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Metroflor launches second CEU

Norwalk, Conn.– Metroflor has made its second continuing education unit (CEU) course available online at AEC Daily. The one-hour program, “Biophilic Design & Resilient flooring,” has been approved by The American Institute of Architects (AIA) Continuing Education, the Interior Design Continuing Education Council (IDCEC) and USGBC and carries 0.1 CEU or 1 LU of credit. Metroflor’s first CEU, “Sustainable Attributes of LVT Flooring,” is also available online at AEC Daily.

“Biophilic Design & Resilient Flooring” reflects the company’s immersion in biophilic design as an influence in the creation of its ever-evolving LVT product lines. This course will provide an overview of the basic principles of biophilic design and focus on how resilient flooring specifications can support its expression in commercial design projects.

Based on the learning objectives, participants will be able to:

  • Define biophilic design and list some specific ways to implement it into a space
  • Explain the benefits of using biophilic design in commercial spaces
  • Enumerate the key pattern categories in biophilic design
  • Determine the strategies and considerations for using the biophilic design patterns to achieve desired results
  • Explain how resilient flooring specification can support biophilic design

Metroflor has already begun to offer this course as a face-to-face presentation for credit to staff at architectural and interior design firms in major North American markets. Over 200 people have participated to date, in addition to 40 others who have taken the course online at AEC Daily. Its entire commercial sales team has been certified to present the program, as well as some of its distributor-partners.

For more information, visit aspectaflooring.com/request-ceu or email CEU@aspectaflooring.com

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Shannon Specialty Floors unveils new visual floor designer

Milwaukee, Wis.—Shannon Specialty Floors has launched its new interactive online visual floor designer. Available on Shannon Specialty Floors’ website, the new design tool allows users to select from 12 commercial room scene options and integrate with any of the company’s 18 collections of commercial flooring solutions.

Visitors to the site can experiment with different color combinations and patterns of the company’s resilient sheet, luxury vinyl tile and plank, and PVC free products. Visitors can also choose to upload their own room scene to visualize the products in at no additional cost.

“Being able to actually see our product offerings in different spaces is an immaculate design tool,” said Jeff Collum, president, Shannon Specialty Floors. “We hope designers, architects and contractors alike enjoy the design tool as both professional research and personal enjoyment.”

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Marketing Online: Make the most of social networking

November 20/27, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 12

By Lindsay Baillie

 

Screen Shot 2017-11-27 at 10.43.18 AMMost retailers understand the importance of developing a digital marketing campaign and having a strong social media presence. However, simply being on social media is not enough. In order to social network on these platforms retailers have to create and engage in conversation. If used correctly, experts say, the online world provides multiple avenues for retailers to connect with potential and existing consumers and stay top of mind.

FCNews spoke with several digital marketing and social media experts to uncover how retailers can make the most of their social networking.

Connect your plan with your tools. Retailers should make sure their overall marketing plans align with specific social sites before jumping into all of them. As Lisbeth Calandrino, FCNews columnist and retail industry consultant, explains, “It’s one thing to have LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, but if you don’t have a marketing plan to go with those tools—and you don’t use those tools with consistency—then you won’t see positive results.”

Aligning a company’s goals and marketing plan with social networking sites can also save retailers valuable time. “It’s really important for businesses to understand what the company’s goals are for being on social networks,” said Christine Whittemore, chief simplifier, Simple Marketing Now. “Is it just to promote your business? Is it to generate new leads? Is it to address questions people have? It may end up being a combination of all three because people hang out on networks and they may try to reach you there.”

Have a strong home base. While social networking generally occurs on social media sites and review sites, experts urge retailers to have a strong website as well. “It’s really important for retailers to make sure their home base (their website) is as strong as it can be,” Whittemore explained. “It’s a good idea to make sure the website is mobile friendly and has helpful information.”

The content on a retailer’s website can help influence the posts or conversations he or she has while social networking, Whittemore added.

Do a quick company Google search. Most retailers aim to have their website appear on the first page of a Google search. But what they often forget is other public profiles, including social media accounts and review sites, can also appear on that first page. Experts warn retailers to look at those other sites and make sure branding and key information about their company is consistent.

