a retailer’s landline and turn it into a text-able number. As Luke Salisbury, senior account executive, explained: “This allows the sales reps to text conversations with their customer while that customer sees the landline as the number.”

With this tool, all of the employees are able to manage their conversations independently. What's more, the customer’s information is saved to the company’s database instead of an employee’s personal phone, which protects the retailer in case an employee leaves the business. “We also have a tool on the company’s website that says ‘Have a question? Text us here,’” Salisbury said. “The customer enters in her name and question, and instead of her having to stay on the website, this starts a text conversation.”

Podium also has new integrations with RFMS and QFloors. These new relationships help the company assist dealers with various CRM processes including collecting reviews. “In RFMS once they mark the job as finished an automated text message comes from Podium asking for a review,” Salisbury said.

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Technology: Flooring software aims to provide intelligence, increase productivity

March 4/11, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 20

By Lindsay Baillie

 

Las Vegas—The show floor at The International Surface Event (TISE) is packed with just about everything a flooring dealer needs to be successful in the coming year. Beyond viewing product and tool innovations, retailers have the opportunity to learn more about the various flooring-specific software companies that are looking to help the industry streamline processes and make more money.

Some of the latest software innovations seen at TISE aim to provide flooring dealers with easily digestible business insights—curating infographics that allow industry members to analyze metrics at a glance. Others are looking to make it easier for retail sales associates to close the sale as well as conduct day-to-day processes.

Following is an overview of some of the new programs and apps unveiled at TISE 2019.

Comp-U-Floor
The most important thing Comp-U-Floor has done is translate 40 years of experience into newer web and mobile technology. That’s according to Edgar Aya, the company’s CEO, who said he believes Comp-U-Floor’s latest innovations make it easier for users to complete day-to-day processes both in store and in the field.

“We are now using new tools and new designs that are more appealing to the users,” Aya said. “For example, if I’m an installer, I can now get my jobs automatically on my phone. I am also able to take a picture inside the customer’s home and upload it to the office. The technology is all cloud-based now and can be used on any mobile device.”

In addition, Comp-U-Floor software can be integrated with Measure Square’s technology.

Measure Square
One of Measure Square’s latest innovations includes an automatic takeoff program to help simplify the estimating process for commercial contractors.

“When a contractor uses this software it automatically finds the rooms and windows using AI technology,” Steven Wang, president, explained. “Once the room is identified, the user can drag a flooring product into the room and get the measurements. It saves people a lot of time.”

Another new application for the commercial flooring industry allows the user to create a 3D path through the floor plan. With this feature the user is able to determine how he or she wants to walk the customer through the project.

Pacific Solutions
Pacific Solutions said it has revolutionized its takeoff software in an effort to make it easier for commercial contractors to locate the edges of each room in a floor plan.

According to Bob Noe Jr., president, the old way to digitize a floor plan involved the user clicking on one corner of the room at a time to manually identify the walls.

“We’ve come up with a wall finder tool so all the user has to do is click once in the room and it locates the edges,” Noe explained. “It saves a ton of time by evaluating the print and determining what is a legitimate wall. It’s a game changer. It’s way faster than going through it by the perimeter.”

In addition to determining the edges, this application is design to let estimators know how much flooring is needed for each of the rooms.

QFloors
QFloors has developed QView—the company’s latest innovation—to help provide CEOs, presidents and CFOs with a simpler way to analyze business insights. This program, which took about a year to develop, provides flooring executives with multiple reports (in the form of widgets) on just one screen.

“In QFloors you’d pull up each one of these reports individually,” said Chad Ogden, president. “Instead of having to do that we’ve put them all on one screen for QView. An owner doesn’t have to search through reports—he or she can just look on one screen and then double click the widgets for more information.”

In addition to QView, QFloors talked to show attendees about its QPro cloud software, which was first introduced during the 2018 show but is now officially open to the public. “With QPro there’s really only two screens but it does all of the user’s invoicing, sales orders, inventory management, job costing—so we can teach [him or her] very quickly how to use it,” Ogden explained. “It’ll do the user’s b2b and all of these flooring-specific processes that programs such as QuickBooks can’t do.”

What’s more, Ogden noted, is the user doesn’t have to install anything because QPro is a browser-based application. The user is simply given a username and password to access company information.

RFMS
This year RFMS is focusing on mobility. That’s according to Madeleine Bayless, director of human resources, who shared that a lot of dealers are looking for all of the functionality they have in the office to be on their mobile devices.

“We’re building things with our measure estimating software where users can show renderings of preset homes as well as 3D renderings when they’re in the customer’s home,” she explained.

Fred Kotynski, CIO, sees mobility as a game changer for the flooring dealer. For example, through the company’s latest mobile applications salespeople have a checklist they are able to follow when closing a sale. “You can bring a novice salesperson into a sales position and it’s not going to take them months to get to the point where they can make a sale,” he explained. “This is going to steer them through the process. The people who have implemented our measure and RFMS mobile apps, both in the store and in the field, have resulted in increased margins. Bottom line has gone up by points.”

