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Dealers continue to see value in Mohawk’s Omnify program

June 10/17, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 26

By Lindsay Baillie

 

Almost three years ago Mohawk launched Omnify, an omni-channel solution that aims to simplify digital marketing by capturing and tracking leads while also streamlining social media publishing and search engine marketing. Today, Omnify works in conjunction with many of Mohawk’s other initiatives including its revamped Five Star program as well as Edge, its new go-to-market strategy.

Many Mohawk dealers adopted Omnify when the manufacturer unveiled the program at Solutions in 2016. Rahim Daya, principal and general manager, The Westvalley Flooring, Alberta, Canada, became a believer only five minutes into FloorForce’s chief innovation officer John Weller’s Omnify presentation. “We were the first company in our market/region to sign up for Omnify,” Daya explained. “I have been hands on with my company’s digital presence right from day one, realizing the importance of Internet marketing. After a careful review of optimization options available in my region and speaking to John, I decided to work with Omnify.”

For Daya, Omnify truly does simplify digital marketing. “Mohawk has done an excellent job of realizing that store owners are not online marketing executives,” he said. “With Omnify, you have the expertise of people who know and understand the flooring business working with you to deliver tangible results. The program has allowed me to benefit from the Internet while being able to focus on what my company does best—sell flooring.”

For Daya’s business, Omnify provides the latest, up-to-date graphics and interface that aligns with the consumer’s ethos—a major selling point. Through Omnify the consumer is led through the digital pipeline to Daya’s front door. “[Omnify] is vested in ensuring state-of-the-art marketing is employed on a dealer’s behalf,” he explained.

Tom Heffner, president, About All Floors with locations in Birdsboro and Wyomissing, Pa., has also seen the value in using the omni-channel program. “We’ve been using Omnify since its inception,” Heffner explained. “I’ve had lots of sales reps come in and offer me digital advertising programs, but they’ve all been expensive and haven’t worked. With Omnify you are partnered with Mohawk to drive your brand in the local market while tying it to the world’s largest flooring manufacturer. There is an interest in it working for both my company and Mohawk, and they’ve committed the resources and people to make it work.”

Paula Anselone, owner, Anselone Flooring, Mansfield, Mass., signed on for Omnify in November 2018 and has already seen a difference. “We have noticed a significant increase in online leads and have found it helps our customers with a more fluid shopping experience,” she said. “I would definitely recommend Omnify to other flooring dealers, especially if they use FloorForce web hosting. It’s a no-brainer.”

While flooring dealers have a host of options when choosing digital marketing programs, many believe Mohawk’s Omnify provides greater value. “Digital marketing programs that are not segmented specifically towards flooring do not offer the same level of value as Omnify,” Daya told FCNews. “Mohawk and its senior management team understand the process and are extremely value driven in this area. A combination of flooring expertise and a sound understanding of digital applications make this the best valued program in the market based on my experience.”

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Technology: Top 10 tips for choosing the right software

June 10/17, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 26

By Lindsay Baillie

 

Selecting the ideal software for a flooring business should not be done in haste. That is according to several software manufacturers that urge dealers to take their time getting to know and understand the ins and outs of each system.

New software—whether it is a store’s first system or simply taking the place of an existing program—often requires a dealer to invest time and money before it is running at maximum efficiency. In addition, employees must be more open to adapting to the new business/measuring/inventory system, which can greatly affect the success of the software.

Following are 10 things to consider before leaping into a new software purchase.

Evaluate your business cycle. When considering new software, experts say it is important to know the current status of your business cycle and where the company needs to be to increase revenue and reduce operational costs. The right software should reduce or eliminate errors, minimize repetitive actions and lower operational expenses.

“If your business involves too many manual processes, your bottom line is affected,” said Edgar Aya, president, Comp-U-Floor. “Every time a mistake is made it affects your overall profit, reduces your selling time and directly impacts your overall business health. This is where the right software can make a huge impact on your profitability.”

Define your objectives. Before looking for software, dealers should create a list of what they want the program to achieve. For example, does a dealer want stock inventory? How important is inventory control? Does the dealer want to focus on automating paperwork and bookkeeping?

“Many people include every feature and function they ever heard about in their wish list of things they want the software to do,” said Joseph Flannick, president, American Business Software (ABS). He reminds dealers that all their software does not necessarily have to come from one vendor.

The main objective, he said, is to be realistic. “Think more along the lines of ‘must have’ vs. ‘nice to have.’ The larger the budget, the more things you can include in the ‘must-have’ category.”