Whittemore suggests: “Do a Google search on your company name and find out what public profiles files exist about your company. There are a lot of profiles that will be created automatically by virtue of you having a business phone number and address, and you want to claim them.”

Adding pictures and logos, along with making sure the information about the business is consistent across all platforms, helps as well.

Be consistently active. Most experts agree a retailer cannot network socially unless he or she is “in the conversation” or active on key platforms. It is also crucial for retailers to find out where their customers are interacting online. In addition to having a presence on sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, Paul Friederichsen, marketing expert and owner of BrandBiz, suggest retailers explore LinkedIn. “[This platform] is vital for business to business, particularly if you’re a dealer who does or wants to do a lot of Main Street or commercial business. LinkedIn is probably best at facilitating networking within your community of decision makers. Facebook is best for residential/consumer networking.”

Part of being active on social media sites is creating and maintaining conversations. As Calandrino explains, “One way to do this is to pose a question on social media—find out what people think. The more people write and say, the more opportunities you have for connecting.”

Examine the analytics. Why post on multiple platforms if only one or two are delivering positive results? Cutting down the number of active social media sites to include only those with positive results can save a retailer time and potentially money. Retailers can determine which sites are crucial to their success by looking at weekly or monthly analytics.

“Analytics are what help you change your campaign,” Calandrino explained. “It’s very important retailers look at their analytics and take the time to really see what has been successful.”

Provide helpful information to consumers. While social media would appear to be the ideal place for highlighting new products and flooring specials, experts suggest retailers provide consumers with useful tips and resources instead.

“Retailers need to approach social media and social networking as being a local facilitator of home fashion ideas, solutions, advice, tips, resources and value from the flooring point of view,” Friederichsen said. “Social networking is not the place to hawk the latest special in wood flooring by [this brand or that brand]. It is the place, however, to convey advice on the best place to install that particular wood flooring, how best to care for it or link the advice to a blog article on the retailer’s website.”

Today’s selling environment, Friederichsen added, is all about relationship building and trust. “That’s the huge advantage the independent retailer has over chains and big boxes.”

Be human. Social networking is very similar to traditional networking in that it involves a conversation between two entities. However, a major difference is social networking often occurs between a customer’s personal page and a company’s business page. Unlike personal social media accounts, business pages can often feel cold or look exactly the same. According to experts, social networking is most effective when a company comes across as a person and not business. This can be achieved through the types of posts on a social media page and how a retailer chooses to engage with the customer.

As Whittemore explains, “The more you can be human, the more successful you will be with networking socially.”

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Al's column: Maximizing your online presence

November 6/13, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 11

By Jay Flynn

 

Screen Shot 2017-11-13 at 9.45.39 AMSearch-engine optimization. Pay per click. Organic (and paid) social media initiatives. All these elements stand to have a big impact on any online marketing strategy. So the question is: Why aren’t more flooring retailers taking advantage of these tools?

They’re not acronyms and strategies to be afraid of but rather embraced. Still, just a mere mention of many of these online strategies makes some managers’ palms sweat. If this sounds like you, know that you’re not alone. Also know that there are certain resources you can tap into to better understand these strategies and take your online marketing to the next level.

One such resource within your reach is The International Surface Event (TISE), scheduled to take place Jan. 30 through Feb. 1 in Las Vegas next year. One seminar in particular, “How to Maximize Your Online Marketing Presence,” is designed to help retailers overcome fears of online marketing. During this presentation, I will give attendees the information they need to take their flooring company’s web presence to new heights, potentially leading to new business opportunities and, thus, more sales.

The seminar will consist of a panel of industry-leading retail flooring dealers that have driven business growth through a strategic online marketing program. As moderator, I will lead discussion on online marketing campaigns and invite panel members to share the respective tools they use and the results they get from implementing them. The goal is to help attendees learn what they can do in their respective businesses to give themselves more of an online presence, keeping in mind their budgets, competition and end goals.

Panelists will also discuss traditional marketing techniques and how those techniques can help complement online marketing. For instance, 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.

