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What we know about today’s ‘plugged in’ consumer

June 29; Volume 30/Number 1

By John Weller, vice president, FloorForce

Screen Shot 2015-07-02 at 4.09.44 PMIn the last 24 months over 10 million consumers looking for flooring online were delivered to retailers with FloorForce websites. Monitoring online consumer behavior takes the guess work out of building better websites and increases consumer conversions from online searches to in-store purchases. FloorForce has gathered some key statistics regarding the behavior of flooring consumers from 2013 to 2015.

Mobile usage

  • 45.2% of all online searches for floor covering or related products/services

are now coming from a mobile device.

Ratings and reviews

  • When making a purchase, 91% of consumers consider an online review

more important than input from a salesperson in a store

  • 86% of consumers would pay more for a residential service provider with

higher ratings and reviews

  • 94% of consumers report being influenced by online reviews
  • 74% of consumers searching for residential services are now visiting sites

like Yelp, Google+ Local, Angie’s List & BBB for information

Conversions

  • 71% of all website traffic include visits to the product catalog of a flooring

retailer’s site

  • 78% of the phone calls made to a flooring retailer are made while the

consumer is on a catalog page

  • The number of consumers making online appointments on retailer

websites using FloorForce has increased 139%

The consumer of today is a “digital ninja” and she is never without her phone. She does not trust most advertising, but listens intently to the opinions of other consumers online. She expects immediate satisfaction and is becoming quite comfortable with giving her opinion about products and services online.

 

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The independent retailer's billion-dollar opportunity of 2015

April 13/20, 2015; Volume 29/Number 1

By John Weller

Screen Shot 2015-05-29 at 6.04.55 PMI have no doubt that everyone who is reading this is familiar with what has transpired in the last month regarding Lumber Liquidators. The nation’s largest retailer of laminate and hardwood flooring has become the most talked about flooring company maybe of all time. The cumulative effect of this is still unknown.

What is clear is that tens of millions of consumers are now aware that not all flooring products, nor flooring retailers, are equal or to be trusted. The longer this story stays in the news, more of the general population will become aware of the issues with Lumber Liquidators’ products, and the better it will be for the remainder of the industry. As the saying goes, “All publicity is good publicity.”

There may never be an opportunity like this again where there is so much focus on flooring in the national press. This news story was first brought to light by “60 Minutes” on March 1 and is now being covered by every news outlet and financial network on the planet. It has the potential to cause a major shift in a person’s perspective about buying flooring forever.

The top quality manufacturers are in a nice position today to tout the benefits of their brands while gaining market share. In addition, they will sell better goods to retailers who are passing their stories and products on to the consumers who visit their stores and their websites.

However, the independent flooring retailer has the best opportunity of them all as not just the local flooring store, but a friend and neighbor to all the newly aware consumers who are looking for a flooring expert to trust.

What this means for digital

The digital retail landscape that is being fueled by the exploding percentage of tech savvy consumers, as well as Google’s new updates, add even more good news for independent flooring retailers as shoppers will be spending more time researching their options online.

In 2013 Pew Research Center reported more than 61% of Americans owned a smartphone and Apple has added to that, selling an average of 30,000 iPhones per hour in the fourth quarter of 2014. The same devices that are now predominantly giving us the news are also what we are using to research and learn about the products we are going to buy.

Google’s focus on rewarding websites that use the newest mobile technology, making all searches local and its new update that forces local businesses to put 100% unique content on their websites will help the independent flooring retailers who adapt exceptionally well.

If there has ever been a time for the independent flooring retailer to use his efforts upgrading his web presence, it is now.

Dozens of websites and mobile apps from companies such as Yelp, Houzz, HomeAdvisor and Angie’s List have put consumers in the driver’s seat by allowing them to post reviews of local businesses for other consumers to read and make decisions about what to buy and from whom. These sites have skyrocketed in popularity; Yelp alone has 135 million unique views per month. And because these sites feature links to retailers’ websites, they are now driving tons of new traffic to stores.

