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3M, Jon-Don tandem targets pro cleaners

October 9/16, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 9

By Lindsay Baillie

 

Screen Shot 2017-10-17 at 9.33.14 AM3M, the leader in stain protection for many consumer goods, including flooring, has partnered with Jon-Don, an exclusive distributor of Scotchgard Protector and other 3M products, to reach professional cleaners across the U.S.

3M continues to help fight off carpet stains and messes with its Scotchgard Protector—a product applied by a professional cleaner after a carpet has been scrubbed. Jon-Don boasts a powerful network consisting of 12 retail and shipping centers across the continental U.S. and aims to make it easier for carpet cleaning professionals to purchase 3M products.

“Through our partnership, Jon-Don and 3M work closely together to provide a consistent message about the benefits of 3M Scotchgard, helping carpet cleaners maximize their success,” said Bill Yeadon, training facilitator, Jon-Don.

In addition to promoting Scotchgard Protector on its website, Jon-Don hosts Strategies for Success (SFS) seminars for professional cleaners a few times a year. During the company’s SFS Business Transformation program, Jon-Don spends over three hours discussing 3M Scotchgard Protector, its benefits, how to apply it and how to implement a 12-month “spot and spill” warranty.

“We know that customers who attend SFS have a much greater chance of success,” Yeadon added. “To date, more than 4,000 professional carpet cleaners have graduated from the program.”

Along with the seminars, Jon-Don—with the help of 3M—provides professional cleaners with a host of materials, including: a handout for customers that shows the benefits of Scotchgard Protector, a blotter card to demonstrate the product’s benefits, a care guide for carpet and upholstery, PDF files of professionally written letters and postcards as well as training DVDs.

Jon-Don has also created a new demonstration video, which will be available on its website and social media platforms. The demo covers how professional cleaners can help their customers protect their carpets against spots and stains. “It reviews the tools available to help promote Scotchgard Protector as well as a demonstration of Scotchgard Protector protected carpet vs. non-protected carpet,” said Amber Soule, marketing analyst, 3M home care division.

Mutually beneficial
Scotchgard Protector provides benefits for both the consumer and cleaning professional. The product helps consumers maintain a cleaner, healthier environment while giving them more time to remove spots before they become stains.

For the professional cleaner, 3M’s Scotchgard Protector provides an upsell opportunity and potential for consumer loyalty. “A technician can earn over $39,000 a year in Scotchgard Protector sales alone, which can fuel business growth,” Yeadon explained. “In addition, the customer is more likely to be satisfied with her carpet and more likely to use the company again in the future.”

 

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Galleher, 3M provide support for fire relief

Screen Shot 2017-10-16 at 2.47.03 PMSan Francisco—Galleher and 3M are partnering to help those impacted by the fires in California. Both companies are sending food, clothing and supplies to people in need in Napa, Solano and Sonoma counties. 3M and Galleher will also be delivering smoke masks, earplugs, garbage bags and bottled water to Santa Rosa and Napa.

Galleher is also allowing relief workers to use its Rohnert Park warehouse—near Santa Rosa—as a staging area, helping to offload trucks of donations pouring in from all over the country and storing the supplies until they can be distributed to those most in need.

The company is also asking its customers to donate supplies. Donations can include: nonperishable foods, canned goods, chips/snacks, energy bars, dry salami, cereal, powdered milk, instant coffee, dog food/toys, eye drops, personal-hygiene items, diapers (sizes 1-6), Pedialyte, mouth wash, nail clippers and new clothing.

Anyone interested in donating can check the following links for individuals with specific needs, including people looking for used clothing.

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Scotchgard brand proves its staying power

August 28/September 4: Volume 32, Issue 6

By Lindsay Baillie

 

Screen Shot 2017-09-05 at 12.09.45 PM3M recently tested the power of Scotchgard Protector to determine the brand’s overall cachét. The results positioned Scotchgard as one of the top “protector” brands on the market—ranking higher than others in both consumer awareness and desirability. Furthermore, Scotchgard Protector—a brand that has been around for years—continues to fulfill market needs while gaining consumer trust and loyalty.

“Perceptions of Scotchgard are extremely positive,” said Amy Haase, marketing communications, 3M. “They have been for decades and always revolve around Scotchgard brand quality, effectiveness and reputation. We have consistently seen that for years. Consumers know it’s effective and we just have a good reputation as being a Scotchgard brand and as a product from 3M.”

Over the years Scotchgard Protector has worked to bring brand awareness to various key demographics, including the millennial consumer. Through its quality and reputation the brand is making strides with this key demographic and other groups, according to 3M. In addition, the brand looks to meet manufacturer needs to provide cost-effective solutions.