The seminar will also cover:

  • An overview of all the primary online marketing tools that flooring retailers can utilize.
  • What ROI flooring retailers can expect from each tool based on macro data.
  • What online tools are best suited for a respective business based on specific business parameters.

This informative seminar will help retailers gain a better understanding of how they can ensure they’ve selected the right online marketing tool and what to expect to budget for each. It is designed specifically to help specialty floor covering dealers implement an effective online marketing campaign to help fuel business growth.

There’s simply no reason to fear online marketing any longer. Rather, learn to embrace it. The reward of more leads and increased sales most definitely outweighs the risk. Register online today at tisewest.com to take advantage of these valuable educational opportunities.

 

Jay Flynn is vice president of Creating Your Space, a leading custom website and online marketing provider for the flooring industry. Founded by veterans of the flooring industry, Creating Your Space specializes in providing custom websites along with a suite of online marketing tools for retailers.

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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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FCNews exclusive interview: Lead-gen marketing in today’s web-centric world

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

Chase ShielsEven today’s most tech-savvy retailers, manufacturers and distributors realize it’s not enough to merely have a “presence” online. Proponents say success requires just the right mix of a content-rich website, interactive social media efforts (both inbound and outbound) and effective search-based, lead-generation tools. In short, all these elements—combined with traditional face-to-face selling, of course—all need to seamlessly blend together to help retailers maximize sales opportunities and develop potential repeat business in the process.

To discuss this critical integration, FCNews managing editor Reginald Tucker sat down with Chase Shiels, CEO of 4me Group, a Cincinnati-based tech start-up specializing in helping dealers convert more browsers into buyers. Utilizing its suite of cloud-based sales management software—including its signature Lead Tool program—the company works with several high-profile independent floor covering dealers as well as members of large retail buying groups. If that wasn’t enough, 4me Group has developed lead-gen programs for some of the industry’s largest manufacturers. It also has a successful track record with companies operating in the real estate sector. The goal is to help retail businesses provide a better customer experience.

In this discussion, Shiels not only talks tech but also delves into the importance of having a thoroughly integrated lead-generation, customer relationship management (CRM) system.

Q: Before we get into the actual software products, give us a little background on 4me Group.

A: I’d say we’re a combination of ex-operators and technologists—industry veterans who understand the building products retailing market. Two of our founders are successful former owners and operators of lumber distribution and dry-kiln facilities focusing on imported and domestic hardwoods and custom millwork. Our team has experience in all three key points of the supply chain: manufacturing, distribution and retail. More importantly, we have experience selling to modern consumers. As a group we are very experienced in bringing new technologies into different industries.

Q: Explain the transition from the manufacturing side of the business to the marketing end. 

A: My dad and I got out of the family lumber business, and I went to work in the car business. I was in sales in the middle of the recession. The owner of the automotive retail group I worked for spent several hundred thousands of dollars a month on online advertising, but he didn’t feel his sales staff was doing much with the leads being generated by all this advertising. The owner got fed up and pulled all the online leads from his entire sales staff and gave them to me and my business partner, George. I managed the division of the company that comprised Porsche, Audi, Maserati and Volvo. Together we managed between 300-400 new sales leads per month. Within about 90 days we were accounting for somewhere between 35%-40% of the monthly sales volume. We took all these leads that were supposedly “garbage” and converted them into sales. Mind you, we did all this during a recession, which is not a good time to be selling $100,000 cars. But I’ve learned a lot about lead generation, sales processes and CRM systems.

Q: What did that process teach you, specifically?

A: I learned how a sales process should look, how you can most effectively get someone to come into the showroom and buy a car—even when the person was not located in the [same] state. I did a lot of national and international business. I also learned about the importance of CRM platforms in helping salespeople turn every potential customer in a paying customer.

After I left the car business, I began working with another partner on building a lead-generation website geared very heavily toward specialty flooring retailers because. Homeadvisor.com, which was called Service Magic back then, was only servicing contractors—not brick and mortar stores.

Q: Have you learned anything that has surprised you?

