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Dear David: Affordable perks to offer millennial employees

June 11/18, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 26

By David Romano

 

Dear David: 

I just spent the past couple weeks interviewing people for two retail sales positions. Most of the people I interviewed were less than 30 years old and a lot of them asked some very weird questions about benefits. I know you owned a recruiting company for the flooring industry and I was wondering if you could help me. Do I really need to give employees free food, memberships to gyms and be so flexible on hours worked? It seems pretty silly to me because I didn’t need any of that when I was that age and neither did my older employees. 

Dear Owner,

What you experienced in those interviewers is what all companies are now facing. The mix of benefits desired by today’s workforce is much different than past generations. The time to get on the bus and change how you think is now. In fact, according to a study conducted by Deloitte Consulting in 2018, 66% of millennials expect to leave their organizations by 2020.

Companies are at risk of losing a large percentage of their next-generation talent if they fail to adjust. That’s why cultivating workplace culture and incentives that keep employees happy and productive is critical.

One solution to consider for overcoming the millennial retention issue is company perks. Perks pack the potential to attract new and retain existing millennial talent. In the same Deloitte study, it was found that 64% of millennials care about company benefits (compared to 54% of Generation X and 51% of baby boomers). Perks and benefits are the No. 2 thing behind culture and values that millennials want to know about a company. According to Perkbox, 69% of 18-to-24-year-old millennial employees say company perks are crucial to job satisfaction, compared to about half of baby boomer employees.

Following are what millennials listed as important perks.

Travel perks. According to a study led by Harris Group, 72% of millennials prefer spending money on travel and social events. Allowing your employees to travel for vacation will make them love working for your company. They will also feel less stressed.

Flexible hours. Millennials value personal time. According to a recent study on The Cost of Millennial Retention, 45% of millennials chose flexibility over higher pay. There is no reason to have your entire sales staff come in at 9 a.m. and leave at 6 p.m. Let some come in later and some work from home.

Offer free food. Many companies are picking up the tab for meals. Other companies also found that free food during meetings and on Fridays encouraged more employee productivity and attendance.

Training and team-building. Millennials are proud to describe themselves as life-long learners. Team-building activities are ways to relieve stress and keep work relationships strong. Sandler Sales classes, bringing top sales associates to education day events at conventions and staff bowling nights should help.

Gym membership, spa or yoga. A healthy employee is a happy employee—and happy employees get the job done. Millennials are one of the most health-conscious generations. If you want to keep them, wellness programs will help.

Off-site charity events. Many millennials believe companies should contribute toward a good cause. If your company hosts off-site charity events from time to time, you’ll likely attract millennials and generate good press at the same time.

David Romano, formerly the founder of Romano Consulting Group as well as Benchmarkinc Recruiting, is currently the director of Dallas-based Romano Group. You can contact David at david@romanogroup.com.

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My take: Learning a little more about millennials

April 2/9, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 21

By Steven Feldman

 

Whatever and wherever you read, it’s hard to escape the word “millennial.” Retailers across all industries are continuing to increase their focus on selling to this generation, ages 23-37, who are rising in the ranks at work, getting married and having kids. They are playing a significant role in shaping our nation’s economic landscape. While baby boomers still control the lion’s share of disposable income and remain the flooring industry’s best customer today, it would be unwise to turn a blind eye on your most important customer of tomorrow.

When you hear the word millennial, it may call to mind some stereotypes: self-absorbed, foolish with money, not long-term planners or still dependent on their parents. But these stereotypes really don’t hold up, according to a recent Bank of America study titled, Better Money Habits Millennial Report.

As it turns out, millennials are actually just as good, or better, than other generations when it comes to managing money, and they are getting their financial houses in order. Millennials are more likely to set savings goals, and a majority meet them. One in six has at least $100,000 saved in checking and savings accounts, IRAs, 401(k)s and other retirement or investment accounts. Millennials with $15,000 or more in savings jumped to nearly 50% this year in the Bank of America study. Most millennials feel financially secure, yet one in four often worry about money.