“As a business, we take the time to meet with our customers,” said Carrie Pettit, segment marketer, 3M. “We do consumer insight work. We continue to try to keep up on their needs. For example, carpet manufacturers are looking for lower cost but they’re also looking to have that brand promise and need for the consumer.”

Beyond meeting manufacturer needs, Scotchgard Protector by 3M also takes into account the range of emotional benefits a consumer experiences when purchasing new flooring with product protection. The brand, according to the company, provides consumers with peace of mind, less stress about their new floor and the ability to not worry about a carpet’s longevity.

“We know from our research that purchasing flooring is a major investment, and it’s something people put a lot of thought and research into,” Haase explained. “Being protected by Scotchgard is the proof point for consumers because it has the ability to repel liquids and provide stain protection. Those factors are especially important for families with kids and pets because they are most likely to face those kinds of incidents.”

The strength of the Scotchgard Protector brand is the result of many factors, including its many consumer touch points. Unlike other brands, Scotchgard Protector is known in multiple markets, including apparel.

“There are so many touch points for the consumer in general for the Scotchgard brand,” Pettit said. “There’s retail apparel products that provide that same type of ‘Wow, this stuff really works’ response. It’s the same message across a couple of touch points, not just carpet. So from a consumer standpoint, when she is out purchasing carpet, the brand is recognized from all of those other touch points as well.”

Scotchgard’s message is consistent across all of its partners’ web pages as well as the company’s social media sites. The company also provides in-store demos, signage and product education for retail sales associates. Creating one message the consumer sees across all platforms helps Scotchgard maintain a powerful presence in the marketplace.

“We don’t rely on a consumer learning about our brand just when she is looking for carpeting—which happens once every five to seven years,” Haase said. “She is actually seeing our brand every day. We’re a brand that has been around for a while so we have longevity and heritage, but we are also constantly improving our products, which allows us to maintain that trust.”

Some of Scotchgard’s current and future improvements include sustainability efforts to address major environmental concerns. Other plans focus on expansion of a product’s warranty, which now covers rugs.

“If you want a custom rug for your living room we will cover that as well,” Pettit explained. “We’re trying to update our program to make sure it is the best out there.”

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Fiber report: Soft, durable and cleanability lead checklist

May 8/15, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 24

By Ken Ryan

Screen Shot 2017-05-15 at 2.06.57 PMAdvancements in technology and manufacturing have allowed carpet mills to make significant improvements in fiber construction. The result: carpets that are soft, durable and resistant to stains and soils. Mill executives say today’s demanding consumers are driving these innovative breakthroughs.

“Performance-based fibers seem to be a big trend,” said Ayme Sinclair, marketing director, Stanton. “The biggest influence is an increased need from a more informed consumer base on making sure they are selecting goods that will stand up to the challenges of their active lifestyles.”

Susan Curtis, senior vice president, product development for Phenix, agreed. “We are seeing demand for innovative fibers that provide a high degree of performance tied to active lifestyles and exhibit a diverse array of color and luster options.”

Increasingly these innovative fibers are found in polyester; executives say manufacturing techniques have fueled the PET market, which has overtaken nylon as the preferred carpet fiber. “Consumers are very happy with the quality and performance of PET and request it when choosing their new carpet,” said Brian Warren, senior vice president of sales and marketing, Foss.

Beyond fiber type, the macro trends that have driven the fiber market for years are still dominant today, according to Seth Arnold, vice president of residential marketing for Mohawk Industries. “What that means is consumers want carpet that is easy to clean and will last a long time. With carpet being an infrequent, high-end purchase, for consumers it often boils down to cleanability and durability. We don’t see that trend going away.”

Observers point to another trend that’s holding its own: the desire for luxurious soft carpet. “We thought we had seen the top of the mountain with premium soft,” Arnold said. “We spent a lot of time this past year on soft. We spoke to 300 consumers in 10 different markets and looked at seven different fiber types. Consumers voted for softer, which is what led to SmartStrand Silk Reserve. We are raising the bar again in soft.”

Active segments
The dominance of hard surfaces in the home has opened the door for innovative ways to use carpet. Curtis noted that since the consumer is now using carpet in selected areas of her home, she often chooses multiple styles with specific features and benefits that fit the intended use of a room. “Traditionally, consumers may have chosen a solid or more generic aesthetic but are now seeking unique textures and colors they can mix and match with other flooring materials. A soft touch and comfort are still important attributes, but we have seen the need for products with unique patterns and colorations grow significantly.”