A: Statistically speaking, many sales reps—about 48%—don’t bother to follow up. Furthermore, something on the order of 80% of sales reps don’t close until after the fifth to 12th contact. So what happens with lot of these online leads is when you don’t respond right away when they’re paying attention, you don’t get ahold of them and then you have to try contacting them again. There’s a cadence effective salespeople follow—i.e., call/send an email; call/send a text, etc. It can’t be a one-and-done situation. Unfortunately, most salespeople will call a lead just once, follow up with an e-mail and then throw out the lead if they don’t get a response.

Q: In your opinion, why are so few RSAs, percentage-wise, following up on leads?

A: We did a podcast recently on social media, and we learned that many of the things we’ve been talking about are not widely accepted in this industry. Here’s the thing about online: If you don’t contact someone who submits an online inquiry in about 10 minutes, your chance of converting that lead into a sale decreases by a factor of 10 by the time you get to 30 minutes. Furthermore, if you don’t respond within an hour, your chances of converting that sale are preposterously low. That’s from an independent study, “Lead Responsiveness Management,” which insidesales.com recently conducted.

Online leads really require you to be constantly on your game. It’s helpful to have a CRM platform that instantly lets you know when you have a lead, and then you have to be inside that platform; it has to be part of your daily routine. Basically you have to adopt the technology to make the online lead really beneficial for you.

Q: Where are retailers falling short when it comes to adopting or implementing these CRM systems?

A: Five years ago retailers could simply “manage their leads,” but it’s just not enough today. Many store managers resort to paying someone to do syndicated social media content, which they then publish for thousands of other people. Here’s the problem: Content syndication absolutely kills your Google ranking and destroys your SEO. So you might hear a dealer say, “Yeah, our business does Facebook,” but it’s not enough. What dealers need is a full-suite CRM system that encompasses everything from first contact all the way to after sale, which includes remarketing to customers you have already serviced in the past.

All of these initiatives help salespeople better connect with their customers and decrease the time it takes to provide the customer more value. From a marketing perspective it’s basically the Holy Grail since it offers multiple touch points and a breakdown of where your target customers are by channel.

Q: Tell us how Lead Tool came about.

A: We invented Lead Tool partly as a solution to our own frustrations. It was developed with one goal in mind—change the game and offer an intelligent and useful platform for building material retailers, distributors and manufacturers, and ultimately help them make more money.

Our platform offers a place where manufacturers can send online leads; their customers can manage them and their retailers can run their entire sales business off our platform. It’s a full-suite CRM. We cover the entire sales cycle; lead management is just the front end where the qualification takes place. Then there’s the sales management component, where you’re actually trying to close the sale; and, finally, after-sale management, where you’re scheduling the installation or calling to ask for a referral. Then you have remarketing, where you’re going back in and re-prospecting for other sales opportunities in other areas of the home.

We are big proponents on moving the industry forward when it comes to technology. With our founders having owned/operated a company in the building materials industry and our core team having already revolutionized the real estate industry with technology, we are now doing the same in the flooring industry. We already work with several Top 50 retailers and have partnerships with manufacturers such as Shaw and Mannington as well as buying groups such as Floors & More.

For many of our clients, it’s important to convey the need for CRM before we talk about selling a particular product. We have a unique perspective on this because we’re the only real tech start-up in the space that’s doing this day in and day out. For us it’s not a side project.

Q: You mentioned the “ease-of-use” aspect of the program. How do you facilitate training when you bring on new clients?

A: The cool thing about our system is we’re entirely cloud based, so we do most training via the web. We have a full implementation process; it’s pretty straightforward and very easy. The nice thing about it is it goes as fast as the client wants it to go. For example, after completing a sale we will schedule a session with the succession team. There’s an initial phone call where we ask the client what their objectives are: i.e., do they want to close more online leads? Or do they want to have more oversight of their entire sales pipeline? We focus on what’s going to make this a valuable tool for the client’s organization.

Q: How long does the implementation process typically take?

The implementation can be done within a week or two for those clients who really want to hustle. In some cases it can take about 30 days. We train every single person who’s going to be on the system, whether it’s group training or one on one. And this continues with the life of the system—that’s why we call it a “success” department as opposed to a “support” department. We are very proactive in this regard, and we provide reporting to our clients on a regular basis.