At home, millennial parents are very aware of the costs of raising children. Older generations say finances weren’t really a factor in their decision to have kids; millennial parents say the opposite. What’s more, nearly a quarter of older millennials are already saving for their children’s education—quite a feat given that so many may still be paying off their own student loans.

Millennials were somewhere between middle school and just starting their careers during the economic collapse in 2007. And that has had some profound impacts on the way they save. Two-thirds of affluent millennials say they plan to rely on their savings accounts when they retire. Meanwhile, seven in 10 Gen-Xers have been relying on 401(k)s, and the majority of boomers chose to rely on Social Security and pensions.

So, with millennials representing a rising share of the U.S. consumer base, how do you reach them? First, in marketing to millennials, remember they have less disposable income than past generations. They’ve learned how to live well on less, and that makes their shopping habits much different from their predecessors.

The millennial generation knows how to take advantage of technology to get the best quality for the best price. They’re adept at finding discounts, using coupons and getting free shipping.

Branding is important to millennials, but price sometimes overshadows it. Millennials consider options carefully before they’re willing to spend their money. They’re not likely to buy into flashy, self-promotional ads.

Millennials are an entrepreneurial population that takes delight in supporting local businesses. They’ve also been brought up learning about things like global warming and preserving natural resources. Businesses that actively support and promote a greener economy will get millennials’ attention.

Millennials won’t be caught without multiple mobile devices, so marketers need to ensure their ads are “responsive,” meaning they display clearly on all mobile devices. Digital marketers will find greater power in social media because most millennials pull it up before they brush their teeth in the morning.

Again, while the baby boomer is still your most important customer, it’s critical to understand the ins and outs of this generation if you plan on sticking around for the next couple of decades. When you learn what makes a new generation tick, it’s far easier to evolve your marketing strategy to ignite a spark that gets them to click.

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Guest column: Is millennial marketing overrated today?

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

By Matt Beaudreau

 

The big question on the minds of many businesses today, whether you’re selling laminate flooring or Lamborghinis, is how do we reach this group that everyone is talking about—the millennials? For the purposes of this conversation, we define millennials as follows: those born between 1977 and 1995.

The long and short answer is retailers first need to look beyond the “category” of potential buyers—although millennials are emerging as a key demographic with increasing buying power. A recent Forbes article stated millennials in the U.S. alone spent $200 billion last year. By 2018, they will have the most spending power of any generation. Furthermore, the article stated social media is playing a huge role with 62% of millennials acknowledging that if a brand engages with them through various networks, they are more likely to become a loyal customer.

Beyond just targeting millennials, retailers also need to change the way consumers in general are researching and shopping today. I’m a firm believer that technology has changed the science of retailing today, which means successful retail salespeople must adapt accordingly.

This is especially important when you’re talking about multi-generational businesses. The older generation says, “This is how we do it. The family does it this way, the business looks like this.” There’s so much of that mentality out there, but that doesn’t work anymore. Ten or 11 years ago, Facebook did not exist; YouTube did not exist. When you think about the cultural impact of those platforms alone, it’s astounding. The reality is more has changed in the last 10 years in retail than the previous 50 years.

Looking back over the years, retailers went from making sure they had a functional website to updating that site with content more frequently. That was followed by blogging. But in today’s world that’s still not enough to deliver customers to your doorstep on a daily basis. To be successful, retailers need to be targeting customers on various platforms with new tools such as video, podcasts, etc. The only way to survive is to adapt and never get too nostalgic or romantic about any specific way of doing business. You have to become a practitioner of what is working right now. For example, if your goal is to incorporate Facebook ads but nobody on your staff uses Facebook in that way, good luck with that approach. Same with Instagram. If you’re targeting people age 45 or under—and we’re finding a lot of people buying homes are falling in that age range—Instagram is where they are. But like Facebook, you better have someone on your staff who uses Instagram to understand how it works.

Salespeople will always require the knowledge of connecting with people on a one-on-one basis. While that’s still true, it’s more important to the growth of the industry to be getting the attention of the end consumer in the first place. In other words, where are their eyeballs? Right now social media has a greater impact with the consumer than a billboard or a traditional TV commercial.

