Digital Evolution - July 2011

By Jay Flynn

 

Most of us are aware that the Internet is changing the way consumers shop for goods. According to Nielsen’s Global Trends in Online Shopping report, published in June 2010, 84% of the global consumers surveyed reported that they have shopped online. And Aegis/PeopleSupport reports that 63% of online shoppers are women. In light of these facts, it only makes sense for flooring manufacturers and retailers to promote their products online. However, in the current economy a brochure site (name, address, phone number and not much more) is not enough. Flooring industry players must follow in the footsteps of the best online retailers around, making interactive and informative sites that align with the consumers’ expectations.

As a consumer trend, e-commerce sales, when products are bought and sold online, show slow and steady growth. In 2010, 3.5% of all retail sales (by dollar value) were e-commerce purchases, according to the Department of Commerce, up 1.1% from 2005’s 2.4%. 

But many consumers haven’t jumped into online shopping with both feet yet. Nielsen found that 25% of North American survey respondents spend 6% to 10% of their monthly spending budgets online. Fourteen percent of respondents spend between 11% and 25% online; 5% spend 26% to 50% of their monthly spending budgets online; and 3% spend over 51% of their budgets online. 

While a good amount of money is changing hands virtually, the fact that the remaining 54% of survey respondents spend less than 5% of their monthly spending budgets online means that there is room for growth, if online retailers are willing to offer what the consumer seeks. Consumers who are shopping online for a big ticket item, like a car or a home or a big screen television, expect to see detailed visuals of the products that they are looking to purchase. The same holds true for flooring. 

Since flooring is a fashion item, it will never be sold in large quantities on the Internet. In fact, home furnishings did not even make Nielsen’s list of items that consumers intend to purchase online in the next six months. In spite of this, flooring manufacturers and retailers need to create online showrooms that meet the same standards as those of other big ticket items.

As we all know, a good many consumers do research online before making a purchase at a brick and mortar location. In a late 2010 survey, Pew Internet & American Life Project found that 58% of people use the Internet to do research before making a purchase. In fact, on a typical day, 21% of adults search for product information online, using this information to narrow down their selections prior to physically going to test and view products. It is not a surprise, then, that many companies show vivid, detailed images of their products online in an effort to engage consumers and win them over before they ever visit the store.

Industries that sell big ticket consumer goods recognize that consumers want to see images of the products for which they are shopping. They want those images to properly reflect what they are selling in their business, and, when possible, they want those images to enable them to visualize the products with different colors and textures and in different settings.

Consider how a company like Mercedes-Benz markets its 2011 CL 550 Coupe online. The site includes interactive features that allow the viewer to explore the vehicle’s interior, exterior, safety features, performance features and optional equipment. It offers 360 degree views of the car in a variety of settings and even videos of the car in operation. In addition, it allows viewers to play with the different color and trim options and choose accessories to build a custom vehicle online. Once a customer has built a car, the site allows them to estimate their payment (providing both lease and buy information), allows them to apply for credit, and connects them to a dealer in their area so that they can see and test drive the vehicle. 

Although the flooring industry has lagged behind other industries that market products online, it is beginning to recognize and meet the online needs of consumers, and that begins with the ability to enable consumers to view products and visualize these products dynamically in the home.

Five years ago, only the largest manufacturers, like Shaw and Armstrong, showcased product images online using a catalog and offering visualization tools to enable the consumer to see the product in different room settings. Today, a rapidly growing number of manufacturers of all sizes, like Royalty Carpet, Crossville, Mullican Flooring and many others, are marketing their products via product catalogs and visualization tools on their company websites.

Now the major flooring manufacturers are beginning to recognize the next opportunity to drive their brands—allowing dealers to market their products online. Just as they fight today for floor space in retail showrooms, they will soon battle for space on dealers’ websites, hoping that this will increase the likelihood that consumers will ask for their products when they enter the retail store.

Shaw, via its internal Web Studio program, and Mohawk, through a third party provider, are leading this effort with their dealer website and dealer product catalog programs. In addition, Armstrong is offering an online marketing program to select dealers, and several other manufacturers are also expanding their efforts to support dealers selling their products online via micro-sites that launch from their dealer’s websites and other resources.

Flooring retailers are transitioning from brochure websites to more dynamic website experiences that offer consumers the products they want to see. With the manufacturer website services defined above, there are more options available for retailers to radically upgrade their online marketing experience.

Pierce Flooring & Design is an example of a diverse business that recognized early on that it needed to differentiate itself online. It offers the basics, but it also communicates information about its commercial flooring business; it educates the consumer on all products; it differentiates itself via the “Pierce Promise”; and it prominently showcases product via a catalog and visualization tool.