Q: Some retailers we have spoken to say their salespeople are reluctant to use CRM programs so they won’t buy it. How does Lead Tool address this issue?

A: At the end of the day it’s really a leadership decision. The main thing we’ve learned is the industry, on the whole, is really far behind in terms of buying in to what’s going on in the world. The fact is people are interacting and buying differently, using social media, etc. Retailers really need to understand their customers’ retail footprint. You have to buy into the mindset that people are buying differently. Customers today expect mobile payment options, they don’t want to come back to your showroom and sign a contract. It’s all about making it easier to transact.

Q: Can you provide an example of how this system has worked for other industries you service?

A: For the real estate industry we’ve developed systems that allow people to pay for a home using their mobile device; we’d like to do the same for someone who might spend, say, $10,000 on a new floor.

We recognize this is a massive change for everyone. While CRM systems have been around for 20 years and is the gold standard in almost every industry, it is new to the flooring/lumber/furniture space. We try to get new adopters to embrace the sales process and really think about the pipeline, especially if they’re coming from a pen-and-paper process. We want all our clients to kill it out there and make that transition process as smooth as possible.

Q: In terms of ROI, how soon after implementation of these lead-gen and CRM programs can a retailer expect to see tangible results?

A: In full disclosure, I can only speak to our systems and the publicly available data we have. In general, the ROI on CRM is about 700% and—that’s the accepted standard that we obtained through a third-party study. But in our case, we have customers who will see an ROI immediately.

For instance: The average flooring sale is about $2,000; our smaller accounts probably spend about $2,000–$3,000 per year with us. If you are only following up with half of your sales prospects, then all of a sudden you put in a CRM and you start following up with 75%–100%. In general, for every dollar dealers spend with us, they’ve logged about $80 in total sales. That’s just the average; we have some customers who are logging $200-plus for every dollar they spend with us.

I would expect someone who adopts our system to have an ROI within 30 days—even if they paid upfront for a year. The longer you’re on it and the harder you’re working the system, the more you’re going to get out of it.

Q: What’s your message to retailers who have not yet adopted integrated CRM systems?

A: It’s important to convey to the industry the amount of significant change that has taken place in recent years. People want to buy differently, whether it’s a builder, homeowner, etc. Understanding how the retailer customer wants to buy and then catering to that customer.

A lot of retailers have rose-colored glasses on right now. And things are going to be good until they are not so good. We’re heading toward the end of a long, successful business cycle, based on forecasts we have seen. Many retailers won’t be ready for the change.

 

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Technology: Xintory.com 2.0—More products, improved functionality

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

By Reginald Tucker

 

Screen Shot 2017-10-17 at 10.29.06 AMEarlier this year the flooring industry got its first look at Xintory.com, a web-based B2B portal designed strictly for manufacturers, distributors, dealers and installers to sell and buy overstocks, drops and specials (FCNews, Feb. 27/ March 6, 2017). The objective, according to Larry Feldman, the 30-year floor covering industry veteran who founded the company, was to provide a marketplace where sellers and buyers in the trade can reliably and securely get together to solve an issue that impacts virtually everyone across the supply chain—what to do with excess, discontinued inventory.

Nearly a year after the program’s first beta test, the company reports not only a significant increase in usage among both buyers and sellers but also a host of improvements and upgrades. These enhancements, which have resulted in what Feldman refers to as “Xintory.com 2.0,” are designed to improve the program’s overall functionality for all parties involved.

Among the most notable improvements and changes: a continually expanding online inventory; door-to-door delivery service; a new “Buyer’s Alert”; a “Make-an-Offer” feature; and a new product pricing function that reflects the true scale of the discounted product offerings.

“People who may have visited the site a few months ago but not lately will be very surprised,” Feldman stated.

Following is a closer look at the upgrades and what they mean for users:

Expanded inventory. New products are listed on Xintory.com every single day. To put things in perspective, this translates into many millions of dollars worth of product featured on the site since last December. Categories currently offered on Xintory.com run a wide gamut—resilient flooring, carpet/area rugs, ceramic and stone, hardwood and laminate, as well as subfloor prep materials and accessories. Virtually every product category is represented.

