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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.

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Technology: Chameleon Power gives dealers, suppliers an online edge

Photographic room visualization tools ease flooring selection, specification processes

 

By Reginald Tucker

 

If you’re not incorporating photographic visualization, virtual and augmented reality in your marketing, prospecting and lead-generation initiatives, then you’re missing out on potential sales opportunities and literally leaving money on the table. That’s according to the folks at Chameleon Power, a software company specializing in proprietary tools designed to help manufacturers, distributors, retailers and contractors deliver online and in-store/in-home presentations for their respective clients.

“Our core space is photographic visualization that lets users alter a photograph online while maintaining the photographic integrity of the original image,” said Dan Dempsey, Chameleon Power president and CEO. “Whether it’s for specification purposes or online and in-store selling, our technology moves the buyer down the path toward purchase.”

How it works: Chameleon Power dynamic visualization solutions provide real- time rendering of outcomes during usage. (Users may select from stock room scenes or upload their own rooms for instant viewing and selection of flooring products.) A website visitor or mobile app user can make instant changes of flooring and complementary surfacing to help with decorating decisions.

Chameleon tools are deployed as website solutions, in-store kiosks and mobile apps, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) solutions as well as product design and simulation technologies. Chameleon complements its tools with a suite of rendering, product photography, color correction, product simulation and print services. “We morph ourselves into whatever our clients need to help them embrace our software tools,” Dempsey said.

What’s more, Chameleon Power’s technology is flexible in that it can be applied toward various uses depending on the end-user channel. Online merchants, flooring retailers, homebuilders, designers, architects and many other channels servicing the end-user can implement Chameleon tools and services. For example, flooring dealers utilizing online tools, in-store kiosks, AR and VR tools can help their customers with colors, patterns and textures as they move to close the sale.

“That’s one of our key differentiators,” Dempsey stated. “Chameleon can ensure continuity from 2D to 3D, VR, AR, product simulation and beyond, which provides a more fluid set of tools and creates efficiencies and cost-savings for the suppliers.”

Constantly evolving
While Chameleon Power is by no means a newcomer in its field (it has been around for 20 years), the company has accelerated its product development in the 3D/virtual reality/augmented reality areas over the past several years. Many innovations from Chameleon spawn from client needs, including technologies for “blending,” which, according to Dempsey lets users to create unique mosaic combinations of tile and stone configurations.

Chameleon also creates simulation and print services to accommodate carpet manufacturers looking for more cost-effective, photo-accurate sampling solutions. “We have two color experts on our staff, including a color scientist who is our vice president of R&D, and our engines are developed based on our color science expertise,” Dempsey stated.  “Chameleon color tools help with product decisions and specifications, and we also help suppliers evolve their color palettes. In fact, the world’s largest paint and fabric companies use us to manage and enhance their product palettes.”

Today, Chameleon covers the gamut of visualization platforms, offering many different types of tools that all spawn from its original visualization engines.

Chameleon Power has also ramped up other aspects of its business, namely the Render Services category. The company employs more than 30 graphic design professionals who provide assistance for a range of commercial and residential clients. “A leading commercial flooring client works with us to specify products in projects all over the globe,” Dempsey stated. “They have 400 salespeople that we interact with daily to create outcomes with their products in a theme or a 2-D drawing of the floor plan or 3-D rendering.  We send back the project typically within the same day and help them close deals. Our graphics team even helps with flooring designs since they are graphically trained professionals. We also have render farms that do nothing but churn out volumes of vignettes based on numbers of products and scenes.”

Happy campers
Dempsey rolled off a litany of projects for clients such as Arizona Tile, Armstrong Flooring, Emser Tile, Shaw, Milliken and Ply Gem, to name a few—each with their own needs and requirements. Arizona Tile, is a case in point.  Over the course of the past five-plus years, the supplier worked with Chameleon Power on three different site projects—a standard visualization site, where customers can view the company’s products in various residential and commercial settings, as well as two customized portals specifically developed for Arizona Tile’s needs.

“In each case, Chameleon was able to accommodate very specific, custom requests we had and accomplish what we wanted to achieve,” said Adria Harrison, director of marketing. “All three sites are core components to our marketing strategy.”