Screen Shot 2017-05-15 at 2.07.10 PMThe multifamily segment remains carpet’s greatest salvation within residential. That’s partly due to the fall in homeownership rates (which are at their lowest level since 1965, according to the U.S. Census Bureau), which means more people—especially millennials—are renting. Executives note that builders and property managers are increasingly looking to carpet as a way to combat sound issues associated with hard surfaces. “The shift towards hard surfaces remains a continued trend across all business segments, particularly multifamily,” said Brad Christensen, vice president-soft surface portfolio management, Shaw Floors. “However, we are seeing more consumers looking to incorporate higher quality soft surfaces with bolder patterns and styles in bedrooms and other specialty areas of the home, making residential an opportunity for growth in carpet sales.”

Residential retail remains steady, executives say, and with the influx of higher end, luxurious soft products hitting the market, dealers have more opportunities to trade up consumers. “We encourage our retailers to ‘X plus’ every customer,” Mohawk’s Arnold said. “Our premium soft products give them reasons to upsell.”

Product initiatives
In response to consumers’ insights for stylish, high-performing carpet that complements their living spaces, Shaw created the TruAccents display. This new compact, rotating display houses both nylon and PET carpet styles and pairs them with hard surface products for easier consumer shopping and convenient retail selling options. “For those consumers who prefer to purchase strictly nylon, we’ve also expanded our LifeGuard technology to the Anso Color Wall in our Titanium platinum product collection,” Christensen said.

Phenix recently introduced its Opulence HD solution-dyed PET polyester fiber featuring a finer denier yarn that is low luster with well-defined tips that give off a suede-like finish. “We developed this new fiber from the ground up by working with our extrusion division to create a yarn that provides great bulk with a soft very luxurious hand,” Curtis explained.

Stanton recently launched a line with Scotchgard 3M, pairing high style with high performance, Sinclair said. “This new line gives consumers assurance when they see a name they recognize, so it makes perfect sense for us to partner with them.”

Screen Shot 2017-05-15 at 2.07.18 PMAmong Mohawk’s biggest initiatives in 2017 is Airo, made of 100% premium PET fiber. As Arnold explained, “Airo is really our attempt to say, ‘What if we completely started from scratch; what would we come up with?’ This innovation is less about enhancing an existing fiber and more about looking at a fiber to create a construction advantage. Airo was a completely new way to approach product development.”

In the same vein as completely new is Foss’ Cashmere, which the company touts as a new category of affordable wall-to-wall carpet that looks and feels like wool but has the durability of commercial tiles and indoor/outdoor broadloom products. Warren said “the secrets” behind the carpet’s style and performance are its exclusive NaturalTouch fiber that can create a wool-like softness using PET and the company’s DuraKnit technology that prevents fraying, unraveling or zippering.

Engineered Floors has enjoyed big success with its PureColor Fiber system and its family of brands, especially within its residential PureColor Nylon collection—Your Retreat. “It features our PureColor Soft Nylon with Cationic technology,” said Mike Sanderson, vice president of product marketing. “We are essentially offering what is widely recognized as a premium fiber system in a collection of stylish yet affordable products.”

The residential division of Dixie has been an active partner with Invista/Stainmaster. In 2017, Dixie is launching six new styles as part of the Stainmaster LiveWell program. T.M. Nuckols, the new executive vice president of Dixie Residential, noted, “We have a good mix of styles in the solution-dyed nylon PetProtect program as well as many piece-dyed products.”

 

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Carpet: Mills up the ante in the fight against spills

Stain protection update

February 13/20, 2017: Volume 31, Number 18

By Ken Ryan

 

What drives carpet purchases? If ongoing research is to be believed, it’s all about stain and soil protection. So if you want customers to spend more money, the carpet products retailers offer should incorporate such treatments.

Stainmaster PetProtect from Invista was a big hit in large part because it addressed a huge consumer need, executives say.

The American Pet Products Association (APPA) estimates 70 million to 80 million dogs and 74 million to 96 million cats are owned in the U.S. Approximately 37%-47% of all households have a dog, while 30%-37% have a cat.

“Our consumer research shows pets actually influence flooring purchasing behaviors even more than children in the home,” said Brad Christensen, vice president of soft surface category for Shaw Floors.

Soil and stain protection play a pivotal role in the growing trend of healthier floors and homes. Extensive research has been done on consumer preferences toward healthy homes and how pets are incorporated into the family environment. “Consumers are looking for products that can do more for them, passively keeping their homes cleaner, healthier and looking great,” said Susan Curtis, senior vice president, product development for Phenix.

Following is a look at some recent introductions featuring stain and pet protection carpets.

Screen Shot 2017-02-20 at 3.18.48 PMEngineered Floors
The company’s Lifetime Pet Warranty promises “complete relief for you and your pet,” according to Will Young, residential brand manager. “That means we will stand behind our carpet when it comes to dog and cat accidents in the home for the life of the product.” The warranty is available on most DreamWeaver styles, particularly those on its new Your Retreat 65-color wall display, which was introduced at Surfaces last month.