“We have a lot of product here and some amazing bargains on different products,” Feldman explained. “If buyers are looking for a significant amount of product for their stores—or if they just want several hundred feet for a small job—they can frequently find what they’re looking for on Xintory.com. It’s important that buyers keep coming back to see what’s new.”

Door-to-door delivery. Buyers can now arrange for their own shipping or have Xintory do it. Users can simply click a button and Xintory will provide a freight quote, add it to a buyer’s cart and provide door-to-door delivery service, thereby simplifying shipping logistics.

New “buyer’s alert” feature. In the event a retailer or distributor can’t find what they’re looking for on Xintory.com, the buyer can sign up for customized product alerts by literally clicking a button. As Feldman explains: “Let’s say a buyer is looking for 650 square yards of carpet tile in a particular color, but she doesn’t want to pay any more than $10 a square yard. When she clicks the ‘add alert’ button, we can tell her when it becomes available. At the same time, we can contact all of our sellers to try to find the material for that buyer. In short, buyers can leverage our floor covering network to help them find the materials they are looking for.”

Counter-offer functionality. Xintory employs technology that lets buyers make an offer and negotiate their own price. It not only provides shoppers with more purchasing flexibility, but it also boosts engagement between buyers and sellers. “Looking at the transaction patterns, we can see many sales go through this negotiation process,” Feldman explained.

More transparent pricing. When registered sellers list the prices of their products on the site, Xintory asks manufacturers and distributors for their regular list price and dealers their original cost. “This way, the buyer knows Xintory is actually selling the products at a significant savings—which means 50%-90% off, in some cases,” Feldman said. (He cited one case where a buyer saved more than $9,000 on a small order of 502 square yards of carpet tile.) Note: Registered/verified users cannot see any prices unless they are signed in. This prevents non-trade consumers from price shopping. Accounts can be set up for free; no fees are charged unless a purchase is completed.

Other key features of Xintory.com include hyperlinks to manufacturer websites, which allows potential buyers to obtain more detailed information such as product specifications, features, etc. “Everything about the new Xintory 2.0 portal is designed to drive more buyers to the site,” Feldman explained.

One such buyer is Lois Hatton, purchasing and inventory clerk for Re:Source New Jersey in Budd Lake. Her first go-round interfacing with a particular seller using the system was a little tricky, but she said the second experience with Xintory.com was much smoother. “It’s probably better for the big mills or retailers that have a lot of inventory; we’re a smaller installation contracting company. But overall I think it’s a good program. And the prices are attractive.”

Those observations are in line with others who have used the system. “It’s a cool website and a useful tool,” said Tom Cooper, vice president of dealer development, Tandus Centiva, which currently features select overstock products on Xintory.com. “I think it’s a great program.”

Several months ago, Xintory conducted several focus groups with buyers to get their feedback on the system and to explore ways to improve functionality. “After making these changes and getting back to the buyers in the focus group, they feel we answered their concerns,” Feldman noted.

A new feature that Xintory buyers really like is the shipping tool. “Xintory has added a freight option that makes it easier to get a better handle on the delivery costs,” said Jerry Jennings, owner of a Floor Trader store in Lawrence, Kan. The ability to order samples quickly and efficiently is also a draw. “The site gives us access to inventory that we wouldn’t otherwise have. Larry [Feldman] has really done a nice job with the site. It’s been working out fine for us.”

Fine, indeed. According to Feldman, Xintory.com has seen both its transactional volume and the amount of users increase every week. “We’re still a start-up and we’ve got a ways to go, but we’re getting great feedback and it’s good to see people are using the site. It takes a lot of persistence to get people comfortable using the system, but the trends we’re seeing are very encouraging.”

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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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Digital Marketing: Ready-made outreach programs at dealers’ fingertips

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

By Lindsay Baillie

 

Most retailers know they have to invest in digital marketing. However, not all dealers have the time or resources to run an effective digital campaign. While various marketing companies are available to provide digital help, flooring manufacturers are also stepping up to assist retailers.

Following is a sampling of some of the digital marketing initiatives currently available for retailers to leverage.