Beyond mobility, RFMS is redesigning its API to better integrate with more products. “We’re just trying to give the customers what they’re asking for,” Bayless said. “More mobility and more access to their data so they can pull out what they need.”

RollMaster
At TISE, RollMaster put the spotlight on RM Data Analytics, its new data visualization and business intelligence created to make retailers not only more productive but also profitable.

“Powered by Tableau, it takes our sales analysis, which normally people could look at either on screen in a report or Excel, and turns those numbers into images, bars and charts,” Kelly Oechslin, marketing coordinator, explained. “With this plugin users can see and compare salespeople, accounts receivable, etc.”

RM Data Analytics aims to make it easier for dealers to look at their businesses as a whole. The company creates the dashboard that displays the analytics, and the application is available as a plugin to the RollMaster system. “The users don’t have to do anything extra except add the API,” Oechslin said. “We’ve automated every aspect of the flooring industry, and now we’re looking at ways to enhance the business with online reviews, credit card processing, email marketing and e-commerce.”

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AdHawk acquires FloorForce

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.”

Smooth transition
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.”

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Technology: 10 advantages to using flooring-specific software

December 24/31, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 15

By Lindsay Baillie

 

Technology has changed all aspects of retail. Not only are consumers able to conduct research online, but dealers are able to market to customers and capture leads digitally. What’s more, technology has allowed retailers to completely digitize their day-to-day processes.

As more technology companies enter this space, finding the perfect software system to run a business can be daunting. While some dealers may prefer non-industry-specific software, such as QuickBooks, others may find success using programs and applications developed precisely for flooring transactions.

Following are 10 benefits industry-specific software experts believe dealers can reap by using flooring-specific software in their business.

Fosters relationships. One advantage to using an industry-specific software vendor is the relationship that is fostered between the dealer and software company. In addition to understanding the dealer’s needs, flooring-specific software vendor has the ability to offer tailored solutions and suggestions.

“Every RollMaster software implementation is more than a ‘software sale,’ it’s the beginning of a long-term relationship centered on implementing process control and industry-specific  tools designed to enhance margin control,” said Kelly Oechslin, marketing coordinator, RollMaster.

Easier to adopt. One of the potential real costs of incorporating new software is the “soft cost” some dealers face with loss of productivity and a decrease in employee morale. Flooring dealers often experience pushback from employees when they are faced with learning a new system. However, these issues can be minimized when working with an industry-specific software vendor who understands the employees’ needs and speaks their language. “The familiarity of the business and industry-specific process flow reduces the issues with switching to a new system as it reduces costs in support and training,” Oechslin explained.

More cost effective. Pricing for industry-specific software varies from vendor to vendor. However, flooring software companies believe it is generally more cost effective than using a generic software. This, they say, is because generic software is more error prone and can be more expensive in the long run when basic, necessary tasks require additional manual steps.

“When you utilize software for your flooring business, you essentially take the approach to handle your entire production process in the software,” said Ursla Gallagher, sales and marketing manager, Comp-U-Floor. “It streamlines processes such as quoting, creating the sales order, allocating inventory, purchasing, scheduling and invoicing of the job inside one software package.”

Saves time. Industry-specific software has the potential to save dealers time, which ultimately feeds into the system being more cost effective. In addition to reducing operational costs, flooring-specific software presents the opportunity to avoid costly errors.

“The most successful flooring companies throughout North America use, almost without exception, industry-specific software from one of the software companies that specialize in the flooring industry,” said Edgar Aya, president of Comp-U-Floor.

A software system that is developed specifically for the flooring industry also provides the user with the ability to automate and control certain functions. Through automation, dealers are able to streamline sales, purchasing, inventory, etc.

“Flooring-specific applications provides a return on investment by helping to control costs, track job profitability, report sales trends and improve customer service,” said Maria Cauchon, media services director, sales and marketing, RFMS.

Lowers overhead costs. The automation and streamlining processes available with flooring-specific software can also lead to decreased operating expenses. “You generally need fewer employees doing the same number of tasks, or you can have the same number of employees who now have time for additional tasks,” said Chad Ogden, president, QFloors. “Other money-saving benefits include better inventory management, more supplier discounts taken and greater protection against theft and costly mistakes such as double ordering, billing and payment errors.”

One-stop shop. Unlike generic software, which could require outside programs to complete day-to-day operations, most industry-specific software incorporate all aspects of a flooring business. Proponents of flooring-specific systems say they are often able to reduce redundancies in the business and ultimately decrease the number of errors that can occur when operating multiple systems at once.

“The greatest benefit in properly built ERP solutions is they bring all aspects of the business into a single location,” said Bob Noe Jr., president of Pacific Solutions. “It’s surprising in this day and age how many businesses wait until a contract is accepted before the job details are entered into a central system.”

Customization. One of the greatest benefits to using flooring-specific software is its ability to be tailored to a customer’s specific needs, experts say. “An industry-specific software company will mold the software to fit your business instead of you molding your business to fit the software,” said Ariel Fu, vice president of operations, MeasureSquare. “Many companies will choose software developed by large tech companies because they feel comfortable with a big name, but they find out they are forced to change the way they do business because the software does not accommodate their needs.”