Screen Shot 2017-02-20 at 3.18.56 PMLexmark
All of Lexmark’s 2017 introductions feature 100% solution-dyed PET fiber that is inherently very stain resistant. What’s more, Lexmark added Scotchgard Protector by 3M to provide greater stain and soil protection. This one-step application process treats the entire carpet fiber. As a result, spills stay on top of the surface and dirt does not adhere to the floor.

Screen Shot 2017-02-20 at 3.19.01 PMMohawk
SmartStrand Forever Clean, installed in more than 7 million homes and heralded for its durability, stain resistance and comfort, has become an even smarter choice for active families with pets. Mohawk enhanced this popular carpet with All Pet Protection, a warranty and protection system that covers all pets, all accidents, all the time. SmartStrand Forever Clean comes with Nanoloc, an advanced nanotechnology that encapsulates the SmartStrand fiber to create a spill and soil barrier.

Screen Shot 2017-02-20 at 3.19.07 PMPhenix
Phenix’s major 2017 introductions address consumer needs related to pet protection and healthier homes. Cleaner Home, which comprises 10 new carpets with antimicrobial protection, was developed in an exclusive partnership with Microban, a leading producer of antimicrobial additives. As well, Cleaner Home was developed using a highly engineered PET polyester yarn called Opulence HD and includes SureFresh, an odor capture technology to provide a smarter soft surface flooring option.

Screen Shot 2017-02-20 at 3.19.13 PMScotchgard by 3M
When applied during the manufacturing process, Scotchgard by 3M-branded products provide a protective treatment by surrounding each individual carpet fiber with an invisible shield, making the carpet resistant to water- and oil-based stains as well as soiling from everyday use.

Screen Shot 2017-02-20 at 3.19.27 PMShaw
Shaw Floors continues investing in carpets made with its exclusive LifeGuard waterproof backing system, which provides an optimal carpet for pet owners. “Thanks to this industry-exclusive system, pet accidents stay on the surface longer for easier clean up,” Christensen said. “And for those accidents not discovered immediately, consumers now have the peace of mind knowing that pet urine and other liquids will never soak through the backing, into the cushion and onto the subfloor.” New for 2017, the LifeGuard waterproof backing system was added to Shaw’s popular Anso Color Wall in a product called Titanium, which offers 150 new SKUs.

Screen Shot 2017-02-20 at 3.19.33 PMStainmaster PetProtect
Invista’s Stainmaster PetProtect carpet and cushion system provides a breathable moisture barrier that helps prevent accidents from penetrating the padding and subfloor, which enables more thorough cleaning. As well, PetProtect also reduces the attraction between pet hair and carpet, allowing consumers to easily remove the hair with normal vacuuming.

Screen Shot 2017-02-20 at 3.19.42 PMStanton
Stanton announced a new partnership with 3M Scotchgard with the introduction of 15 products treated with Scotchgard Protector by 3M. The carpet introductions are made of nylon type 6 and type 6,6. Each of the new Stanton styles is treated with Scotchgard Protector 3M and is covered under a 10-year stain and soil protection warranty.

 

 

 

 

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Spotlight: 3M entertains the possibilities

January 16/23, 2017: Volume 31, Number 16

By Lindsay Baillie

Screen Shot 2017-01-13 at 12.57.25 PMSince the 1970s, 3M’s name in the flooring industry has been associated with the company’s successful Scotchgard Protector brand. As one of the leading brands of stain, spill and soil protection on the market, Scotchgard has grown alongside the industry to provide protection for not only carpet but also hard surfaces. From its inception, the Scotchgard Protector brand has continued to tackle new floor protecting issues in keeping with the development of the industry’s new flooring styles.

Known for its ability to repel, resist and protect, the Scotchgard brand is marketed as a product that provides built-in protection for a variety of flooring materials, soft and hard surface alike. As flooring continues to evolve, that begs the question: What will be the next 3M flooring innovation? For 3M, the possibilities are endless.

“We are using our strategic model to expand 3M into the flooring industry and to maybe bring other consumer brands and technologies into the flooring industry as well,” said Carrie Pettit, segment marketer, 3M Home Care division. “We have several divisions that have technology platforms we can continue to look into and expand. When looking at all of 3M’s divisions we’re constantly thinking, ‘What do we have available that can make sense for flooring?’ ”

In order to develop new products across 3M’s multiple divisions, the company is asking consumers deeper questions about floor care, including how they feel about keeping their floors clean. Pettit explained the company is interested in the emotions behind cleaning and seeing clean floors. “We continue to get consumer insight around cleaning habits and what they expect when taking care of their floors,” Pettit explained.