Armstrong
Armstrong Flooring’s digital marketing strategy contains many facets, including the company’s website, a campaign featured on HGTV and a promotion for Elevate retailers. Armstrong is also relaunching its residential website in November to dovetail with the consumer’s shopping journey.

“We take an integrated approach when it comes to our digital marketing strategy, seeking to connect with shoppers and drive qualified traffic to our aligned retailers,” said Ebeth Pitman, director of brand marketing. “We are continually evolving our website experience to drive more qualified leads through the doors of our retail partners. The website is a destination site for flooring shoppers and is optimized to capture that in-market consumer who is searching for flooring online.”

Screen Shot 2017-10-17 at 9.16.34 AMOther features of the website include a “request a quote” form available for each Elite partner store listing and co-branded web pages that are optimized for local search.

In addition to the website, Armstrong has a campaign titled “The Floor is Yours,” which is featured on HGTV and hgtv.com. This campaign is also integrated with a promotion for Elevate retailers called “The New Look of Tough,” which includes a campaign toolbox for retailers that includes video, social content, photography, merchandising, brochures and more.

Mohawk
Mohawk is committed to not only making quality flooring but also helping its retailers be successful. One of the ways the company aims to do this is through Omnify, its omni-channel solution.

“Omnify is about simple, connected retail,” said Mollie Surratt, senior director of public relations and inbound marketing. “Mohawk is focused on walking the consumer through her digital journey by empowering the retailer’s online presence. Omnify makes digital marketing easy with all the tools at her fingertips to drive qualified leads, publish relevant, optimized content and advertise using the best tools in the industry.”

The omni-channel solution drives qualified consumers to a retailer’s store through a variety of optimized content and digital advertising solutions. This ranges from organic and paid social media to web content structured for search engine optimization.

“Mohawk’s new Omnify advertising package is built to utilize the most effective strategic methods of capturing the consumer during her digital journey and delivering her to your store,” Surratt explained.

To learn more about Omnify, visit mohawktoday.com/omnify or talk to your local Mohawk representative.

Shaw Floors
Shaw offers its retail partners a complete suite of digital marketing services to help reach today’s consumers in innovative ways. This includes social media support, website building and online reputation management.

“Promoboxx is Shaw’s social media content solution, providing retailers with support, content and best practices for Facebook, Instagram and Twitter,” said Misty Hodge, director of digital marketing, Shaw Floors. “Shaw Web Studio is a complete website solution, enabling retailers to quickly and easily build professional flooring websites to remain competitive in the digital space. Share it Forward began as an online ratings and reviews directory and has since evolved into a full-service online reputation management program that notifies retailers of when and where they receive reviews and also offers education and coaching on how best to deal with negative reviews.”

As more consumers look online to shop and qualify a brand, it is important for retailers to have a strong digital presence, experts say. Shaw is helping retailers save time, stress and money by providing meaningful solutions to their digital marketing efforts.

“Our retail partners look to us as a leader in the digital marketing space, and we leverage all the resources available to us to make that task as simple, carefree and effective as possible,” Hodge explained. “It’s Shaw’s philosophy that we win by helping our retail partners win—we’re in this together.”

USFloors
USFloors has strengthened its digital presence to assist retailers in promoting the company’s products. Beyond building up its presence on popular social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Houzz, Pinterest and LinkedIn, USFloors also uses its website to showcase products and installations.

“We use our digital presence as a communication platform to the retailers selling our product and their customers,” said Maud Swalens, social media and marketing coordinator, USFloors. “We provide platforms where both retailers and consumers can share their experiences with us as a company, and our product. This allows us to improve and enhance our service and products.”

The goal, according to Swalens, is to be available at all times to both retailers and consumers, “whether it is to answer questions, help with requests or assist with anything else. Conversation is the focal point, and that is why an online presence is extremely important to us.”

Beyond the communication aspect, USFloors looks to help homeowners get more creative. “We lead a product category and like to inspire retailers and consumers with our innovative decors,” Swalens said. “For this purpose, Houzz and Pinterest are used mostly. We share mood boards, provide style or design advice (when requested) and invite our customers to get inspired and innovate with us.”