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Credit: The importance of offering financing to consumers

February 5/12, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 17

By Rose Burke

 

When consumers shop for big-ticket items such as new flooring, they are likely to use some kind of credit to make the purchase. What’s more, some credit experts believe people are far more compelled to commit to bigger purchases when they can see their payments broken down into monthly installments instead of seeing the total amount. For example, a $7,000 purchase might not be affordable for most people, but a $400 monthly payment can appear more manageable.

While it is important for retailers to consider offering credit terms to their consumers, it is also crucial they’re offering attractive financing that will actually bring people into their store. What makes credit terms attractive differs from dealer to dealer, industry members say.

“Our financing programs are available on all purchases in the showroom, not limited to just one display or manufacturer,” explained Keith Spano, president of Flooring America. “This gives our retail sales professional the ability to move a customer up and down through the trade-up process without fear of losing the favorable payment terms.”

Other retailers are providing their customers with several credit options in order to make them more attractive.

Ari Ziskin describes the credit terms at Mesa, Ariz.-based Flooring Inc., as transparent, saying, “Our goal is always to make the purchase process as easy and stress-free as possible. One way we do this is by offering several financing options. As a company offering high-value items, we believe this is incredibly important to both the customer experience and continued sales growth.”

When customers walk into a jewelry store or car dealership, they’re often provided with credit terms that lead them toward making a purchase, and flooring retailers should be no different. “Offering credit lets our customers know they can get the flooring they want on good terms, which opens the door to other parts of our business,” said Bob Pireu, president of Bob & Pete’s Floors, Canton, Ohio. “Customers know they are getting a competitive price, plus they can be comfortable with the quality of our services and installation.”

Other retailers have also learned to leverage consumer financing to their advantage. “We have always been a huge proponent of consumer credit financing and the benefits that come along with that,” said Eric Langan, president and owner, Carpetland USA (Langan Group), Davenport, Iowa. “This includes larger average tickets, reduced accounts receivables and differentiation among competitors.”

In addition to being a proven sales tool, credit is something customers have come to expect and is almost no longer an option, Spano said. “Retailers need to look at financing costs as a marketing cost and a cost of doing business in a competitive retail landscape.”

As a recognized sales technique, retailers who have trained their sales staff on the appeal of their credit terms have seen a significant increase in sales. “We’ve spent considerable time training our members and retail sales professionals to discuss financing early and often in the sales process.” Spano said. “Through our training and aggressive buy-downs for our members, we’ve seen our financed sales grow to three times that of the industry while also seeing our average ticket grow almost three times our average credit card sale.”

The most common credit terms offered by flooring retailers is 12-month financing. This breaks down payments into a few hundred dollars a month, but still, retailers hope to see more attractive credit terms for their customers in the future.

“Can you imagine advertising putting hardwood in your whole house for $149 a month?” said Adam Pace, CFO at Metro Floors Inc., Lancaster, Calif. “This would be possible if we had 48- or 60-month financing. It would be a huge boom for the industry. We can offer 36-month financing as it is now, but the cost to the dealer makes it a no-go. The manufacturers need to set-up their own credit unions, especially those that are multi-billion dollar companies.”

Synchrony Bank is a popular option for retailers seeking to offer appealing credit terms to their customers; they offer over 100 different kinds of credit cards and work with dozens of major retailers. With a specialty program specifically designed for flooring retailers, Synchrony  can offer solutions that other banks cannot.

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Armstrong unveils enhancements to flagship residential website

Lancaster, Pa.—Armstrong Flooring has launched key enhancements to its website with new and improved features to help guide homeowners through all stages of the buying journey—getting started, inspiration and ideas, product information, installation and where to buy.

“We’ve worked over the past year to create a more visual and inspirational online shopping experience, developing new content and tools to increase engagement with the homeowner,” said Ebeth Pitman, director of brand marketing. “We’re helping to drive consumers primed to purchase Armstrong Flooring products to aligned retailers. There is so much clutter in the marketplace and competition for mindshare that having a strong online experience, coupled with a trusted name like ours, helps people make decisions and feel confident that they have made the right purchase.”