This chain of events beginning with the “60 Minutes” report and all of the new ways independent flooring retailers can get themselves represented online in relatively inexpensive (but highly effective and professional) ways could give a lot of market share back to those in our industry who rightly deserve it.

 

John Weller is the vice president of marketing for FloorForce. For more information on how to create a professionally designed website, visit www.floorforce.com or email socialnetworking@floorforce.com.

 

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Google’s Panda update urges business owners to revamp websites

March 16/23, 2015; Volume 28/Number 19

By John Weller

Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 1.22.27 PMIt’s official—Google is now penalizing websites that were built using duplicate or syndicated content. This move by Google is rumored to be the first of many such updates designed to force local business owners to provide continuous, 100% unique and relevant content about their businesses or jeopardize losing their website’s ranking on the search engine.

Websites like eBay, Amazon and Alibaba took huge hits when the update was released, which alerted users in the web world that Panda was not a creature to be taken lightly.

The floor covering industry has thousands of dealers who use micro-sites and websites that are primarily built with content being pushed out by one source or supplier. These sites have become a key target of the latest Google update and will become increasingly difficult to rank on the search engine, as much of the content is duplicated or syndicated. In other words, Google will no longer tolerate websites that publish someone else’s content. The days of launching a website without constantly updating it or having automated updates in place are gone and will lead to a sure loss in visibility for your site and ultimately a loss in sales.

Here are your options to counter Google Panda 4.0 and keep your website moving in the right direction, both now and in the future.

Remove all duplicate content

Make sure to remove all text or copy that is found on any website other than your own. This includes blogs that were copied and pasted from other sources to your site.

Remove poor quality content

Work on removing pages that get little traffic or views.

Block Google from indexing necessary duplicate or syndicated content

Your website developer should include a “no-index, no-follow” tag on any content that you believe is essential but is sourced from elsewhere. This content will not help your website’s ranking in any way but at least you won’t be penalized for it.

Remove automated blogs that are being used in the wrong way

If you’re importing an RSS feed and it appears as if it is your own unique content, you need to delete this immediately. Your website will be penalized by Google for using someone else’s content as your own.

Build a new website with all new content

For businesses that have not updated their websites in months, or even years, it is time to build a new site. Building a fresh website with new, unique content will solve all of the previously noted problems and will stimulate engagement. The website technology available in 2015 is drastically superior to what was being used just last year and makes it much easier for you to engage and convert today’s consumers into your own customers.

The good news is that Google has made it clear it likes websites with unique, high quality and relevant content. Companies that maintain their sites with updated, topical information will have a considerable advantage over those that don’t. Posting unique content is less expensive and less technical than most other search engine optimization (SEO) practices and can provide great results.

Today, the content on your website can make or break you. If you plan on keeping your website visible and using it to deliver new leads and customers, it’s time to talk with your website provider about a new ongoing content strategy.

 

John Weller Jr. is the vice president of marketing for FloorForce. For more information on how to create a professionally designed website, visit www.floorforce.com or email socialnetworking@floorforce.com.

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New mobile site format increases efficiency, consumer response

May 12/19, 2014; Volume 27/Number 27

By Jenna Lippin

Screen Shot 2014-06-17 at 11.09.32 AMIn the May 13/20, 2013, issue of Floor Covering News, a story about mobile websites (“Popularity of ‘shopping on the go’ lends itself to mobile websites”) identified the importance of the enhanced sites for consumers who are looking for local retailers and attempting to view product options away from home. The developments in mobile computing over the last year have put the focus on responsive design, which takes all content on a website and makes it viewable and usable across any device and platform.

As predicted by John Weller, vice president of marketing for FloorForce, a company that specializes in website development and online marketing for flooring retailers, more consumers are surfing the web via mobile devices than ever before.