When it comes to estimating, Dennis J. Benton, president of NivBen Software, believes flooring-specific programs can save installers from mathematical mistakes and the headache of converting measurements.

There are also other practical benefits. “Typically only industry-specific software will include things like dye lot and square-foot-to-carton conversions on picking tickets and invoices,” said Joseph Flannick, president of American Business Software. “In a nutshell, certain tasks can only be accomplished with industry-specific software while other tasks are considerably more complex and time-consuming.”

B2B. Another benefit to using a flooring-specific system is the user’s ability to share information via fcB2B. “Using an industry-specific software that offers fcB2B capabilities means you can keep your catalogs up to date much easier, with less time and effort,” QFloors’ Ogden said. “You can order through B2B, download your vendor invoices, check stock at the supplier and more—all right there within your software.”

Better accounting accuracy. Ogden also points out that most generic software systems are unable to calculate “use tax,” and that switching to a flooring-specific system may offer greater accuracy with taxes.

“In 28 states, ‘use tax’ is the law for flooring businesses,” he explained. “It is shocking how many dealers—and even more shocking how many accountants—don’t realize their sales tax is being calculated incorrectly. If you are in one of the 28 use-tax states, using a generic program typically means you must jump through a lot of special hoops to be in compliance.”

Boosts sales. Flooring-specific software has been proven to reduce costs across many aspects of the business. For many clients, this directly—and positively—impacts the bottom line.

“Without technology, sales reps have to wait until the end of the day to obtain measures from estimators and start working on the proposal,” MeasureSquare’s Fu stated. “With cloud technology, as soon as an estimator finishes the measure, he can sync the file to the cloud and sales reps can work on the bid instantly. This significantly shortens the turnaround time.”

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Marketing Online: Best way to generate reviews? Just ask

November 26/December 3, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 12

By Reginald Tucker

In this modern age of social media, it has become increasingly important for specialty retailers to effectively engage with consumers online. This not only applies to executing digital marketing initiatives relative to lead generation at the start of the product research phase, but also at the very end of the shopping cycle once the installation has been completed.

Experts like Taylor Cutler, digital marketing manager for Podium—a company that specializes in helping businesses communicate and interact with their customers to get reviews and feedback—recommends retailers follow a series of rudimentary steps to not only generate more online reviews but also better, more positive ones.

“First you want to make sure you’re collecting reviews on the right review sites,” Cutler said. “This means doing some research about the sites that your customers—and potential customers—might use. This includes Google and Facebook, obviously, but also several others that are industry specific.”

After that, dealers should get into the habit of inviting customers to provide positive reviews. “Customers tend not to do this on their own, unless they’ve had a very bad experience,” Cutler explained. “If you’re letting your reviews come in organically, you’re going to see a really polarizing effect where only those people who are motivated will jump through the barriers to give you a review.”

However, it’s not enough to ask customers for reviews, experts said. Dealers must also exercise good timing. Nine times out of 10, this means waiting until the purchase is made. “In the flooring industry, most of the time this is done after the flooring has been installed,” Cutler stated. “If you have a technician go out to install that carpet or another product, you want to make sure he or she asks the customer to kindly write a review—providing, of course, the customer is happy with the job. If you wait a week, or even a day or two, then the customer has likely already moved on.”

With all this emphasis on social media and digital technologies, Cutler said it’s important to focus on the fundamentals. “Even if you have the best online review platform in the world, if you’re not providing great customer service, people are not likely to give you good reviews, even if it was a good product.”

Above all else, it has to be easy for the customer to provide a review. In order to avoid illegitimate online reviews, most of the popular sites require customers to log in to those respective sites to prevent fraudulent activity. “It’s very difficult for customers to leave reviews anonymously these days; they actually have to have an account with that particular site,” Cutler said.

To help retailers keep things simple for the customer, Podium has developed software that detects the particular device the consumer is using to post a review, thereby removing any barriers. One of Podium’s key features is its text messaging system that allows businesses to ask customers for reviews with a push of a button. By using this feature, businesses are able to request a customer review seconds after a service is performed. This increases the business’ probability of gaining more reviews.

“If it takes the customer too long to leave a review, it could have the opposite effect,” Cutler said. “It’s best when the consumer is using her own device. It’s also wise to give the customer a heads-up that she might receive a text message asking for a review so she will be expecting it.”

While experts recommend retailers apply creativity when soliciting reviews, they caution against going overboard. “Retailers need to be careful about offering incentives for positive reviews, as this is against the guidelines for many review sites,” said Jim Augustus Armstrong, FCNews columnist, author and retail consultant. His recommendation? “Get into the habit of sending each of your customers an email asking for a review, and include links to several popular review sites.”

Like Cutler, Armstrong advises against having the customer use your store’s computer or tablet to write reviews, but for different reasons. “It’s easy for review companies to detect these kinds of kiosk tactics using incoming IP addresses and browser cookies,” Armstrong said. “It’s best to email the request and let the customer give the review from her home or personal device.”