Screen Shot 2017-01-13 at 12.56.27 PM3M is using these insights to develop new soft surface innovations, an area Pettit said the company is constantly working on. “We have a new product portfolio for polyester, and we have a new platform for nylon that will bring differentiation to nylon. We have continued innovations for nylon and polyester that provide state-of-the-art performance based on what consumers are looking for.”

As far as innovations for hard surfaces go, 3M is gathering as much information as it can before developing new products. As Pettit explains, “It’s an important space for the flooring industry and we’re gathering the voices of customers along with consumer insights to drive what we do in the lab.”

Pettit explained it can be difficult to develop products for hard surfaces that fit within the price points consumers are looking for. There are also multiple factors to consider, such as whether the product is scratch resistant or self-healing. Because hard surfaces vary in style, material and design no one product is the perfect solution for all. “You have your hardwoods, which scratch, and then you have LVT that looks like hardwood but doesn’t scratch—yet it dents,” Pettit explained. “We’re focused on educating consumers on how to maintain the perfect floors that they want.”

As 3M continues to integrate its different divisions into the flooring industry the opportunities for innovation are vast. “Over the last few years we’ve really maintained our focus on carpet and flooring,” said Eric Ruppert, senior account representative, 3M Scotchgard. “Trying to make flooring stay cleaner for longer with less maintenance. How do you do that? You have to build a new product that has both oil and soil repellency, and then you also have the durability that allows you to clean your floor multiple times and still have that protection remain on the product.”

According to 3M, this not only entails tapping into a lot of new technologies that are coming from within its own labs but also working with its key accounts to take 3M technologies and apply it to the flooring segment. “For example, 3M is huge in adhesives,” Ruppert said, citing the trend toward applying flooring materials to walls.

In a nutshell, utilizing more than just its Scotchgard brand will allow 3M to introduce different types of products to the industry. “We make anything from tape to aerospace technologies, so being able to tap into different divisions is fun for me as a key account rep because I’m able to expand what we do and have a better offering for 3M in general,” Ruppert said.

Brainstorming other possibilities Pettit cited coding for machines, printed film for walls—“those types of things.”

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Retail Education: Tried-and-true practices for recruiting, hiring and training

This FCNews Retail Education series, sponsored by 3M, is designed to help specialty retailers build their business through proven merchandising and marketing strategies as well as general best practices.  

December 19/26, 2016: Volume 31, Number 14
By Reginald Tucker

screen-shot-2016-12-21-at-3-10-13-pmFor Majorie Benson, owner of Friendly Floors, the key to hiring the right salesperson lies in finding someone who is sincere. “I believe sincerely wanting to match a product and installation type to a consumer’s wants and needs is the key to a successful, full-service flooring business. I don’t hire ‘salespeople’ types; I don’t want anyone on our team who has the tendency to sell whatever is most advantageous to his or her own pocket rather than what is best for the customer.”

Billy Mahone III, Atlas Floors Carpet One in San Antonio, takes a similar approach. “Over the years we have put more of an emphasis on interpersonal skills and professionalism and less on industry-specific experience. We have found that you can teach new hires the floor covering business, but you can’t teach someone to have a customer-centric attitude.”

On the other hand, at A.J. Rose Carpets & Flooring in Burlington, Mass., experience is a non-negotiable requirement. “We look for solid selling skills and being able to connect with people. People like to buy from someone they trust, so it is essential for our salespeople to be likable and connect with people.”

Experts in the field of hiring, training and recruiting believe the onus lies on the person or people making the hiring decisions—not on the candidate. David Romano, founder of Romano Consulting Group and Benchmarkinc, advises retailers to follow a tried-and-true formula for not only hiring the right candidates but also retaining them if they turn out to be a good fit.

Step 1: Create an interview agenda; Step 2: Zero in on the candidate; and Step 3: Decide what to ask. While Step 1 is rudimentary and self explanatory, Steps 2 & 3 allow the interviewer to really drill down and get inside the interviewee’s head. “Before asking the first interview question, review the job description—especially the hiring criteria as well as everything the interviewee has submitted (i.e., résume, cover letter, online profile). This allows you to hone in on what you’re looking for in a candidate.”

This step, according to Romano, reveals information about the candidate’s background, work experience and skill level. More importantly, it gives the interviewer the chance to clarify what they learned from the résume, profile or even previous interviews. “It provides a general sense of the candidate’s overall intelligence, aptitude and enthusiasm/attitude and whether he/she fits the job. It also provides the capability to evaluate a candidate’s motivation to tackle job responsibilities, desire to join the company and the ability to integrate into the current work team.”

Above all else, Romano strongly recommends owners or hiring managers pay careful attention to the candidate’s responses. “Don’t rehearse your next question in your mind. Although you have your questions written down, don’t hesitate to veer from those if you want to reword or follow up on something, or even eliminate questions that were already covered.”