 

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.

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Marketing to millennials means knowing what makes them tick

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

By Lindsay Baillie

Screen Shot 2017-01-16 at 12.05.58 PMMillennials are often described as radically different from their baby boomer and Generation X predecessors. This new group of customers has forced retailers to spice up promotions, websites and showrooms—all in hopes of catching the millennial’s eye. Several retailers shared their thoughts on how and when to attract millennials.

Craig Phillips, Barrington Carpet & Flooring Design, Akron, Ohio
“Our retail business is heavily dependent on the business we derive from baby boomers, and I really do not see that changing dramatically in the near future. That being said, the buying power the millennials have is not to be ignored. [They] shop for products so differently than baby boomers, and over time they, too, will influence how everyone shops for our products.”

Barrington Carpet & Flooring Design does little traditional advertising but it does spend money promoting via social media channels. “We try to have a fresh, easy-to-maneuver website tied to our social media presence,” Phillips said. “In addition to Facebook and Google Plus, we have recently added Houzz to our marketing efforts. We are keenly aware of how millennials shop, and we are slowly trying to be more visible and viable to this emerging market source. Our new home construction business is, at this point, still dominated by baby boomer customers. We will continue our efforts to attract new millennial business while still concentrating our efforts on baby boomers.”

Meaghan Karn, Avalon Flooring, Cherry Hill, N.J.
“Primarily we are expanding our reach to make sure we use marketing efforts that include millennial customers. Digital is the now and the future, so we are making sure our online presence is impactful and cohesive to what customers can expect in our showrooms. The biggest difference we notice is millennial consumers tend to be more price conscious. They also want to be a bigger part of the ‘process’ whether it’s through making selections based on their education of the products we offer, through installation how–tos or even the design. They know what they want, and we are here to help them realize their dream project.”

Kevin Rose, Carpetland USA, Rockford, Ill.
“Statistically speaking there are approximately 80 million baby boomers, 51 million Gen X and 75 million millennials. Millennials are a digital-focused age group, which means we have to reach them via Google ad key words, website, various forms of social media, etc. We utilize these methods along with all the traditional media such as print, TV, etc., that we have utilized for years to attract the baby boomers and Gen X. All of these generations are equally as important as the next.”

In an attempt to better understand millenials, Rose looks to market research. Specifically, he points to various studies related to disposable income and how each generation differs. “It would seem the millennials are more focused on savings and utilize credit cards more than the other two,” he said. “However, they all have to be considered in every aspect of advertising, or you will fall behind and not progress forward with increases in your annual revenues.”

Eric Langan, Carpetland USA, Davenport, Iowa
“Over the past few years we have really increased our investment and presence in digital marketing in attempt to attract more millennials. We have redesigned our website, are much more involved in social media and have added dollars to our digital marketing campaign.”

Langan believes millennials go about shopping and getting their overall information differently than that of baby boomers. “Millennials are very comfortable with technology and use it a lot more than their older counterparts. Traditional media still play a role with millennials, although not as much as it used to be with baby boomers.”

Marketing to millennials, according to Langan, has created a fun and unique challenge for Carpetland. “It’s paramount we figure it out. Millennials will, if they haven’t already, outnumber baby boomers.”

Adam Pace , Metro Floors, Lancaster, Calif.
“[Compared with previous generations] millennials are generally much more educated on the flooring products. Oftentimes they already know exactly what they want before they even step foot into the store.”

To attract this group, Metro Floors runs digital campaigns on Facebook via Promoboxx. The company also advertises with Yelp, Houzz and mobile digital ads that are geo-targeted.

Pace is keeping his eye on this potentially lucrative demographic. “Thankfully I am not in a big city so millennials are starting to purchase homes in my area…This creates a large opportunity for us so we need to make sure we capture their business.”

Mark Compston, Mark’s Flooring Center, Minneola, Fla.
Mark’s Flooring Center is doing more Internet advertising these days, focusing on to the types of websites and social media programs millenials frequently use. “We’re also offering a lot more shop-at-home options. Millennials want someone who can come to their house and bring [the product] to them,” Compston said.

