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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.

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Don’t be afraid of the big bad social media wolf

January 8/15, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 15

By Lindsay Baillie

 

The terms “digital marketing” and “social media” have been around for quite some time. In fact, most everyone in the flooring industry is talking about how to capture the new wave of consumers via social media sites and strong digital strategies. However, despite social media’s growing popularity, some flooring dealers are still hesitant to enter the digital space.

According to digital marketing experts, social media is no longer a choice for retailers. To stay current and capture the consumer in 2018, dealers have to make an effort to incorporate social media into their digital strategies.

Following are four reasons to no longer fear social media and embrace it.

1. It’s a crucial part to growing your business. While some dealers are still finding success in traditional forms of advertising, such as print and TV, experts suggest social media is an even greater outlet for growing business.

Lisbeth Calandrino, FCNews columnist and retail industry consultant, suggests retailers ask themselves the following questions: Are you trying to get new customers? Are you trying to keep the customers you already have? “If your answers to those questions are yes, then you have to begin looking at the tools available to get those results,” she explained. “Those tools are all available on social media.”

She added, “If you don’t start using the tools, you’ll find yourself so far behind you won’t know where to start.”

2. It’s where the people are. One of the main reasons social media can help retailers grow their businesses is because their customers are interacting with each other on these platforms. Not only does social media expose consumers to various products and businesses, it provides a platform for creating potential referrals.

“Just as it’s important to network in real life, it’s important to be doing the same on social networks where your customers are,” said Christine Whittemore, chief simplifier, Simple Marketing Now. “You can learn where your customers are by asking questions such as, ‘Where do you like to go for ideas?’”

Whittemore also suggests retailers make sure they have the right messaging on social media instead of simply blasting posts about sales. “You’re better off getting ahead of it and getting involved so you can answer questions, address feedback and show off how vibrant your business is.”

3. You can monitor your customers’ reactions to products and services. Social media allows retailers to generate more exposure to their stores’ brands. In addition, it helps them gauge consumer trends and sentiments regarding recently purchased products and services.

“Savvy retailers will see social media as a means of monitoring ‘the temperature’ of their customer relations and general satisfaction,” explained Paul Friederichsen, marketing expert and owner of BrandBiz. “After all, wouldn’t you rather know you’ve got a problem so you can address it?”

According to Friederichsen, there exists a fear of social media concerning things like negative comments and low ratings. However, as a site’s administrator, the retailer has the power to control the majority of those fears. If  retailers receive a negative comment, they have the ability to respond and solve the problem.

4. There are resources available to help. Social media is, by nature, social. People are always available with suggestions of what to post, when and how. There are even tips available via the platforms to help any retailer get started.

What’s more, retailers can practice social media on personal accounts before executing a business profile. As Whittemore explains, “If you have a [personal] social profile and can experiment a little, then you’ll be more comfortable using it for the business. Break it into mangeable pieces, roughly 30 minutes a week.”

Beyond using a personal account, retailers can have multiple employees take part in running a business page. “If everyone in your organization becomes an ambassador for your business it’s easier,” Whittemore said. “What’s tricky about social networks is they’re about people. When you have a page for your business it gets a little murky because the business isn’t really a person. How do you project the caring [nature] and personalities of your people on your network?”

In the same vein, retailers can also ask employees to use their personal accounts to generate leads and traffic to the business’s account.

Retailers can also utilize various online programs to help run successful social media campaigns. Friederichsen suggests looking into program subscriptions that will help monitor, plan and track social media activities, such as HootSuite and Sprout.

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Technology: Cloud-based software helps flooring retailers stay mobile

November 27-December 11, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 13

By Lindsay Baillie

 

In keeping with the growing computing demands of small and large businesses alike, technology companies are developing a host of cloud-based software programs and systems. The primary goal is to provide their customers with improved data sharing and security, better user access, easy upgrades and software fixes.

While there are multiple differences between a cloud-based system and an in-house program, one of the most significant is the fact that a cloud-based system is not housed within a customer’s desktop computer. This allows the user to access specific programs anywhere as long as he or she has Internet or browser access. What’s more, because cloud-systems do not require direct changes to a user’s desktop, updates and software fixes are more easily implemented and can often be customized for each user.

Following are some of the industry’s top cloud-based software systems and their recent program updates:

American Business Software
ABS offers FloorPro, a cloud-based software that often looks different for each customer. According to Joseph Flannick, ABS president, the software consists of 400 to 500 programs depending on how it is configured for a specific customer. In addition to a customized system, updates—which are delivered through the cloud—are also specific to a user and dependent on his or her needs.