Broaden your horizons
Some experts recommend retailers take the recruiting/hiring process a step further by taking generational considerations into account. Just ask Lisbeth Calandrino, who for the past 20 years has been consulting retailers on everything from hiring, training and recruiting to marketing and designing showrooms. With respect to hiring and training, she believes it’s important to focus on millennials as potential employees as they represent the future.

“Companies used to rely on hiring salespeople who were well versed in flooring; these days, companies are looking for employees who have the skills that match the new customers, which includes computer knowledge. The problem with hiring older employees is their lack of computer skills and understanding the attitudes of the younger generation.”

Like Romano, Calandrino offers a few proven tips on how retailers can nurture (and even retain) this important demographic:

  • Provide educational opportunities as often as possible. Gen Y is well educated and believes in learning and achieving. Instead of having a boss, they are more likely to want to be part of the process and would appreciate having a coach to help them achieve.
  • Since they are team oriented, getting along with others is a priority. They want to collaborate and learn from others on their teams. They will work hard to make sure the team concept is efficient.
  • They don’t expect to stay with one job until retirement. This group is considered mobile and is willing to move to another job if possible. They aren’t as tied down as their predecessors.
  • Take advantage of their technological talent. Many companies are struggling with their social media presence. Since this is pretty much second nature to millennials, learn as much as you can from them and put the strategies to work.
  • Provide as much flexibility as possible. These employees are talented and capable of working alone. They are clear about their positions. They tend to be very home and family oriented.

Regardless of the strategy or approach, at the end of the day you have to hire based on the needs of the business and the market dynamics in your area. As Romano states: “Always focus on your business needs during your interview process, and you’ll find the best new hire time after time.”

 

 

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Marketing Online: Rock solid tips on connecting (virtually) with customers

This FCNews Marketing Online series, sponsored by 3M, is designed to help retailers build their social media presence and, by extension, strengthen the connection with consumers.

November 21/28, 2016: Volume 31, Number 12

By Leah Gross

screen-shot-2016-11-28-at-4-04-19-pmThere is no doubt that digital marketing is the new way of doing business. In order to be relevant in today’s crowded marketplace retailers must have a sound online marketing strategy. The rise of the online revolution has completely changed the way retailers run their stores and attract, connect with and maintain their customer base. How well retailers navigate the digital terrain will no doubt determine their future success.

The good news is retailers have more control than ever before over their customer relationships—thanks to the power of digital marketing. “Online marketing is part of our overall strategy for reaching new customers and staying in touch with existing ones,” said Dean Howell, owner of Moda Floors & Interiors, Atlanta. “Online marketing can be cost-effective, tailored to a specific audience and easily changed when needed. Best of all, it can be tracked.”

Moda Floors & Interiors sends periodic newsletters to three separate audiences: clients, trade partners and local real estate agents. These communications often include information about sales, the company and its employees, as well as new product introductions. “We often include online links to articles they might find helpful,” Howell added. “If Moda has been mentioned or quoted in an article, we will also include that information.”

Other business-savvy retailers are also putting more emphasis on digital marketing. Eric Langan, president and owner of Carpetland USA, Davenport, Iowa, believes digital marketing is just as important—in terms of media platforms—as traditional outlets such as radio, print and direct mail. “It’s evident that individuals shop entirely different than they did a decade ago,” he said. “You must have an online presence and a strong website to engage the consumer. More times than not, the vast majority of the window shopping is done online prior to visiting the storefront.”

screen-shot-2016-11-28-at-4-04-09-pmThat’s not to say retailers should disregard the importance of designing a storefront that has great curb appeal. On the contrary, retailers should consider their website as the digital extension of their store and showroom, experts say. “No one can deny the importance of a beautiful storefront, but that lovely store only goes so far when your customers constantly tune into tiny, powerful devices that instantaneously deliver the information they need to live their lives,” said digital marketing guru Christine Whittemore, chief simplifier, Simple Marketing Now LLC. “The content on your website is the online equivalent of your salespeople. Its purpose is to initiate and carry on the trust building process between your business and your buyer. The content on your website should virtually pull people in and provide the hand-holding service that a professional would offer in your store.”

Many experts agree today’s consumers are trained to qualify a product or business online before ever going into a store. To that end, it is vital that a retailer’s website operate as an extension of the brand. “It should offer a voice that is consistent with the overall brand image of the brick and mortar store, and the content should be presented in a clear easy to navigate, visually appealing and educational format,” Whittemore explained.