Handling negative feedback
While most dealers welcome positive online reviews, there are situations where some customers might express their disappointment publicly. You’ve heard the story: A happy customer tells three people about her experience, but an unhappy customer tells 30 people.

The key to managing all this, experts said, requires action and a cool head. “If you get a bad review, reach out to the customer and try to correct the issue quickly,” Armstrong said. “Depending on the site, you may be able to comment on the review and explain the steps you’ve taken to make things right.”

Online marketing experts said it’s only natural—and realistic—to get a bad review every now and again. Studies show consumers are skeptical when they only see 5-star reviews online, so a less-than-perfect review can actually make you seem more real.

Armstrong recalled an incident regarding one of his clients: “‘I remember this guy’, a dealer from Minnesota told me. I had just pointed out that he had a negative review on Google. ‘He was rude to my staff and made unreasonable demands. When we told him we couldn’t give him what he wanted, he left this lousy review.’”

When someone leaves a negative review, it’s easy to get angry and defensive. Sometimes, however, the negative comment might be legitimate. In cases like this, Armstrong said, the reviewer has taken the time to point out a problem that is causing you to lose customers and money. The solution here, he said, is to swallow your pride and fix the problem.

“Sometimes all someone wants is a sincere apology,” he said. “Even if you didn’t do anything wrong, you can still say things like, ‘I’m sorry you’re frustrated. I get it.’”

Also, just because you have received a bad review, doesn’t mean it has to stay that way. “If you’ve resolved the problem and satisfied the customer who left you a bad review, kindly ask the customer if she will delete the bad review and give you a positive one about how you have fixed the problem,” Cutler said. “This has happened to me, and I’ve had no problem changing my review.”

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Technology: Latest CRM systems help flooring dealers find, manage leads

September 17/24, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 7

By Lindsay Baillie

Lead generation and management tools are becoming more important as consumers continue to start their purchasing journeys online. Whether a consumer finds a dealer via digital marketing, a TV commercial or a newspaper ad, these customer relationship management (CRM) systems help flooring retailers find and organize relevant leads as well as stay on top of their consumer’s projects from expected product delivery dates to when a job is to be completed.

As these technologies continue to advance, flooring dealers have the opportunity to optimize their business software and streamline processes to make capturing and following leads a breeze.

Following are several technology companies that offer CRM systems for generating and managing leads.

FloorForce

According to FloorForce, lead generation includes the process of attracting and transforming consumers into shoppers who show interest in the products or services a company sells. Today, FloorForce is leveraging Google, Facebook and Instagram, as these platforms are where a majority of consumers can be reached.

Once the company has the consumer’s attention, FloorForce focuses on delivering unique experiences and content to introduce, add value and warm up the target audience. This ultimately makes it feel more like a natural conversation than a sales pitch.

“This month, we are adding the Roomvo room visualizer to our lead generation experience, which we feel will transform the casual website shopping visit into a fully immersive augmented reality experience,” said John Weller, co-founder. “It will connect the consumer to the retailer and the products on the retailer’s website in a way most people have never dreamed of.”

Pacific Solutions

Pacific Solutions’ Opportunities module is a lead management system that works by giving users the ability to speculate the dollar size of the opportunity, the anticipated contract award date, the stage that the opportunity is in, etc. What’s more, the module tracks the specific market sector that generated the lead.

Users can also document all correspondence with customers, which is then compiled into a pipeline report that is sortable and exportable. Dormant leads can be uploaded to email marketing services, so the business can cast a broad net that will potentially reactivate an old lead.

“Our Opportunity module is fully integrated into both FloorManager and JobRunner,” said Bob Noe Jr., president. “When an ‘opportunity’ converts to a proposal and eventually a sale, the opportunity will mark itself as ‘won’ and will adjust the opportunity dollar amount to match the eventual amount of the actual sale. The user can then run a pipeline report on all ‘opportunities’ that are won and drill down on how many wins come from the sector, source or salesperson.”

QFloors

QFloors offers lead tracking and CRM capabilities as part of its base QFloors software system. Through its system, QFloors is able to manage the tracking and prioritization of leads, sales pipeline, sales projections marketing advertising ROI and more.

“It provides business owners invaluable information, such as which products and brands customers are purchasing, number of won vs. lost leads and closing rates by sales rep/product type/location/etc.,” explained Chad Ogden, president. “It answers important questions such as: How many people came in looking for hard surface vs. soft surface? Flooring vs. countertops? What were the close rates on each of those? Did our radio campaign increase the number of people who walked in our door?”

QFloors’ lead tracking and CRM capabilities also feature an “ups” system for sales reps to get assigned leads. It provides product sample tracking and checkout as well as data on how leads are generated.

Retail Lead Management

Retail Lead Management (RLM) was developed specifically to help flooring dealers manage all their retail flooring leads. What’s more, the software is customizable so dealers can have the company customize the fields wanted, the stages of the sales cycle and numerous other things within the system.

“We have the ability to work with third-party website and software providers to integrate our system with theirs,” Jason Goldberg, CEO of RLM and America’s Floor Source, explained. “We integrate with Comp-U-Floor, QFloors and RollMaster, so after a lead is created in our software, users can click a button and move the customer information directly into those operating systems.”