Armstrong Flooring’s search and navigation functions provide a more engaging user experience with detailed product information, imagery and social media functions.

What’s new to the site:

  • Inspiration – New educational articles and photo galleries categorized by room type
  • Where to Start – A dedicated Q&A page filled with customers’ top flooring questions and answers to help them get better informed and begin browsing products
  • What’s New – A new page featuring all of the newest flooring products and collections, including new Paragon Solid Hardwood with Diamond 10 Technology and new styles in Alterna engineered tile

What has been improved:

  • Floor Finder – New Floor Finder results include a recommended Featured Collection, plus three or four other recommended collections based on consumer survey responses.
  • Find A Store – It will now be easier than ever for users to find a store; a user’s zip code will default to their IP address, driving customers to their closest retailer faster.
  • Co-Branded Landing Pages -Redesigned landing pages for aligned retailers incorporate new content for top searched product categories: hardwood, vinyl and engineered stone with the addition of a promotional section to feature campaigns and sales.

“Delivering the ultimate user-friendly experience and enhancing our strong online presence remains a key initiative,” Pitman said. “Our creative and technical teams collaborated to develop a digital experience centered on how consumers research floor covering and engage with technology. Ultimately the goal is to aid the consumer, and increase sales and profitability for us and our retail customers.”

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Stanton Carpet launches new B2B site

October 23/30, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 10

By Lindsay Baillie

 

Screen Shot 2017-10-27 at 12.27.40 PMStanton Carpet is looking to simplify the way it transacts with retail customers via a new B2B website—stantonb2b.com. The site makes it easier for retailers to find products, submit requests to create a rug, view dropped products and order swatches, among other features.

The new B2B site, which launched Oct. 9, is something Stanton has been working on for approximately two years. “A lot of what we’ve incorporated in this first phase comes from feedback we received from the retailers, because ultimately we are creating the site for them to use,” said Chad Johnfroe, director of information systems, Stanton Carpet.

With the development of this site the company has created what Jonathan Cohen, president and CEO of Stanton Carpet, calls “the Amazon of B2B. This is another way we can provide retailers with really great service aside from our other areas of service in the organization. While they are not required to do business with us online, there are so many more things available on the site. It’s better, faster, easier. We feel like we have the best of both with this new B2B system.”

On the company’s previous site, which Stanton refers to as its customer service interface, retailers could place orders. However, it was static and more of a utilitarian site. Retailers who were using the old system are now automatically enrolled in the new site.

With the B2B site, retailers can seamlessly navigate through different menus to view multiple accounts, custom rug jobs, reservations, helpful links regarding topics such as display and installation guides, promotional items, dropped products, new product introductions and more. Dealers can also create a rug as well as order swatches and stock. The create-a-rug feature was developed to help retailers save time when placing a custom rug order. The new site provides brief explanations for finish options, attached backing/padding as well as quarter-turn options. The create-a-rug section also includes a visualizer box that allows the user to zoom in on the product.

Other enhancements include greater access to customer service reps. Through the new site the customer service support desk is now available 24 hours a day and seven days a week. This is a dramatic change from its previous hours of operations which ended at 6 p.m. EST. The site also contains quick links for dealers with autofill, a mark-up tool and the option to view retailer vs. consumer pricing.

A key element to the creation of the new B2B site is it reinforces Stanton Carpet’s commitment to sell only to the flooring retailer. While certain features, such as the create-a-rug option, will soon be available on an updated consumer website, customers will not be able to purchase products directly from Stanton. If a consumer chooses to create a rug, they will only be able to submit a rug design, which then goes to the nearest retailer who can follow up about the desired product.

Stanton has scheduled a few webinars to help walk retailers through the new site. The company has also alerted dealers of the updated site through email and a “Top Five Reasons Why” campaign. The company also plans on showcasing the website at Surfaces 2018.