Developing a cohesive, effective digital marketing strategy is particularly important when it comes to big-ticket purchases such as home improvement projects. Advocates cite statistics showing the more expensive the product the longer the buying process takes. “Not all customers come to your website or your store ready to buy the same day,” said Whittemore, who brings 23-plus years of experience with brand building in the flooring, home furnishings and apparel industries. “Flooring decisions can take up to six months, which is why having a sound digital marketing strategy to maintain a relationship with your customer throughout the process is critical. You must ensure your business remains at the top of the customer’s mind through the whole process. If you don’t, the months of time and money you invested in the customer may very well be lost.”

Back to basics
In most cases, when retailers ask where they should spend their online marketing budgets, their first response is in a rock-solid website. Email marketing and social media are important, according to Whittemore, but it is more important to start at the most critical element of your online program—your URL—and prioritize from there. She believes a retailer’s website represents an opportunity to augment credibility and enhance customer relationships. “Your digital storefront demands every bit of the TLC that you give to your store,” she said. “Not only should your website offer engaging content that attracts customers and brings them back for more, but it also must be mobile friendly so your customer has the same experience on your site no matter what type of device they are using.”

Therein lies the challenge for many retail web sites: updating platforms to ensure URLs are more “responsive,” meaning they render seamlessly on a variety of mobile devices. This is critical, experts say, as mobile readiness is also a key element of Google’s search rank algorithm. “So if you are not mobile-ready then you’re losing an opportunity to get higher search engine rankings and more engagement with your target customers,” Whittemore explained.

One of the most important features a retailer’s website should have is the ability to capture emails from people who visit. Experts stress the value of being able to continue communicating with prospective customers and keep the relationship going. “Remember, you want to keep that relationship going throughout the entire buying process,” Whittemore stated. “Email marketing campaigns are the Holy Grail because this is [the retailer’s] direct line of communications with the customers who come to your store. As wonderful as social media is, your ultimate goal is to get people to come to or back to your property. If you connect with them via email you can continue to talk to them.”

The email address of a consumer who is actively in the market to buy product is golden. “With this you can continue the romance, as they say,” Whittemore said. “These consumers volunteered their personal information because they are interested in your business, so you owe it to them and to your company to do something compelling.”

At the end of the day, a retailer’s email campaign is all about relationship building. To ensure retailers get the most out of their digital marketing efforts, Whittemore strongly encourages a little creativity. Rather than limiting online communications to selling floors, she suggests sending birthday greetings or coupons. Offering out-of-the-box opportunities is another idea. “Find things that consistently draw consumers back into your store,” she explained. “This gives you another opportunity to strengthen the relationship while giving the buyer the chance to see how competent your professionals are.”

One idea Whittemore shared was to invite an interior designer to the store for free consultations. She also suggested hosting a ‘Girls Night Out’ themed event. Above all, she said, don’t forget to promote these special events using digital marketing campaigns.

“If you do these events make sure to amplify them through your email campaign to create buzz so the next time your store hosts a special event even more people will be talking about it and coming to check it out.”

 

 

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Loxcreen Flooring Group launches new product line with 3M VHB adhesive technology

screen-shot-2016-10-14-at-2-08-03-pmMississauga, Ontario—Loxcreen Flooring Group recently launched a new product line from its parent company, M-D Building Products, to their distributors all over North America. CINCH by M-D Building Products was established to describe the simplicity of installation on many of M-D’s weather-strip and floor transition products that utilize the 3M VHB adhesive technology.

screen-shot-2016-10-14-at-2-15-32-pmLoxcreen introduced four new profiles (stair edge, t-mold, seam cover and reducer) in four complementary colors that all carry the 3M VHB high-strength self-adhesive tape on the back. These transitions can be used with LVT/LVP, laminate and carpet with no need for fasteners. “It is a neat product, there is nothing else like it out there in the trim and molding market and it is a line that can be a benefit to all who sell and use it,” said Julia Vozza, marketing manager of the professional distribution channel.

M-D partnered with 3M in 2012 to collaborate on ways to utilize each other’s strengths. With this new line, M-D chose to use the 3M VHB adhesive technology on floor transitions and create an innovative product that is simple to use, provides great value to the end user and complements all of today’s most popular and economical flooring surfaces.

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Marketing Online: The importance of ratings and reviews

July 4/11, 2016; Volume 30, Number 27

This special FCNews Marketing Online series, sponsored by 3M, is designed to help retailers build their social media presence and, by extension, strengthen the connection with consumers.

Screen Shot 2016-07-15 at 4.11.13 PMNearly 90% of consumers consider ratings and reviews before making purchase decisions, recent marketing industry estimates show. In the era of Yelp, Amazon and Google, among others, shoppers are seeking credible insight and feedback from everyday people long before they hear the retail sales associate’s product pitch.