Weigh the benefits of industry specific vs. generic. Software manufacturers say this choice depends on multiple factors, including the size of the company and the goals of the business, among other consideration. RFMS advises flooring dealers to look into flooring- specific software before investing in a generic program.

“Because of the uniqueness of the flooring industry—think about roll goods and inventory control or measure/estimating projects—most of the time industry-specific software is the best choice,” said Rod Bayless, director of sales and marketing.

Industry-specific software can also help eliminate errors prior to installation. Some experts believe measuring software should provide the installer with a clear drawing as well as all the information he or she needs for the project. “It should have a printout indicating where the flooring needs to be installed with all seams showing,” said Dennis Benton, president, NivBen. “It should also have a fill-cut sheet displaying the fills and their sizes. This will help the installers proceed with the project with ease.”

Choosing between cloud-hosted vs. cloud-based. Beyond comparing industry- specific programs with generic software, dealers should also look into the differences between cloud-hosted and cloud-based software.

“There are many companies that offer services for low monthly fees that are cloud-hosted,” Comp-U-Floors’ Aya explained. “This often means the older desktop technology was moved to a server, so it is easier for a provider to push out updates to all of its users at one time and allows for easy management of the older technology. This dated technology will not help you grow to meet customer demand.”

By comparison, cloud-based technology is fairly new to the flooring industry and often requires an upfront investment—namely time. As Aya explains: “It is written in the latest advanced code, is responsive to your devices anywhere and anytime, has links to other internal components within the software and allows using the Google Calendar Interface for installer or service scheduling.”

Look for an easy-to-use program. Software is designed to automate operations and maximize efficiency. To fulfill both those requirements, observers say, software must be easy to use for all users.

“If only one or two people in your company know how to use the software, it obviously limits the level of impact you will see,” said Chad Ogden, CEO and president, QFloors. “Look for user-friendly software that everyone in your company can learn—even those who are not particularly tech savvy. A good way to evaluate ease of use is to count how many different screens and clicks are required to perform a certain function.”

Look for integrated software. To remain relevant and profitable in today’s rapidly evolving flooring industry, using available digital technology combined with industry-specific software is key. This means taking the time needed to find the best fit so that you can benefit from the efficiencies, analytics and performance improvement available.

“Dealers should invest in a system with integrated accounting that seamlessly pairs their flooring-specific processes—such as job cost, inventory value, purchasing and other business reporting—in real time, and then flows easily to a system’s analytic platform to deliver critical business data in a readily comprehensible visualization format,” said Kelly Oechslin, marketing coordinator, RollMaster.”

Using an integrated soft- ware program also makes per- forming various tasks on a job site easier and can reduce human error, experts say. “The easier your measure solution is integrated with your business management the better,” said Steven Wang, president, Measure Square. “That way you don’t have double entry or need to switch to other software.”

Schedule system demos.After learning about a software’s benefits, bells and whistles, it is important to schedule an in-depth demo with team members from every department of your company. “Since each department will have needs that are specific to their area of the business, it might be best to set up a series of shorter demos with each department,” Bob Noe Jr., president, Pacific Solutions, explained. “Remember, if you have buy-in from the majority of your staff, the adoption of the software will be a much smoother process.”

Ask about tech support. Beyond a software’s features and benefits, dealers should also look into the quality of support available from each software company. This includes any resources available to help bring the staff up to speed as well as technical and training support.

“Training and technical support, if not included with your purchase, can sometimes be unanticipated ‘gotcha’ costs,” QFloors’ Ogden warns. “Before purchasing software, ask a lot of questions about the options and costs for training, conversion and ongoing support. Also, find out what your technical support will look like. For instance, after your purchase, can you call and talk with a live person if you have a question?”

Request referrals. Don’t just take the vendor’s word on it. Before choosing a software system it is important for a dealer to speak with other businesses that have used it. The key, according to Pacific Solutions’ Noe, is to find dealers of similar size and scope.

While speaking with those referrals, experts also suggest dealers ask about their experiences with the software company’s technical support and training staff.

Choose a system that evolves over time. A great software program will grow alongside a dealer’s business, experts say. To this point, it is important for dealers to evaluate where they want their business to go in the future and then select a system accordingly.

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A look back at 2018’s top introductions

April 29/May 6, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 24

By Lindsay Baillie and Ken Ryan

 

In a marketplace plagued by “me-too” products, it is up to manufacturers to develop standout flooring. Whether it’s carpet, hardwood, laminate, tile or resilient, suppliers have had to step up their game in style, design and performance to excite flooring dealers and customers alike.