He doesn’t believe millenials represent a huge portion of the flooring business yet, but he predicts that might change down the road.

“The majority of flooring is sold to people ages 35-75; millennials are buying homes at a much older age,” he explained. “I think it’ll be a few years before we see them take over the industry.”

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Quick-Step targets Gen X and millennial sales

image001Dallas—Quick-Step has just completed the first year of its Influencer Outreach program. The campaign utilized the reach of two independent bloggers “Shanty 2 Chic” and “Ask Anna” to generate interest and loyalty for Quick-Step among the coveted Gen X and millennial shoppers.

“Savvy brands like Quick-Step are relying on blogger influencers for credibility among consumers,” said Paij Thorn-Brooks, vice president of brand marketing for Mohawk Laminate & Hardwood, North America. “Today’s consumers no longer accept at face value what a brand says about its products. Critically important to today’s consumers is that credibility is built organically. So brands are relying on influencers for credibility among these Gen X and millennials shoppers.”

In addition to creating brand credibility, Quick-Step’s program is meant to assist its retailers. “As with all of our marketing efforts, the ultimate goal of Quick-Step’s influencer outreach is to help our retailers make more money by increasing their sales of Quick-Step products,” Thorn-Brooks said.

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Abbey Carpet & Floor: New programs for optimizing RSAs, web-savvy shoppers

February 29/March 7, 2016; Volume 30, Number 18

By Jenna Lippin

IMG_7240Las Vegas—Against the backdrop of a positive outlook for 2016, Abbey Carpet & Floor saw the highest percentage of membership attending last month’s annual convention since 2008. And to help dealers ride this wave of optimism, the group presented several new strategies and programs to cater to today’s consumer, which ranges from millennial to baby boomer.

“To stay ahead we must work smarter in order to take market share,” said Steve Silverman, Abbey’s president and COO. “Your customer continues to change. You must target marketing and advertising to focus on different needs. To win you must deliver value to every customer.”

Keynote speaker Joe Bondi, vice president of Armstrong residential flooring, North America, explained the changing consumer. “Arguably the most critical [market trend] is keeping pace with the consumer of today. There are different ways of shopping and purchasing flooring, which have really changed and continue to evolve.”

Part of this evolution is the focal shift to millennials, or Generation Y—those consumers who range in age from 19 to 35. Today the largest consumer demographic is Generation X, ages 36 to 51, but by 2017 Generation Y will surpass them in terms of buying power. To further the point, in 2021 millennials will be the largest consumer group and by 2025 will account for 46.6% of the nation’s income.

How does Abbey help its members address this sea change of shoppers? Helping to arm its members with the best RSAs in the business is one major weapon, because quality salespeople lead to happy customers, which results in positive online feedback via social media and review sites, driving new and repeat customers.

To that end, Abbey’s new RSA Training and Learning Center—available to members via Abbey InfoNet—features a plethora of tools to help the busy dealer train his sales staff. Topics include best practices and sales training along with product knowledge and detailed information on Abbey private-label brands. Both videos and written guides are available from customer service guru Pami Bhullar, director of retail development for Invista/Stainmaster, and renowned business coach Joe Calloway, a regular speaker at Abbey events.

“In our industry, training means a number of things,” Silverman noted. “It’s more than just selling; it’s knowledge and when to use that knowledge. There are so many components that make up our industry in terms of different types of flooring. Consumers today go on the Internet and learn about products before they are going to spend $10,000 to $15,000. They compare and know differences of products. All that information needs to be in the hands of salespeople. If they fumble on giving an answer [to a customer] it may mean she is going to a competitor.”

Ted Gregerson, owner of Ted’s Abbey Carpet & Floor with two locations in the Birmingham, Ala., area, had been anticipating a full-service training program from the group. “Now you are able to take someone you’ve just hired who knows nothing about flooring and have them sit down at the computer, watch videos and get basic flooring knowledge without having someone else on your staff take the time to train them. That will be a huge savings for us. And even veteran or seasoned sales personnel can now [easily] be educated on Abbey programs, Abbey brands and even sales 101 as reminders. We do a great job with education and training ourselves; this will go really well with what we’re already doing.”