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Credit: Financing options benefit retailers, consumers

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

By Lindsay Baillie

 

Screen Shot 2017-10-17 at 10.31.11 AMWith competition for the consumer’s disposable dollars heating up in the home improvement retail sector, more floor covering dealers are relying on credit programs to gain an advantage. These financing options not only provide consumers with more flexibility in making their purchases, but they also open the gateway to bigger tickets for floor covering retailers.

According to a recent study by Synchrony Financial—which offers credit programs for retailers and consumers—91% of flooring cardholders said financing made the purchase of big-ticket items more affordable. What’s more, 39% said they wouldn’t have made the purchase or would have gone to another merchant if financing was not available.

For dealers such as Greg Miller, president, Henry’s Floor Covering, Greencastle, Pa., offering credit to consumers is a no-brainer. The flooring store offers two credit options: six months and 12 months. “Our customers find with credit options they can upgrade to better products, do their complete project instead of having to do the project in phases and don’t have to rely completely on their savings. And, at the end of the project we’re paid in full.”

Those who choose to offer credit solutions have found the benefits are mutual for both consumers and retailers. Barrington Carpet, Akron, Ohio, offers its customers 12-month, no-interest credit options from both Mohawk and Shaw. Providing the shopper with various credit solutions, according to the company, helps close sales as well as bring customers into the showroom. “Offering credit is a must in attracting consumers into the flooring market,” said Craig Phillips, president. “Flooring dealers are in competition every day with other markets such as the furniture and electronic businesses. Those industries have traditionally used credit as a closing tool. During the national Shaw and Mohawk sales there are benefits for everyone—longer payback periods for the consumers and finance rate buydowns for the dealers.”

Financing options are also often made more accessible through various buying groups, including Flooring America. “The financing cost is negotiated by [group management] for Classique Floors, which makes it very appealing us,” said Judith Huck, owner, Classique Floors, Portland, Ore. “We also want our customers to be able to purchase from us any way they want.”

It is also important to note that credit programs can be an added bonus for retailers whether or not they have a large number of customers looking for financial solutions. Just ask Deb DeGraaf, co-owner, DeGraaf Interiors, Grand Rapids, Mich., who continues to offer these solutions despite having a low number of consumers requesting credit. “We offer credit all year long and always have a 12-month, no-interest credit option available. We’ll advertise it pretty heavily when there are sales going on with Shaw and Mohawk, and we’ll have on average five to eight customers per sale period take advantage of it.”

For DeGraaf, credit is a necessity for her business because it’s available in other competing industries. “By offering credit your ticket price goes up and it makes it more affordable for customers to spread out the payments.”

One crucial point about offering credit is fully disclosing the cost of financing to the customer. As Henry’s Miller explains: “We’re upfront with our customers that there is a cost to using financing, and most are already aware of that fact.”

Talking to customers about credit and interest rates is part of best practices among most retailers. The retail sales associates at Abbey Carpets Unlimited, Napa, Calif., make sure customers are aware of the high interest charges associated with not paying off the purchase in the allotted time. “This heavy interest could be a negative if you don’t make sure your clients understand the results of not paying it off in full in the time frame of the contract,” said Janice Clifton, owner.

In addition to explaining the terms of a credit card, some flooring dealers require customers to make a specific down payment. For example, Classique Floors requires its customers to pay 10% to 25% down depending on the length of the financing chosen.

Retailers can also take advantage of credit opportunities regardless of their store’s location. For example, Abbey Carpets Unlimited is in a more affluent area yet still has customers who are interested in opening a flooring credit card. “On a fairly regular basis, a customer will choose the financing option, and this often enables her to upgrade her flooring choice or do more areas than she originally intended,” Clifton explained. “Our funding source provides us with the interest-free financing for a discounted rate not too much larger than the upgraded credit cards our customers would normally use. For our store, it provides us with a way to complete a sale that may be more than the consumer is ready to spend right now.”

 

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Digital marketing: Multiple ways to engage with consumers online

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

 

Screen Shot 2017-10-17 at 10.19.38 AMThe marketing landscape continues to change, especially as more shoppers utilize online media. To capture the attention of these consumers retailers are strengthening their presence online through digital marketing.