“We all know the way customers research a product or service has changed dramatically over the last several years,” said Janice Jacobs, vice president of marketing, Carpet One Floor & Home. “Customers increasingly rely on ratings and reviews to help inform their buying decisions, especially with more difficult choices such as flooring. And it’s not just products they are researching. In the flooring industry customers are also paying attention to the reputation of service providers before they walk into their local flooring stores.”

With that, flooring manufacturers and buying groups are developing their own systems for helping retailers simultaneously garner and address online feedback that will ultimately be in the public domain even if it doesn’t initially start there.

For example, Mohawk launched BuzzLocal powered by FloorForce in 2015 to provide a new ratings and reviews system. The company believes the ability to search on Facebook, Pinterest and YouTube will connect potential customers to online feedback quickly and seamlessly. BuzzLocal includes three important steps of managing a dealer’s online reputation: review, respond and reach.

In that same vein, Shaw refers to its process of organizing and addressing ratings and reviews as “reputation management.” Its Share it Forward platform allows dealers to log in and see reviews they have received on sites like Yahoo, Google, Bing and others for complete visibility of their online reputations.

“We wanted to make it easy for retailers to manage [their reputations],” said Misty Hodge, Shaw’s director of digital platforms for residential marketing. “Through Share it Forward dealers can see what consumers share about experiences both good and bad. Consumer reviews help go beyond what dealers can say about themselves; it lets potential customers know what people who have done business with [these dealers] have to say.”

More importantly, retailers could be getting ratings and reviews and not even know it, which is why management systems come in handy, experts say. To that end, both positive and negative reviews on personal websites, review sites and social media should be recognized.

What is also paramount for independent retailers’ online reviews today is proving they are better than the big box stores in town. Flooring America statistics show an average 4.6 stars out of 5 on the 20,000-plus ratings for its stores, which are based on service, installation, etc. The average home center score is 3.3 to 3.5 stars out of 5.

Frank Chiera, senior vice president, marketing and advertising, CCA Global Partners (parent company of Flooring America/Flooring Canada, The Floor Trader, International Design Guild and BizUnite), noted many salespeople have a “mental block they need to get over” when it comes to requesting reviews from customers once a job is complete. To remedy this, Flooring America continues to enhance programs to make sure RSAs are comfortable asking for reviews and helping them understand why this feedback is important.

Mollie Surratt, senior director of public relations, content and social media, Mohawk Flooring, also mentioned the importance of encouraging positive reviews. “A lot of the time positive reviews need to be asked for,” she said. “Retailers should make an effort to ask happy consumers for positive reviews. This should happen within 30 days of a purchase. There should be an ongoing conversation with the consumer.”

 

Responding to reviews

Responding to customers who post about a store and its service shows a retailer cares about his reputation whether the feedback is positive or negative. Many industry groups and manufacturers offer pointers to help dealers address what is said about them on the web.

Flooring America’s internal program for members alerts them to reviews and reminds them to respond. “If a customer had a less-than-favorable experience there should be an answer/response from the store owner underneath the review,” Chiera said. Without an internal system to help with reviews, “unless someone is actively going in and monitoring those reviews [on sites like Google and Facebook] they might live out there for some time. It’s not good to [ignore] customers.”

No matter how bad a review, experts stress deleting it is out of the question. “Remove ‘delete’ and ‘ignore’ from your vocabulary—it is never good to do either,” Surratt explained. “If a consumer is abusive or slanderous that’s another conversation. But if you have a person who is reaching out for help with an issue you need to respond as soon as possible. Give a [representative’s] name and direct contact information. Apologize for the inconvenience and take the conversation offline. Get the details but make sure all the frustrations come out outside of a public forum. If you reach a resolution, ask the consumer to go back to her review and talk about her positive experience.”

Shaw’s Hodge believes remaining “authentic” means you cannot manipulate the review process, which includes deleting negative feedback. “You have to be transparent. You can take a displeased customer and make her feel good about the outcome—that’s something she will never forget.”

Jacobs reminds dealers to respond to reviews as soon as possible; something “less flattering” requires “a little more involvement to make sure we are crafting an appropriate response to the customer as well as addressing the customer concerns directly wherever possible.”

The steps for addressing a negative review as recommended by Carpet One are as follows:

  1. Read the review thoroughly and then conduct research to understand the issue.
  2. If possible, address the issue offline and personally with the customer. Offer contact information in the public response to have them contact you.
  3. Be sincere, positive and concise in your response. Don’t be negative or defensive.
  4. Post the response after ensuring it is concise, clear, positive and grammatically correct.
  5. Follow up: Make good on any resolution discussed with the customer.
  6. Once and only if resolved: Ask the reviewer to follow up her review or complaint with a positive comment or edited review so others know the issue was resolved.