In conjunction with its new training initiative, Abbey launched Performance Plus Rewards at convention, an incentives program for RSAs designed to encourage sales of private-label products.

“The basic concept is to provide a reward for salespeople to sell the brands you have the best opportunity to make more money on,” David Hardy, executive vice president, merchandising and member services, told members. “These products are really not ‘shop-able.’ Suppliers that create products in exclusive brands and private labels prevent people from going on the Internet and shopping prices.”

Any product under Abbey’s umbrella of exclusive brands earns points for salespeople. Points earned go toward electronics like iPads, DVD and Blu-ray players, desktop computers and more.

Abbey launched Performance Plus Rewards and the RSA training program in sync so members can educate and motivate their sales staff at the same time. IMG_7230With all information in one place on Abbey’s InfoNet portal, the initiatives work together seamlessly. “I have a small team of five and plan on using the training and rewards,” said Leon Wink, COO, Wolde Flooring, Madison, Ala. “Often a company sends just one representative or the store owner to learn more, but to grow your company you really have to delegate and everyone has to come up to speed. You want your entire staff to be knowledgeable, not just one person. This system simplifies the process.”

While customer service is a top priority for Abbey members, driving shoppers to that top-notch in-store experience is the first step. With that, the group has boosted its focus on members’ digital footprints to help bring consumers to Abbey member sites and ultimately their stores.

Abbey’s digital marketing program has been designed to guide flooring dealers through their social media efforts on all platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Houzz, Google+ and more. Email marketing is another major component, helping send store messages, news and promotions via Constant Contact.

Perhaps the most critical element of Abbey’s digital marketing program is Customer Connect, the group’s customized pay-per-click (PPC) advertising program. “It is a perfect service for small businesses looking for ways to cost effectively reach customers,” said Patricia Toledo, Abbey’s digital marketing coordinator. “You only pay when a consumer clicks on your text ad and is brought to your Abbey website. PPC connects to online shoppers the moment they start looking for flooring.”

As the largest search engine in existence today, Google continues to come up with tools to better utilize its features. The Google Results Page will give higher rankings to Abbey members using PPC, with the Google text ad and corresponding ad on the member website linking to communicate the same message. The Customer Connect dashboard lets Abbey dealers gauge how successful their PPC campaigns have been, showing statistics like clicks, views, click-through rate and costs per click, in addition to seeing from where traffic is actually coming. The best part: Every member can decide how much he or she wants to spend per month on PPC. The Customer Connect team helps determine what programming is best for each budget and monitors results to see what is working and what is not.

One member who can attest to the success generated by Abbey’s Customer Connect PPC program is Barry Lindgren, owner of Abbey Carpet & Floor of Puyallup in Puyallup, Wash. While he was hesitant about the initiative when it first launched in 2014, he soon increased his monthly budget when he saw the jump in his website traffic. One particular promotion he ran in May 2015 featuring a Karastan campaign changed the game for good. “I was extremely surprised at how much it increased our business. We continued to increase our PPC monthly budget and have held it ever since. About 60% to 65% of the traffic on our website is through PPC. I hope to find other ways to use PPC to enhance our traffic even more.”

Another initiative introduced at convention created to attract customers and entice them to buy was its Visions 2016 showroom design that helps members position products to keep on top of what’s trending in the market. The group has partnered with Ron Hodgdon of Creative Arts—who has helped develop member showrooms for over 25 years—to conceptualize this new design. Members who sign up for the redesign work with him directly.

“Unless you have recently joined Abbey or had your showroom redesigned by Ron, members that joined years ago probably haven’t changed their showrooms,” Hardy said. “Displays have been switched out but the flow hasn’t changed. The new, vibrant look is exciting.”

Silverman noted the consistent design amongst Abbey private-label displays, which helps a showroom look organized and inviting. “In a non-member showroom you see different displays. In an Abbey showroom you see displays with the same look; there is a homogenous feel. This design provides an upscale look that will hopefully increase selling price and margin. It’s like inviting guests to your home.”