RLM also integrates with FloorForce or Creating Your Space websites as well as Podium and Reputation.com. “With our REST API we can basically integrate with any other software,” Goldberg noted.

RFMS

RFMS’ Client Management Module is a multi-functional program that helps dealers market, sell, communicate and manage projects of all sizes. Users are able to monitor sales progress and business performance, manage and track every aspect of multiple-phase projects as well as calendar, task tracking and email from within the program.

“Our CMM system is not a standalone product, but instead integrates with the flooring dealer’s RFMS program,” said Maria Cauchon, media services director.

CMM comprises two distinct areas to enable dealers to transform their business. Retail Sales Manager allows a user to track contacts, prospects or customers as they relate to the store’s sales and advertising. Commercial Project Manager lets dealers manage and track everything about their multiple-phase projects and jobs.

RollMaster

The RollMaster Lead Processing System is fully integrated with the company’s main flooring business software; once the lead is entered, it flows through to the quote, order, purchasing stages. What’s more, the program assists with tracking incoming phone-in leads, which are directed to a manager who can assign them to different RSAs.

“The sales rep can access the leads from their RMMobileSales app, wherever they are, and it then allows them to attach contracts and any paperwork from the field, allowing the office to immediately begin order processing,” said Kelly Oechslin, marketing coordinator. “The process is quick and efficient.”

The RollMaster Lead Processing System, though used by many different dealers, is designed specifically for the shop-at-home retailer. In addition to this system, RollMaster also offers a REST API, which allows dealers to pick any applicable independent lead generation app or CRM and create an integration.

Stock Systems

Stock Systems’ complete program—which includes Stock Inventory, Stock Logistics and Stock Sales—is an integrated customer experience platform. According to Chase Shiels, CEO, the platform provides customers with transparency throughout the entire sales process, which helps to build customer relationships and referrals.

Stock Sales holds contact information, allowing the user to do follow-ups and schedule appointments. Stock Inventory is where the user manages sales and purchase orders as it relates to sales orders, invoicing and tracking through the order prep process. Lastly, Stock Logistics provides notifications to the customer as to when a product is scheduled to be delivered, which truck is making the delivery and who is driving the truck.

“Every part of our platform feeds information to the customer and creates the entire experience,” Shiels explained. “We’re trying to provide transparency through the entire process. That’s the biggest area for forward progress for manufacturers, distributors and retailers.”

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Xpress Global Systems opens new service center

Chattanooga, Tenn.–Xpress Global Systems, LLC (XGS) has opened a new, 68,500-square-foot service center in Lakeland, Fla. According to Darrel Harris, CEO, the new facility allows XGS to more efficiently service a greater footprint in Florida.

“Analysis showed us that a much larger, more modern facility in Lakeland would provide better service to our valued customers and allow us to improve efficiencies,” Harris stated. “The Lakeland facility fits well with our expansion plans in the Florida market and beyond.”

XGS, which began in 1986 as a long-haul shipper for the carpet industry, employs more than 600 people across 31 facilities around the U.S. With decades of experience serving the transportation needs of the floor covering industry, XGS has a long track record of success in handling a wide range of products, including carpet, hardwood, laminate, vinyl, tile and area rugs.

“XGS remains committed to efficiency and growth in 2018 and beyond,” Harris added. “We are happy to add the Lakeland facility to our portfolio.”

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Technology: 10 retailer tips for choosing software tools

June 11/18, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 26

By Lindsay Baillie

 

Most flooring dealers use software to help manage and automate their businesses. However, choosing the right program to use can be a challenge, especially when considering just how many software companies and platforms exist. While some dealers find it easier to implement generic systems, others swear by using flooring-specific software. Despite differing opinions, all flooring dealers agree any program should make day-to-day business easier—if not, it might be time for a change.

Following are some software suggestions and considerations from flooring dealers who have achieved positive results in this regard.

Tip #1: Do your research

Jake Pierce, Pierce Flooring & Design, with three locations in Montana

In addition to using RFMS and Podium, Pierce Flooring & Design has an IT team that has created apps off the company’s database to monitor aspects of the business. According to Pierce, flooring dealers should consider their budget and the program’s efficiency. Ultimately, a software program should help get daily tasks completed faster. “All software will be lacking some reporting features when it gets to each individual business and how it runs,” Pierce said. “Also, every system has drawbacks when it comes to what it can and cannot do. Do your research, take your time and ask questions to other businesses that are using the software you are considering.”

Tip #2: Make a list

George McMurtry, America’s Carpet Outlet, State College, Pa.

America’s Carpet Outlet has used RFMS for its business software needs for 22 years. McMurtry recommends flooring dealers consider several points, including: who needs to have access to the program, and whether or not they want to immerse themselves in b2b. If a dealer answers ‘yes’ to the latter, he or she should “reach out to the major suppliers and see what systems are compatible.”

In addition, McMurtry suggests writing down everything the dealer wants the program to do. “For example, order entry, payroll, back office, etc. If you have multiple locations, you might even want internal inventory management. Then, look to see which programs can offer you the most.”