A key feature of the system is its versatility. “Not everyone gets the same thing at the same time,” Flannick explained. “Across the course of a year there are generally 150-200 new updates and a lot of stuff are things people have requested. Our software is developed for cloud-based operation, so it works extremely fast in a cloud-based environment.”

Comp-U-Floor
Comp-U-Floor has offered its ERP software as a cloud-based option for more than 10 years. The company currently has thousands of users accessing its cloud services from the U.S. and Canada.

“Our Comp-U-Floor ERP software has been redeveloped under a web and mobile platform,” said Mark Wiltgen, sales and marketing manager. “What this means to our clients is the software is no longer based on a Microsoft Windows platform, which limits the type of devices that are used to access the software. Users can now access the Comp-U-Floor ERP software on any device with an Internet connection and web browser. This allows users to be completely mobile and still have access to the software.”

FloorSoft
FloorSoft’s cloud-based software for measuring and estimating was developed in 1998. Since then the program has grown to include more than 1,500 users in 46 states and Canada.

“When we started our program we didn’t really have a development partner,” said John Petrel, president. “Now that we have a product we found users have a lot of ideas and they’re willing to tell us how to make it better.”

According to Petrel, the company collects suggestions and puts them on an issue list. Then every two weeks FloorSoft has a meeting and reviews all of the issues and suggestions. These ideas are then put into production. “Once we deliver them to production we put out a notification to all users and we acknowledge the person or persons who had the idea,” Petrel explained.

What’s more, the company has developed a system to assist users who might have to use the program in areas without Internet access.

“Even though we are cloud based, when you are in the field measuring you don’t have to have Internet connection,” Petrel explained. “Before you go out into the field to measure, you contact the cloud and the system takes all of the information about the job and downloads it to the client. Later, when you reconnect, you can bring the data back to the cloud so anyone on the team can access the data.”

Measure Square
Measure Square currently offers cloud-based software through its popular FloorLink CRM system. Recent enhancements have improved efficiencies for users across the system.

“In our most recent update of the FloorLink CRM, we have added a dashboard function that makes it easier for administrators to keep track of various aspects of the sales and installation process,” said Darienne Jordan, office coordinator and marketing manager. “As well, we have added a job funnel to keep track of job progress with all installers and estimators. This updated version is designed to make it easier to keep track of and follow up with customer management for those utilizing our software.”

One of the biggest benefits to using cloud-based software is the ability to see and share projects amongst a group of users. “This makes for more effective management of projects and saves time when having to access product databases or needing to make changes to a takeoff for an existing project,” Jordan noted.

NivBen
NivBen’s Premium Flooring Estimator 2040 is a cloud-based software program that can be used for residential projects and new commercial buildings. The software includes other programs such as proposals/samples, schedule measure request forms, a roll manager and an instruction manual to help streamline processes.

“Bidding on projects big or small can affect the bottom line if not done right,” said Dennis Benton, president. “The use of computers has helped me and my company fix ‘miss measures’ or math mistakes. You are able to estimate showing master cuts and fills with all seams showing. Proposals can be made much faster because all quantities are transferable over to the invoice.”

The Premium Flooring Estimator 2040 draws from the PDF layout provided by the architect all the products that are being specified for bid. These take-offs separate each product needed to be estimated and supply the user with all of the quantities for that layout.

Pacific Solutions
PacSol Cloud, the company’s browser-based system, allows users to check customer and vendor information as well as work orders via an Internet browser.

“We’ve had a cloud-based system for years because our technology runs on Apple products,” said Bob Noe Jr., president. “The downside is it only works on the IOS system, so we have started writing some modules.”

According to Noe, converting to cloud is something that takes time and requires knowledge about what platforms a company is developing for. “Converting to cloud for us is building the very best solution so when users access it through any device it rocks. To make the software really right we have to think: What does the user need to see when she looks at this program on her phone? If we were to jam every feature into the Android phone that’s on a desk platform it would be overwhelming.”

QFloors
QFloors offers two types of cloud software technology: QCloud, which has been around approximately 15 years, and QPro, a new product that was developed over the past few years.

QCloud gives users access to their complete QFloors system through servers stored on the cloud. Customers access their QFloors software through an icon on their desktop. QPro is based on web browser and mobile app innovations. This type of system is accessed via any type of device with a web browser and removes the expense of paying licensing fees to third-party companies.

“You are not required to download or install anything, and you can use whatever brand or type of device you wish as long as it has a web browser,” said Chad Ogden, CEO and president. “Once the users log in through the browser, they can then access their QFloors system and data.”