So, what constitutes digital marketing? According to Marketo, a leader in marketing automation software, digital marketing refers to “advertising delivered through digital channels such as search engines, websites, social media, email and mobile apps.”

While most retailers today have a digital marketing strategy that touches on a few of these channels, not all are aware of the different aspects of digital marketing.

Following are brief descriptions of some of the more common types of digital marketing.

Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising
According to WordStream, PPC accounts for 64.6% of ad clicks. This type of digital advertising usually refers to the “sponsored result” on a search engine results page. It is flexible, visible and can be tailored to specific audiences. What’s more, a retailer only pays for the ad when it is clicked on.

Re-targeting
This aspect of digital marketing utilizes marketing automation tools to track how customers engage with a brand across multiple channels. Once that information is collected, retargeting allows the retailers to serve those customers personalized ads across multiple channels.

Search engine optimization (SEO)
According to Marketo, 67% of all clicks are from the first five listings on a results page. In addition, 71% of searches resulted in a page one Google organic click. When retailers use SEO they have the ability to increase the rank of their websites in online search results and site traffic by using popular words and phrases. In order for a website to increase its rank it must have valuable and engaging content, be well constructed, easy to use and have credibility.

Social media marketing
Many consumers are using social media to discover and research different brands. To run a successful social media campaign, experts say retailers should weave social elements into every aspect of their marketing. One of the keys to social media is the opportunity for peer-to-peer sharing. This allows content to be seen by a larger audience which could increase engagement. Some common social media sites include Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter.

Email marketing
According to Marketo, a successful email campaign must be engaging, informative and entertaining. It should also satisfy the following core attributes: trustworthy, relevant, conversational, strategic and be coordinated across channels.

Mobile marketing
Similar to social media, this channel has multiple options including SMS, MMS and in-app marketing. As consumers increasingly rely on mobile devices, it is crucial for retailers to participate in this channel. For consistency, mobile marketing should be coordinated across all digital platforms.

Marketing automation
This integral platform allows retailers to tie all of their digital marketing together. In addition to streamlining and automating marketing tasks, marketing automation also measures the results and ROI of a digital marketing campaign.

Many of these digital channels can be strengthened with a concrete content marketing strategy. Great content can aid SEO, social media, emails and paid search ads by inspiring and educating potential consumers.

Overall, retailers have a ton of digital marketing options available to them. Furthermore, there are a significant number of companies willing to assist retailers with digital strategies. With all these channels and resources available, now is the time to develop and execute an effective digital marketing program.

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Lisbiz Strategies: Add email marketing to your digital strategy

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

By Lisbeth Calandrino

 

Lisbeth CalandrinoDigital marketing uses online channels and methods that allow you to analyze what is and isn’t working. Because we’re talking about electronic media, this analysis can be done immediately. You can make changes on the spot if something isn’t working, which is not always possible with every marketing channel.

When I was in the retail business, I used weekly newspaper campaigns and never knew whether the customer had actually seen my advertisement. We would ask if they had seen our ads and most could not remember. Oftentimes they would tell us about a competitor’s advertisement thinking it was ours. This was just more money sent down the drain. However, this doesn’t have to happen if you plan your campaigns and stay on top of the statistics.

You’re probably incorporating Facebook, YouTube and Twitter into your digital strategy, but when and how often do you post? Do you check your statistics? Do you only post when you have a sale?

You must be consistent to get results, regardless of the methods you use. You have to determine how often you want to post and then schedule it. You need a long-term campaign to determine what to send and when. All of these digital channels have a way for you to check how you’re doing.

Screen Shot 2017-10-17 at 10.02.05 AMMany think email marketing is old. However, it is very sophisticated if done right. What’s more, email marketing ensures your content is going directly to a known customer who wants to hear from you. You just need to have good subject lines and interesting emails.

According to Wordstream, 80% of retail professionals indicate email marketing is their greatest driver of customer retention. Another statistic, according to MarketingSherpa, states 91% of people actually enjoy receiving promotional emails, with 61% stating they would like to receive them weekly and 15% wanting them daily.