Tip #3: Find a program specific to your needs

Kevin Rose, Carpetland USA, Rockford, Ill.

Carpetland USA utilizes Comp-U-Floor software to run its business. “The [company] has always taken care of us and is constantly trying to keep up with changes in the flooring industry to accommodate the retailers and wholesale industry,” Rose said.

Carpetland USA suggests dealers ask themselves whether or not the software they’re considering is specific enough to their needs. “General software that is not flooring specific can create several issues once you get into the details of inventory, cost tracking and detailed information,” Rose noted.

Tip #4: Select tools that expedite tasks

Martin Cohen, Peacock Interiors, San Francisco

Peacock Interiors has used QuickBooks since 1999. (It also uses Measure Square.) The store is unique in that it is a one-man operation that mainly handles commercial and cash-and-carry jobs. According to Cohen, a flooring dealer can get easily married to the first program he or she uses, so it is critical the software saves the dealer time on everyday tasks. “If you’re a hands-on guy, you’re going to be using it every day and the support from the software is critical.”

When Cohen incorporated Measure Square, he was looking to speed up measuring processes. “The first job I did paid for the Measure Square program,” Cohen said. “Being able to import PDFs and easily do takeoffs with the program is amazing.”

Tip #5: Select a user-friendly program

Greg Besteman, Advanced Interiors, Jenison, Mich.

Advanced Interiors has been using QFloors for a little over five years. That’s the company’s primary business operating software for daily transactions for producing financial statements.

From a management perspective, Besteman suggests finding a software program that is easy for staff to use. “I don’t make money if I have to help everyone work through using the software,” he explained. “So the ease of them using the software by themselves on a day-to-day level is crucial.”

Tip #6: Choose a program you’ll be comfortable using

Steve Weisberg, Crest Flooring, Allentown, Pa.

Crest Flooring uses Rockson Technologies for management and accounting purposes. The store is also considering Measure Square software to fulfill its estimating needs. For Weisberg, flooring software should be easy to use and easy to teach to store employees.

“Consider how your business is run and don’t overkill it with more technology than you are comfortable with,” he explained. “Many dealers wear a lot of different hats every day that you will eventually need someone in your organization to be totally responsible for your software.”

Tip #7: Consider integration capabilities

Claudia Smith, Aggieland Carpet One, College Station, Texas

Aggieland Carpet One uses Pacific Solutions software. “Job Runner has really helped us grow without having to hire too many more people,” Smith said. “The learning curve is very short, and it’s easy to marry your paper flow along with the software processes. Smith said one key point is whether a software program will properly interface with other systems. “If you want to run a good business your processes have to be integrated,” she said.

Tip #8: Compare cost and flexibility

Colin Pinder, Pinder Tile & Stone, Nassau, Bahamas

Pinder Tile & Stone uses ABS for three different businesses in four locations. “ABS has customized its program to help me consolidate all of the accounting at one location,” Pinder said. “I met ABS many years ago at Coverings and found it was up to date with the newest technology.”

Pinder believes flooring dealers should strongly consider how much a software program costs as well as whether or not the software company is willing to customize programs. “I am in the Bahamas, so I have specific customs and freight rate issues that impact the cost of goods,” Pinder explained. “ABS worked with us so that we could enter inventory into the system without missing any hidden costs.”

Tip #9: Request (and complete) multiple demos

Brooks Clem, Peters Flooring and Paint, Hot Springs, Ark.

Peters Flooring and Paint has been a Roll Master user since 2005. “It just really runs our business—it’s our everything,” Clem explained. “I’ve gone through several kinds of software, and we’re also in the paint business. Our past software was more for paint and didn’t really handle inventory well. Before choosing a software program, Clem suggests requesting demos with multiple companies. “You need to interview the companies. Clem also recommends properly planning on the front end. “You need to know what you’re missing from your current software. Figure out what your needs are.”

Tip #10: Evaluate customer service

Heidi Press, ImPressive Floors, Bedford, Pa.

ImPressive Floors has used QFloors to operate its business for the last 10 years. The company also uses Measure Square for its estimating. Prior to QFloors, the retailer used a generic software program designed mainly for accounting. When considering a new software program, Press urges dealers to interact with the customer service departments.

“The best part of being a QFloors customer is the service it provides, which is only a phone call away,” Press said. “The online wait is minimal, and a well-trained representative is always available for any of the operating or accounting questions that come up.”

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Technology: Flooring software aims to bring simplicity to daily workflow

March 5/12, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 19

By Lindsay Baillie

 

Las Vegas—Business management, estimating and measuring software manufacturers continue to serve up solutions to simplify flooring dealers’ daily processes. At Surfaces, these companies showed off the latest programs and apps in cloud- and browser-based formats for both residential and commercial businesses.

The following is an overview of some of the new programs and apps unveiled during Surfaces 2018.

Comp-U-Floor
Comp-U-Floor’s latest web and mobile applications are now all cloud-based, which has sped up the databases five or six times the original speed, according to the company. The software can also now be run on any device, including iPads, Androids, computers and iPhones.