“[Mobile computing] is no longer the future,” Weller said. “Consumers are on phones and iPads, determining the future of every single retailer’s business. If you don’t have a mobile website or the website isn’t geared to mobile navigating, opportunities disappear. In this competitive industry, no one can afford losing opportunities.”

To help facilitate those opportunities, FloorForce is launching FloorForce 3.0 within the next month or so. The refreshed program is a new platform with features that weren’t available in the past, namely the responsive website. With this new format, as a user shrinks the size of a window, the look of the site is maintained. All content is self-formatted for any device; none of the functionality of the “regular” website is lost.

What most dealers have in mind when they hear “mobile website” is what is called a streamlined site, which shows only a small menu, usually giving access to four pages from a website: homepage, find us (locator), sales/promotions and contact information. According to Dan Gerrell, director of Internet marketing services at FloorForce, a responsive site is a better option than streamlined. “Responsive sites will be mobile optimized because it will take out what isn’t needed,” he explained. “For example, when the site is scaled down, the menu at the top goes away and becomes a drop-down feature, conforming to the size of a tablet or iPhone.”

Bob’s Carpet Mart, with 15 Tampa Bay-area locations, is a perfect example of how literally hundreds of additional opportunities can be brought to a dealer through a mobile website. According to FloorForce’s tracking function, 22% of Bob’s Internet traffic comes from mobile devices, with several hundred people using the store’s mobile site and click-to-call function.

“When they first launched this thing, they were ranting and raving about how many people clicked through to call,” recalled Gary Cissell, director of operations at Bob’s Carpet Mart. “I was skeptical. I asked our receptionist how the phones were since launching the click-to-call mobile function and she said she was getting swamped with people calling about our locations and stores and products; that happened right away.”

Cissell noted that Bob’s launched its mobile site as part of its integrated marketing strategy, which also included its desktop website, advertising techniques and merchandising plan. “[The mobile site] was just one portion of our entire process, and we knew we needed to have it because of how many people were using mobile devices to find product and stores.”

Along with changing the face of marketing, mobile usage is also having an affect on search engine optimization (SEO). According to Gerrell, the upcoming trend will take people away from searching with Google, encouraging them to be more comfortable with their mobile devices’ voice functions. Have you considered asking Siri where you can find the best deal for carpet within 10 miles?

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Online success for retailers means in-store foot traffic

Engaging, localized content provides best results

By Jenna Lippin

Screen Shot 2013-10-15 at 2.36.02 PMAs 2014 draws near, the importance of an Internet presence has become increasingly apparent. More and more retailers, including small business owners, are embracing the use of websites and, therefore, are taking ownership of some of the best sites in the game. In the flooring world, a successful website is one that brings a consumer into a brick-and-mortar store, creating more opportunity for a relationship and ultimately a sale. Continue reading Online success for retailers means in-store foot traffic

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Popularity of ‘shopping on the go’ lends itself to mobile websites

By Jenna Lippin

Volume 26/Number 26; May 13/20, 2013

Capitol Carpet enlisted FloorForce to design a mobile site that would allow customers to successfully obtain store information from a smartphone or other mobile device.

The majority of people today have developed attachments to their smartphones and mobile devices. Because of this “addiction,” many companies, including those in the flooring industry, have created mobile websites to supplement their desktop versions.

According to Google AdSense, a mobile or mobile-optimized website is defined as “a website designed to be viewed on a mobile device [as they] have considerably smaller screen sizes than standard desktop computers… [w]hile some older phones and certain regions require websites to be written in a specific language and cannot handle JavaScript, most smartphones now have browsers similar to desktop computers. For this reason, older mobile websites are considerably different from more modern mobile sites.” Continue reading Popularity of ‘shopping on the go’ lends itself to mobile websites

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What is SEO and why is it critical to your retail flooring business?

Volume 26/Number 17; January 7/14, 2013

By John Weller Jr.