Following is what you need to do to make your email marketing work:

Have good subject lines. The subject line is the first thing your customer will see when she checks her emails. Make sure your subject lines catch her attention and spark curiosity.

Segment your customers. Don’t send the same emails to all your customers. Different customers have different needs so when you put customers in your database, choose the appropriate category. I know you’re saying, “Do I have to do all this work?” Using a technique called data mining will help you determine buying and pricing for a specific group of customers. This is what the supermarket does with the information from your special discount card. They find out who you are and what you buy. Then they target you with special offers.

Check your open and click- through rates. If your emails aren’t getting opened, you need different subjects. There’s no reason for a click through unless there’s something to read. Always have some type of offer for the reader.

Keep the focus of the email on the customer, not yourself. All customers want information to help them solve a problem, even if it’s five ways to cook tomatoes. You need to know your customers and their angst. You know, what keeps them up at night? Be personal, be yourself, be trustworthy.

Keep trying. Not everything you write will be a hit. But every time someone says, “I love those articles I get,” you’ll know you’re on the right track.

 

Lisbeth Calandrino has been promoting retail strategies for the last 20 years. To have her speak at your business or to schedule a consultation, contact her at lcalandrino@nycap.rr.com.

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Fall promos: Sales, incentives usher in new selling season

September 11/18, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 7

 

The autumn season is upon us and for many flooring manufacturers that means it’s time to unveil fall promotions to accelerate business and excite the customer base.

Here are some recent fall sales.

Armstrong Flooring
Armstrong Flooring announced “The New Look of Tough” national retail promotion to correspond with its new national TV and digital advertising campaign on HGTV. Consumers can receive 10% off qualified Armstrong Flooring products for savings up to $500. The promotion runs from Sept. 18 to Nov. 13 (redemption through Dec. 15) and includes some of Armstrong Flooring’s most popular products. Qualifying collections include: Artisan Collective engineered hardwood; TimberCuts engineered hardwood; Woodland Relics engineered hardwood; Pryzm luxury flooring; and vinyl sheet with Diamond 10 technology.

Consumers who purchase a minimum of four cartons will qualify for a 5% rebate offer, while those who purchase a minimum of 16 cartons can qualify for a 10% rebate. The purchase must be made during the promotion period from a participating Elevate retailer. The maximum discount is $500 in the form of an Armstrong Flooring Visa Prepaid card.

Bamboo Hardwoods
Screen Shot 2017-09-15 at 3.11.29 PMBamboo flooring just got a little bit “racier,” as in car racing. Bamboo Hardwoods is offering a 2017 industry incentive program for its retailer and distributor partners via a “Sell Bamboo, Win a Triumph TR6” promotion.

Running now through Sept. 30, retail salespeople qualify to win a classic 1970s-era British classic car—the Triumph TR6—by selling an order of (greater than one box) Bamboo Hardwoods’ brand flooring then entering their order details via Bamboo Hardwoods’ car promotion homepage. Distributor reps are also eligible for cash prizes. “Our overall thought on this program is to bring some additional retailer-level interest toward our amazing bamboo products and have a little fun in the process,” said David Keegan, president and CEO of Bamboo Hardwoods.

Upon completion and verification of qualifying sales via bamboohardwoods.com, the company will issue the retail sales associate a unique lottery ticket number to be checked against a live drawing on Oct. 9, where one lucky winner can drive off with the car or take cash equivalent. Additionally, every RSA and corresponding DSR each gets a $50 cash reward for qualifying sales during the promotional period after their third sale/entry.

Mirage
Consumers can save big this fall thanks to the Mirage Fall 2017 Rebate Sale, taking place across North America at all participating Mirage dealers from Oct. 2 to Nov. 25. Consumers get a $0.50/sq. ft. rebate on Mirage flooring during this promotion. This offer is valid on all Mirage products, regardless of species, color or width.