“With Comp-U-Floor web and mobile, you can access your system from anywhere on any device,” said Mark Wiltgen, sales and marketing manager. “There’s now a mobile app available for installers, which has multiple filtering and search capabilities. It has secure dashboards to provide a quick analysis of all business operations, which are all filed and listed based on the user’s role in the company.”

With this updated system, retailers can now walk around showrooms with the customer and do all of the sales processes from an iPad or other hand-held electronic devices.

Kerridge Commercial Solutions
Kerridge Commercial Solutions has unveiled an improved installation scheduling interface, a real-time general ledger for mid-month financials and increased trigger functionality, which sends users notifications whenever data is added, changed or deleted.

“Trigger functionality helps resolve issues before they become an issue,” said Lisa Truitt White, marketing manager for North America.

“For example, when a backorder is delayed and a purchase order is updated, the sales rep in charge of the order is notified immediately and can manage the customer experience prior to a job delay.”

Kerridge Commercial Solutions is also in the process of increasing functionality in its already ingrained CRM software.

Measure Square
Measure Square introduced its latest AR tool, which aims to make it easier for homeowners and dealers to conduct a home measuring, according to Steven Wang, president. To use the tool, a user simply calibrates the device he or she is using to measure and then selects the corners of the room. After the measurement of the space is calculated, the user can select various flooring types to view in the space. What’s more, the user also gets a finished drawing of the floor plan.

In addition to the AR tool, Measure Square has updated the number of devices able to run its applications. “We have launched the same software on Android devices,” Wang explained. “It’s now available on all devices.”

Measure Square has also integrated with other flooring software companies, including QFloors, RollMaster and Comp-U-Floor. These integrations aim to allow information to flow seamlessly from one program to another.

One program currently in testing is Measure Square’s new AI technology. “The program can automatically detect where the corners of the room are,” Wang explained. “The user first uploads a floor plan and the AI tool automatically detects where the room is and what the dimensions are.”

RFMS
RFMS brought a host of software enhancements to Surfaces. Among them is the Measure Mobile Order Entry, which allows dealers to go in the home and complete a measure and order (see page 35).

In addition to several mobile apps, new installer scheduling programs and a new CRM mobile app, RFMS is also developing a new data collection system. “We’re bringing a whole new ideology into the industry with our data collection system called Business Insights,” said Terry Wheat, CEO. “We’ll be able to give you trends on different products, average selling prices in different regions, average costs, etc. We will have data collected in one central [repository], and all the people who are already sharing data are already able to benchmark.”

The new system has been in development for the past two years. “To date, we have 162 stores sharing data and we’ll have 500 stores by summer,” Wheat said. “Our goal is to have in excess of 3,000 to 5,000 stores sharing data. And then we’ll able to give users statistics on their financials and sales across the industry.”

RollMaster
Integration with Measure Square, new Install Web Calendar and Mobile Sales apps and automation are just a few of RollMaster’s new innovations for 2018.

“We’re integrating with Measure Square for commercial and residential measuring,” said Kelly Oeschlin, marketing coordinator/technical writer. “If users have RollMaster and are using Measure Square once they do the takeoffs and whatnot, it gets uploaded back into RollMaster.”

This integration, along with the company’s new apps, are part of RollMaster’s mission to help make users better businesspeople, according to Oeschlin. The Install Web Calendar and the Mobile Sales App were developed to allow employees in the field to have access to customer information, which promotes productive, knowledgeable conversations. Managers can also have access to inventory, payments and other key features to help run the business.

RollMaster has also incorporated automation as a way to help its users. “There are all of these programs in marketing and business that we’re bringing in and giving access to our users, so they can connect,” Oeschlin explained. “For example, online reviews with Testimonial Tree. We also integrate with Retail Lead Management so that users can access that program.”

Pacific Solutions
New to Pacific Solutions is the company’s multi-family portal for its mobile plan. As Bob Noe Jr., president, explains: “If you’re in an apartment complex and using the multi-family portal, you can call up the unit number and confirm the floor plan, and you can tell it whether or not you’re changing the carpet and then submit that information to the system.”

Pacific Solutions’ SiteDraw has also been updated to allow the use of an iPad as a reference point for measuring. SiteDraw’s current features include measuring, drawing, positioning, placing doors, measuring angles and curves, naming rooms, placing flooring product in designated rooms, recording nots, access to saved files and various export options.

The company also showcased changes to its FloorRight software, which allows users to import flooring plans, create materials, draw rooms, add transitions, add bases, estimate the job, generate reports and integrate with management software. “Now FloorRight software can automatically find wall perimeters,” Noe added.

QFloors
QFloors has released the first edition of QPro POS+, a 100% browser-based cloud software. According to Chad Ogden, president, all current QFloors customers will eventually be grandfathered into the software at no additional cost.

“Our QPro product is the one that everyone has been waiting for,” he said. “It’s the first time we’re selling it to the public and we’re excited as a company.”

As a browser-based cloud software, QPro has lower operating and material costs, greater device independence, easier customization, more flexibility and compatibility, easier third-party integration and enhanced security and redundancy.