When considering your online experience as a manufacturer or retailer, ask yourself if your website is an online brochure or if are you providing an engaging, interactive experience that is going to drive consumers to view your products and services—and then drive them to purchase. If not, you are providing an opportunity for your competitor to secure sales that should be yours.

Copyright 2011 Floor Focus 



Other Archived Articles

Former Starnet Chairman Wins Mayoral Election   Full Article
Point Pleasant, NJ, Nov. 7, 2014 -- Former Starnet chairman Bob Sabosik won his bid for mayor in Tuesday's elections in Point Pleasant.

Mohawk CEO Lorberbaum Discusses Firm's Growth   Full Article
Chattanooga, TN, Nov. 7, 2014 -- Mohawk Industries CEO Jeff Lorberbaum told the Chattanooga Rotary Club that his firm is investing $500 million in its existing businesses in a bet on an improving economy.

Economy Adds 214K Jobs, Unemployment Falls   Full Article
Washington, DC, Nov. 7, 2014 -- Employers added 214,000 jobs in October and the unemployment rate fell again, the Labor Department said.

Attendance at Cersaie Rises This Year   Full Article
Bologna, Italy, Nov. 7, 2014 -- Attendance at Cersaie 2014, the international exhibition of ceramic tile and bathroom furnishings held in Bologna in September, once again topped 100,000 visits, according to organizers.

Builders More Confident in Senior Housing Market   Full Article
Washington, DC, Nov. 7, 2014 -- Builder confidence in the 55+ housing market was up again in the third quarter, according to the latest release of NAHB’s 55+ Housing Market Index.

Housing Markets Improving at a Gradual Pace   Full Article
Washington, DC, Nov. 6, 2014 -- Markets in 59 of the approximately 350 metro areas nationwide returned to or exceeded their last normal levels of economic and housing activity in the third quarter.

Planned Job Cuts Surge in October   Full Article
Chicago, IL, Nov. 6, 2014 -- Planned job cuts jumped 68% in October to the second-highest total this year, according to outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

Initial Jobless Claims Fall Again   Full Article
Washington, DC, Nov. 6, 2014 -- Initial claims for unemployment benefits fell by 10,000 to 278,000 in the week ended Nov. 1, the Labor Department said

Grosser Named Tile Person of Year   Full Article
San Antonio, TX, Nov. 6, 2014 -- Tile Council of North America presented its Tile Person of the Year award to Donato Grosser at the Total Solutions Plus event.

NWFA Renews Agreement With Wildlife Fund   Full Article
St. Louis, MO, Nov. 6, 2014 -- The National Wood Flooring Association said it has renewed its Memorandum of Understanding with the World Wildlife Fund.

Tarkett Hosts Second Sustainability Summit   Full Article
Chagrin Falls, OH, Nov. 6, 2014 -- Tarkett recently hosted its second annual Sustainability Summit in Cleveland, Ohio.

Gerflor Acquires Connor Sport Court   Full Article
Chicago, IL, Nov. 5, 2014 -- Gerflor said it has acquired Connor Sport Court of Amasa, Michigan.

Armstrong Illinois Plant Wins Sustainability Award   Full Article
Lancaster, PA, Nov. 5, 2014 -- Armstrong Flooring said its Kankakee, Illinois manufacturing facility has received the 2014 Illinois Governor’s Sustainability Award.

Services Sector Continues To Grow in October   Full Article
Washington, DC, Nov. 5, 2014 -- The services sector of the economy continued to expand in October but at a slower pace, according to the Institute for Supply Management.

Mortgage Applications Fall Last Week   Full Article
Washington, DC, Nov. 5, 2014 -- Mortgage application volume fell last week as interest rates increased, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

Businesses Add 230,000 Jobs in October   Full Article
Roseland, NJ, Nov. 5, 2014 -- Private employers added 230,000 jobs in October, payroll processor ADP said.

Earthwerks Names Head of Product Development   Full Article
Houston, TX, Nov. 5, 2014 -- Earthwerks has named Lindsey Nisbet head of product development and marketing strategy.

Linron Names de Beaumont VP Business Development   Full Article
Houston, TX, Nov. 5, 2014 -- Linron Co. has named Gilles de Beaumont, vice president of business development.

Domotex Asia Anticipates Larger Wood, Laminate Area   Full Article
Shanghai, China, Nov. 4, 2014 -- It will require four dedicated halls to house just the wood and laminate exhibitions at Domotex asia/Chinafloor’s 17th annual flooring show March 24-26 in Shanghai, organizers said.

Factory Orders Decline in September   Full Article
Washington, DC, Nov. 4, 2014 -- New orders for manufactured goods fell for second straight month in September on softness in the aircraft sector.