“Fall is often synonymous with remodeling projects for many consumers that need to change their décor,” said Brad Williams, vice president of sales Screen Shot 2017-09-15 at 3.11.24 PMand marketing at Boa-Franc, maker of the Mirage brand. “Thanks to the $0.50/sq. ft. rebate offered on all our flooring during this sales event, it is a great opportunity to save big while enjoying the quality for which Mirage floors are known.”

Nearly 2,000 Mirage Maestro Dealers throughout North America are participating in this event. For the rules and a list of participating dealers, visit miragefloors.com/rebate.

Shaw Floors
Shaw Floors announced that registration for its fall national promotion, the Shaw Friends and Family Sales Event, is now open to Shaw Flooring Network aligned retailers who participate in the company’s consumer financing program. Registration must have been completed by Aug. 25, and the promotion—which includes a broad assortment of Shaw, Anderson and Tuftex styles—will run from Oct. 1 to Nov. 11.

Specific details of the promotion may be found online at shawnow.com. Benefits include a downloadable coupon of up to $1,000 in savings and 24 months special financing. Shaw Floors’ Spring Anniversary Sale saw record retailer engagement, and aligned retailers who took advantage of the special financing option reported increased average ticket sales and enhanced customer retention.

“The coupon was the primary trigger in this offer and had a big impact with consumers,” said John Staff, owner of Staff Carpets. “The sale helped us exceed daily sales goals and our business is currently up 40% compared to last year.”

Tarkett
Tandus Centiva, a Tarkett company, is promoting the launch of its completely new area rug collection by giving away a free area rug. Between now and midnight Oct. 6, Facebook followers of Tarkett Contract can enter for a chance to win a customized 6-foot x 10-foot area rug. The contest can be found at gvwy.io/mckgo0f.

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Armstrong Flooring unveils new fall promotion for Elevate retailers

RSEAMAC75L402_2Lancaster, Pa.—Armstrong Flooring has introduced “The New Look of Tough” national retail promotion to correspond with its new TV and digital advertising campaign on HGTV to help drive in-store traffic during the important fall selling season. Consumers can receive 10% off qualified Armstrong Flooring products for savings up to $500.

The promotion runs from Sept. 18-Nov. 13 (redemption through Dec. 15) and includes some of Armstrong Flooring’s newest, most popular products. Qualifying collections include Artisan Collective engineered hardwood; TimberCuts engineered hardwood; Woodland Relics engineered hardwood; Pryzm luxury flooring; and vinyl sheet with Diamond 10 technology.

Consumers who purchase a minimum of four cartons will qualify for a 5% rebate offer, while those who purchase a minimum of 16 cartons can qualify for a 10% rebate. The purchase must be made during the promotion period from a participating Elevate retailer. The maximum discount is $500 in the form of an Armstrong Flooring Visa Prepaid card.

For more information, visit: armstrongflooring.com/newlookoftough.

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Al's column: Managing multiple generations in the workplace

June 5/12, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 26

By Matt Beaudreau

 

(First of two parts)

Screen Shot 2017-06-09 at 10.52.32 AMAcross many businesses today—including the flooring industry—there are as many as five generations working together. That’s a phenomenon unprecedented in the history of the U.S. workforce. This represents both a challenge and an opportunity. I will share some insights about how the flooring industry can work collaboratively across the various generations to improve communication and work processes.

First, it’s important to understand how the different generations think before beginning to understand their views on work. The parents of millennials, for example, are predominantly boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964). I often make fun of them in my presentations, but the fact of the matter is they have a lot of the skills we [millennials] don’t have. What everyone needs to understand about the baby boomers is they were taught to measure work ethic in terms of hours per week—and those hours do not count unless they can physically see you. That’s why they get to work so early. Boomers also believe there are not shortcuts to success. They believe you have to put in your dues and have policies, processes and procedures.

As a manager or co-worker, if you’re dealing with the boomer generation, you need to acknowledge the time they’re putting in—not just that week but over the course of their career because there is a lot of wisdom there. Also, they are the only generation that can think in a linear fashion, which is a helpful skill if you have a project where you’re looking to make something more efficient.