In addition to QPro, QFloors is offering users a commercial version of the original QFloors and a Mobile Office application. The company has also integrated with Measure Square to provide seamless transitions from one program to the other.

“For our current users, the Mobile Office can help increase sales with less mistakes and the receivables go down,” Ogden said. “They can also do everything in-house.”

 

Digital services galore at Surfaces

Various tech companies got a chance to shine at Surfaces as they sought to provide assistance to dealers struggling with their own websites and digital strategies. Among them: Creating Your Space (CYS) and Floor Force, which showcased updates to their programs and proven solutions for digital marketing and CRM.

CYS demonstrated the depth of customization to its full digital marketing program. How it works: Every dealer gets a custom, unique program starting with the website all the way through the digital marketing. “It helps them not only get their hands around a complicated offering that changes daily, but it also ensures they get exactly what they need for their business,” said Jay Flynn, vice president, CYS.

CYS customizes its digital programs based on the following criteria: the size of a business, its goals, the competition in the store’s area and the store’s budget. “There are a number of digital marketing tools out there with varying goals and purposes,” Flynn said. “What we’ve done is broken it down for the dealer based on those four parameters and said, ‘Here are the tools and the right budget based on where you are for your business.’”

While digital marketing and social media strategies are still relatively fresh concepts to industry members, John Weller, co-founder, Floor Force, sees an optimism in dealers and a shift toward greater digital involvement. “We’ve gone from about 20% of our retailers investing in websites and paid advertising to over 50%. We now have over 1,000 retailers doing Google AdWords, which is a huge sign that people are starting to really understand digital marketing. We expect to have over 1,000 dealers on our Facebook campaign this year. Things are progressing.”

As for new offerings, Floor Force has completely changed its portfolio. “We’ve added integrated CRM to our program, and we’ve also partnered with Retail Lead Management,” Weller said. “We’ve developed a really well-thought-out CRM system that is fully integrated with our website.”
Floor Force is also launching a new Facebook inventory ad program that will allow retailers to put products into various product catalogs and clearance sections, which will then be continuously added to a curated product catalog of in-stock products available for consumers to see throughout their online journey.

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Technology: Embracing artificial intelligence is a smart move

March 5/12, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 19

By Lisbeth Calandrino

 

Mention the term “artificial intelligence” (more commonly referred to as AI) and most people think of science-fiction movies. But the reality is this emerging technology stands to reinvent business as we know it today.

So, what is AI exactly? In essence, AI entails software, machines, etc., designed and programmed in such a manner they think like humans—all while learning in the process. Truth be told, we have only just begun to see how AI is already improving our lives. Some examples include: Apple’s Siri, Google’s self-driving cars and Facebook’s image recognition software, to name a few. Personally, I don’t know how these things happen; I just know they enhance my experiences and interactions with the world.

In that same vein, more businesses and brands are expected to use AI to customize the user experience by analyzing data, consumer-buying trends and browsing history. In the world of tomorrow, you won’t have to ask for the customer’s name, email and contact information; it will all be available through AI.

But the biggest impact of AI, industry experts say, will involve social media. We will continue to see a rise in real-time personalized content targeting with the aim of creating increased sales opportunities, mainly because AI can make use of effective behavioral targeting methodologies. There are other benefits for business as well. For instance, the capabilities of AI-powered fraud detection tools are available to help companies protect against fraud schemes. Speech and face recognition as well as chip readers are also common AI technologies that provide consumer protections. Interestingly, some people hesitate to embrace AI. Skeptics often ask, ‘Will they outthink us?’ or ‘Aren’t we smart enough?’ In truth, AI tries to understand our patterns of behavior and how we think. From that we can build “smarter systems” and better understand how to expand and understand our concept of intelligence.

AI has actually been around for some time. In 1950, English mathematician Alan Turing published a paper titled “Computing Machinery and Intelligence,” which opened the doors to the field that would be called AI. (Siri, for instance, is an intelligent personal assistant included in Apple’s iOS, watch, Mac and TV operating systems.)

I started thinking seriously about AI while listening to an interview with Eric Yuan, the CEO of Zoom on Masters of Scale, a podcast program hosted by Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn. This is my favorite podcast because the interviews are with the new business leaders in our country.

There are many video conferencing and webinar platforms out there, but Zoom is beta testing AI technology designed to help businesses by testing matching voices to facial recognition. How it works: Once you match a voice to a face, you will be able to know who is talking and who is listening. Yuan calls this an engagement score. The meeting, which will be recorded and transcribed, reveals helpful information about the participants. For instance, if the transcripts show you’re talking 80% of the time and only listening 20% of the time, what are you learning? Probably not much. Imagine if your managers have this information and can explain what it means to employees; this feedback can be used to help employees improve their listening behavior.

Retail businesses could use AI to determine if a customer is willing to purchase the product, seeking support or switching to another provider even before she actually approaches the store. AI might also collect essential data on the customer for the purpose of improving the overall shopping experience. How many businesses have an in-house person that can collect and decipher this invaluable information?

AI should be embraced, not feared. The technology is being used in ways to make our world more secure and allow us to immediately know what is going on around the globe.