Most flooring retailers today are aware of the immediate need to have a great website and how it keeps their retail flooring stores relevant to today’s consumers. What seems to be less understood is the importance of ongoing SEO (Search Engine Optimization), or Internet marketing, to drive high-quality traffic to a high-quality website.

Fact No. 1: Having a great website without ongoing Internet marketing is the same as having a great showroom without ongoing advertising. Continue reading What is SEO and why is it critical to your retail flooring business?

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The importance of an online product catalog

by John Van Cleve Weller Jr.

Much controversy surrounds the question of whether flooring retailers should feature product pricing and a “product catalog” on their websites.

While statistics show the vast majority of consumers still visit flooring retailers’ showrooms to discuss their investment and “touch and feel” the product to purchase, the decision on which showroom to visit is made well before they get in the car. In fact, 85% of consumers shop online to decide which products they are interested in before visiting a showroom to make a final choice and purchase. This online shopping means the consumer is researching products, examining offered options and, most importantly, comparing prices. Continue reading The importance of an online product catalog

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Correction

An article that appeared on page 21 in the July 16/23 issue of Floor Covering News titled, “Why Social Networking Is Important,” by John Van Cleve Weller Jr., vice president of marketing for FloorForce, contained numerous typographical errors. These mistakes were the result of human error by our production department within the automated spell check process.

The original, corrected version of the story is reprinted in its entirety below and can also be found in FCNews’ digital version, which can be viewed and/or downloaded by visiting http://www.digital.turn-page.com/i/75411. This corrected version will also be re-printed in our July 30/Aug. 6 issue.

These spelling errors are no reflection of the professionalism of the author or company he represents.

Floor Covering News takes full responsibility for these errors and regrets that they occurred. We apologize to our readers and FloorForce for any inconvenience they may have caused.

 

 

Why Social Networking Is Important

by John Van Cleve Weller Jr.

Through hundreds of conversations I have had with floor covering retailers in the last few months, I have concluded the majority of them give social media little or no attention. Many find it intimidating or too time-consuming and don’t believe that it is really important to the success of their business.

I have heard many other reasons why flooring retailers don’t update their social media sites, including “Our industry is boring,” “Nobody will read our posts,” “I don’t have the resources” and “We go after a clientele that is not computer savvy.”

Other than your website, social media sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and Pinterest all give you an amazing, cost effective way to engage your current and past clients and expand your reach in your market.

Businesses that have embraced this new age of marketing have leap-frogged ahead of those who have not. An example is Lumber Liquidators. It has mastered its method of using PPC (pay-per-click) advertising and as well as SEO (search engine optimization) to create traffic to the company’s website. This is a major factor in its growth and success during the last five years. According to our research, Lumber Liquidators has approximately 240,000 consumers visiting its website every month.

Today’s consumers are hyper-connected to the Internet and are now expecting more and more information from the companies with which they choose to do business.

Yes, using social media does take some time and understanding to achieve measurable results, but there is no doubt social media sites enable your company to communicate with consumers at a whole new level and like never before.

Social media marketing probably won’t save a failing business, but it can definitely help you build your brand; build confidence and trust in your company; create traffic to your website and, most importantly, give you a significant edge over your competitors who either do not use it or use it incorrectly.

Here is my recommendation: Engage the social network now—your customers already have. The best flooring retailers will, and playing catch up will be much more difficult.

John Van Cleve Weller Jr. is the vice president of marketing for FloorForce. For more information on how to start using the social network today, visit floorforce.com or email him at socialnetworking@floorforce.com.

 

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FloorForce 2D product catalog links dealers with consumers

Boca Raton, Fla.—There once was a time when a consumer would travel from store to store looking at products and comparing prices before making her decision. Thanks to the Internet and an explosion of technology making it easier than ever to access, today’s consumer shops much differently. Continue reading FloorForce 2D product catalog links dealers with consumers