Screen Shot 2016-07-15 at 3.49.34 PMNow let’s talk about millennials. This is not only your greatest group of customers but they are also now your largest group of employees. That being said, it’s important to dispel a common myth about millennials: They are not ‘tech savvy,’ as many people like to believe. Actually, they have no idea how technology works; they just know they can’t live without it. Rather, millennials are ‘tech dependent.’ That’s a critical distinction you have to make. As an employer of millennials, you also need to understand this: A generation that is tech dependent partially defines their relationship with you as a boss and with you as a company based on their technological relationship with you.

Then there’s ‘Gen Z,’ which is coming up right behind the millennials. They’re also tech dependent, but they paid attention to what the millennials went through. For example, they saw millennials get crushed under college debt, so for the most part they are picking less expensive colleges. That’s part of the reason why they are coming out of college with a lowered expectation of the workplace—which is great news for employers. In addition, Gen Zers tend to be very entrepreneurial and innovative, and they’re very hard working.

If you manage or work alongside millennials and Gen Zers, you need to understand the ways they prefer to communicate.

No. 1: Text messaging. Millennials hate detailed voice messages; they’re not going to listen to them. No longer is it considered unprofessional to text your boss or co-workers.
No. 2: Email. The magic for email is the subject line. What’s in there will determine if the employee is going to open the email in the first place. Use quick bullet points to get to the point.
No. 3: Social media. The shift has happened (similar to the move from radio to TV). Communication is all about getting attention.
No. 4: Telephone.
No. 5: Face to face.
Many millennials have degrees in communications, but eye contact freaks them out.

 

Matt Beaudreau is a certified keynote speaker at The Center for Generational Kinetics, headquartered in Austin, Texas. He is a millennial who has a reputation as a thought leader amongst his generation.

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Lisbiz Strategies: Learning how to adapt to millennial customers

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

By Lisbeth Calandrino

 

Lisbeth CalandrinoEveryone wants to know who exactly are the millennials and what type of customers they represent.

Everything I read says they’re a new type of customer. They don’t want to be sold anything and are armed with the Internet and every device possible.

Social media has changed how customers get information and who they listen to. Our new customers have stopped listening to salespeople and are instead consulting online friends. What does that mean to RSAs? It means we belong online. Where do the RSAs fit? Their place is providing great customer service. The new consumers want service and they want it fast. They are willing to do all of the research and want us to help them make the right decision.

Social media is the place to build connections, but many stores use it to only show products. They need to have RSAs interacting with customers online. Facebook and LinkedIn are good places to start.

Millennials are comfortable with the online process and don’t mind doing their own research. When the customer comes into the store, RSAs should talk with her about what products she has found. Then they can help the customer make sure she has the right products. Instead of selling features and benefits, salespeople should be selling solutions, answering questions and demonstrating the value of the products.

I know what you’re thinking, “We already do that.” My experience tells me it isn’t true. RSAs are still spending inordinate amounts of time studying features and benefits of products and then telling the customer what to do. Of course they need to know these things but remember the customer has already searched the Internet for the right products. Features and benefits are worthless unless they provide an explanation to a customer’s concerns. The old adage still matters: They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

Technology allows you to stop selling your customer and focus on the relationship. Does your website have products and ideas about color and design? Do you have a blog that provides useful information for your customer? Your blog can help her determine what to look for in a flooring store as well as how to find the salesperson. Communication used to be one-to-one but now it’s one-to-many. If you don’t have an online presence, you are likely to fade into the background behind your competitors. It’s impossible to talk about your competitors online; offline is the only place where you can show the customer you are better. The key is to get them into your store. Social media allows you to develop networks where you can share common interests with your potential customer. MeetUps are a wonderful way to build new customers and get closer to the ones you know.

Why don’t we understand customers come from building positive connections to other people? We can’t tell who is ready to buy, but we can get to know them before they buy and build communications. An online friendship is a great way to build trust, which is an essential factor in the buying process.

This new customer doesn’t need any selling; she needs experts who will help her make the right decisions. Customer service is more important today than ever.