Eventually the full QFloors system will be converted to this new QPro technology, beginning with QPro POS+, which is expected to be released by the end of 2017.

RFMS
RFMS offers numerous cloud-based software and services—a web-based hosting service and several mobile applications. With the hosting service, RFMS users can access the company’s business management software using the Internet. All the software is in the cloud, which means the RFMS user no longer has to worry about system updates, hardware maintenance, backups or operating system updates.

“We also offer two distinct products that use cloud technology to streamline the way the sales process works in the flooring operation,” said Maria Cauchon, media services director. “With these two applications, a salesperson can estimate, create quotes or orders and post payments using any mobile device. RFMS Mobile allows orders and payments, product look-ups and more while in the field or in a customer’s home. The information then connects to the cloud to sync up with the database, updating the main RFMS system.”

Measure Mobile 3, another RFMS application, lets users draw rooms and apply RFMS product information to create a quick estimate. “RFMS Mobile is undergoing a soft rollout and we expect to see many features and upgrades in the next quarter,” Cauchon said.

RollMaster
RollMaster software is delivered one of two ways. The first is via a secure cloud-based server that the company hosts and protects; the other is via a user’s own installed server. Regardless of how the user chooses to set up the software, the program can be accessed from anywhere at any time with Internet access on a laptop or desktop computer. “We are moving in a very mobile-friendly direction with the software,” said Kelly Oechslin, marketing coordinator. “This means several browser-based and mobile phone applications can access key data from the system.”

A couple of these products include the RMMobileSales app, which allows for outside salespeople to look up customer data, product pricing and inventory availability. The RMWeb Installation Calendar app connects floor layers in the field with the scheduling and installation component of RollMaster software. The company’s new API Integration allows for non-flooring-specific business features to interact with RollMaster data. This includes features such as Testimonial Tree to gather and post online reviews, marketing integration and CRM platforms.

Surge1
Surge1 is a fully scalable, cloud-based platform designed to provide office automation for installation companies. Surge1’s product provides a complete, standalone solution that also integrates easily with existing systems.

“Our solution was designed from the ground up by installers,” said Jacob Myatt, CEO. “Our installation specialists work with our development team each day to create the best solution for office, field and warehouse.”

The company is working on several updates including its offline mobile app, which is expected to launch in the first quarter for Android and Apple products. This will allow flooring installers to see their schedules, pay sheets and measure diagrams when they travel to an area outside of cell service.

 

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Technology: Retail Lead Management system gets upgrade

November 27-December 11, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 13

By Lindsay Baillie

 

Retail Lead Management, a cloud-based CRM software designed specifically for flooring retailers, has released a host of new features to increase its effectiveness and help dealers track retail flooring leads. These features were launched only a couple of months after the program was made available to all flooring retailers.

Jason Goldberg, CEO of America’s Floor Source, had the idea to develop Retail Lead Management in 2015 after learning about his salespeople’s struggles with keeping track of prospects, quotes and appointments as well as his managers’ difficulties with holding their sales teams accountable for managing and closing leads. After searching the market and not finding a retail lead management system solution that suited his needs, Goldberg decided to develop his own. Once the program was completed, Goldberg’s sales team started using it and immediately saw an increase in closing rates and a spike in retail sales. Goldberg opened up the program to the flooring industry in early 2017 and has since sold hundreds of licenses to flooring retailers in the U.S. and Canada.

“In the past few months, we’ve released quite a few new features to increase the effectiveness of our system,” Goldberg explained. “We recently launched a calendar integration, which enables users to add tasks they’ve scheduled in Retail Lead Management to their device’s default calendar tool [such as Gmail or Outlook]. We’ve also added a Zillow link, so users can click on a lead’s address and find out information about the property value and surrounding neighborhood.”

In addition, Retail Lead Management regularly updates the system and adds new functionality to address customer needs. According to Goldberg, the program typically has a new release at least once a month containing new features.

All of its new features help the existing program provide retailers with a cost-effective solution for managing leads. Through the use of Retail Lead Management all of the information a salesperson and manager need is available on a centralized dashboard, which can be accessed from a desktop, phone or tablet. Furthermore, the program is customizable and user-friendly. More importantly, it’s providing results for end users. “Customers are experiencing close rates as high as 70% and up to a 40% increase in sales,” Goldberg stated.

Retail Lead Management also has a host of future releases it plans to launch in 2018. According to Goldberg, the company plans to add business-to-business management, email integration and more integrations with ERP and accounting software including some of the industry’s top flooring software companies. “We currently have partnerships with several large flooring manufacturers, and website companies and are in discussions with other potential partners,” Goldberg said.