Emser Tile is another satisfied customer. The manufacturer credits Chameleon Power with the creation of the room visualizer built into its website. “Chameleon has demonstrated a commitment over the years to be on the cutting edge of visualization tools, including the utilization of VR in their offerings,” said Bob Baldocchi, chief marketing officer and vice president of business development. “We believe customers’ expectations to visualize their selections with quality imaging in real time is increasing, and Chameleon is helping Emser Tile to meet these expectations.”

Upside for dealers
Chameleon’s manufacturer clients are not the only ones who stand to benefit from the suite of products offered. Floor covering retailers—those on the front line with consumers—have something to gain as well. According to Chameleon, sites that deploy its tools see user site times increase threefold. But the benefits don’t end there. “We’ve learned if someone actually gets to the point of saving a virtual room scene or project they’re working with, they will end up buying that product more than 75% of the time,” Dempsey explained. “It’s a fantastic lead generator—the best sales guide RSAs are going to ever deploy.”

Some of the big names on the retail client side of Chameleon’s business include the likes of Abbey Carpet & Floor, Carpet One, Empire Today, Floor & Décor and Rite Rug. The company also has distributors and interior designers that use its products regularly. “We offer a customer-facing technology, designed for someone who’s thinking about flooring and is now trying to decide where she’s going to buy it and which product she’s going to use,” Dempsey explained. “Providing technology at the website level ensures the customer is committed when they walk into the store. Having a website version that is also accessible on a kiosk at the store connects the dots between online and retail.”

Statistics and anecdotal data compiled by Chameleon Power show close rates and usages rates are significantly higher with a visualizer than without it. What’s more, the rate of return on investment in Chameleon systems is fairly quick. As Dempsey explained: “We have dealers that come in at $2,500 to start to use the tool, so one to two sales will pay for it. And we have some dealers that spend $50,000. It’s all based on complexity, product ranges, geographic scope, others.”

Regardless of a particular retailer’s size or market, Chameleon Power believes virtual marketing is no longer a luxury—it’s a necessity. “This used to be a premium tool that only the companies with the biggest budgets employed,” Dempsey stated. “It was a differentiator back then; today it is a standard technology.  Consumers who begin their research online expect retailers to offer it.”

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QFloors unveils updates, additions at Surfaces

Las Vegas—QFloors generated notice at Surfaces, as the flooring software company showcased new products, features and technologies.

“Our booth was flooded with people, both current and potential customers, who wanted to learn more about our new commercial, mobile and cloud products,” said Chad Ogden, president, QFloors. “We are really excited about these new and unique offerings, and I think the word has gotten out.”

Following its partnership with MeasureSquare, QFloors has developed even better integration to MeasureSquare’s flooring estimating software products. The QFloors ERP software system and the MeasureSquare takeoff estimating system work together to provide a seamless mobile solution, from initial measure to final payment.

Utilizing this integration, QFloors created its new Mobile Office Suite, which allows dealers to take their office with them to the job site or customer’s home. The new Office Suite makes it possible to effortlessly move through a range of activities including: measuring and estimation, checking stock, creating a proposal, emailing the proposal/invoice to the customer and capturing a signature—to name a few.

New commercial additions have also been developed. “We made it possible to treat commercial work and retail work completely separate from one another, for those floor covering dealers who do both,” Ogden said. “The reports are calculated differently, depending upon commercial or retail. We created a new dashboard that helps you see all of the projects going on at the same time. We’ve also added new updated reporting, new AIA reporting and several other finesses that just make QFloors ERP software much more commercial-friendly.”

QFloors has also officially released the first edition of QPro POS+, a 100% browser-based cloud software. Benefits of this new type of cloud technology include: lower operating and material costs; greater device independence; easier customization; more flexibility and compatibility (now and in the future); easier 3rd party integration and enhanced security and redundancy.

All current QFloors customers will eventually be grandfathered into the software at no additional cost. “Not only will these customers not have to pay for upgrades,” Ogden explained, “but they also will actually typically have costs decrease, as some of these IT and licensing fees go away.”

For more information, visit qfloors.com.