In 2018, the industry saw a plethora of new products enter the scene. Following is an overview of those products that stood out to flooring retailers.


Terra Linda by Anderson Tuftex

About the product: Terra Linda is a 100% Stainmaster Luxerell BCF nylon carpet with textured styled. Available in 24 colors the signature product also features A/T’s Softbac Platinum Backing.

Sierra Nevada by Audacity from CFL
About the product:
Audacity’s water-resistant laminate floors are available in five collections—Classic Naturals, Hearthside, Lodge, Monticello and Vintage. In the U.S. and in Canada, Audacity Flooring is sold exclusively through select Armstrong Flooring distributors.

Adventure II by Engineered Floors
About the product:
EF’s Adventure II is a 5.5mm luxury vinyl plank with a 22-mil wear layer and a ceramic bead finish. Available in nine wood-look visuals, the 7 x 48-inch plank can be installed floating and comes with a 10-year commercial warranty and a lifetime residential warranty. What’s more, Adventure II is Floorscore certified for indoor air quality.

Sono by Inhaus
About the product: Sono is a 100% recyclable, PVC-free flooring that is made up of 60% mineral powder and 40% polypropylene. Sono is waterproof, easy to install and highly stable under both humidity and heat. The company continues to invest in its digital printing to ensure quality, on-trend visuals.

RevWood Plus by Mohawk
About the product: 
RevWood Plus is a revolutionary wood floor destined to make consumers rethink the wood category. RevWood Plus planks offer reliable durability that resist stains, scratches and dents. Thanks to its 100% waterproof flooring system, spills, accidents and tracked-in-stain-makers are kept on the surface for quick, easy cleanup.

Sweet Memories collection by Mirage
About the product: 
Mirage’s Sweet Memories collection features the manufacturer’s exclusive staining and brushing processes to create floors with the charm of yesteryear. Variations, knots, cracks and other natural characteristics help to create the collection’s authentic appearance.


Titanium by Karastan

About the product: Karastan’s Titanium rug collection is grounded by a careful combination of both traditional and transitional patterns. The collection is meant to satisfy a craving for contrast with a fashion-forward fusion of matte and sheen finishes.


Acrylx by Raskin

About the product: Acrylx is a solid surface waterproof floor available in three collections: Premier Home, Premier XL and Premier G-Core XL. Acrylx’s high-density core is made of pure materials and minerals that are tightly bonded with polymers to create a solid core that is more impact resistant and denser than other floors.


Great California Oak by Republic Floors

About the product: Great California Oak is an extra-wide, pure SPC floor with beveled edges and realistic grains. The 100% waterproof flooring carries a limited 25-year residential warranty and a limited 10-year commercial warranty. What’s more, it features the company’s new antibacterial EVA underlayment padding.


Bellera by Shaw Floors

About the product: Created with a holistic approach to meet the design and performance needs of consumers, Bellera is a top-to-bottom innovation known for style and durability. With Bellera, Shaw’s new Endurance high-performance fiber is combined with proven technologies such as R2X soil and stain resistance and LifeGuard backing to create a worry-free carpet.


Harbor Plank by Southwind
About the product: 
The Harbor Plank series features planks 6 x 48, with a high-density wood plastic composite core and a Uniclic locking system. Attached to each luxury vinyl plank is the Southwind IXPE underlayment pad, which is impervious to water, hides subfloor imperfections, provides added sound absorption and comfort underfoot.


COREtec Pro Plus by USFloors
About the product: 
The COREtec Pro Plus Series consists of two collections: COREtec Pro Plus (5mm total thickness) and COREtec Pro Plus Enhanced (7mm total thickness). COREtec Pro Plus Enhanced includes all the features of the Pro Plus collection coupled with a four-sided enhanced bevel for added realism.


Radius by Stanton Carpet

About the product: Stanton’s Radius broadloom carpet is available in Stanton Street, the company’s Decorative Commercial line. Radius is a cut-pile nylon and is crafted for residential to heavy commercial application.

TruTEX by Tarkett
About the product: With its unique textile backing, TruTEX luxury sheet flooring resists mold and mildew while adding superior strength against rips, tears and gouges. With 20 realistic, high-definition stone and wood designs, TruTEX is easy to install over existing floor coverings, greatly reducing the time spent preparing subfloors.

 

 

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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.”