By Jay Flynn
If you are in the market for a big-ticket item—a car or new leather couch, for instance—it is very likely that you will start your shopping experience online, and today that online shopping experience is becoming more visual. Online retailers are using visualization tools, which show a product in a room scene, to help customers find the product that works for them, with the goal of getting the consumer into the dealers’ showrooms to make the final purchase.Customers looking for flooring are also going online as they begin their quest, and they are expecting the same options for visualization that they are finding in other product categories.The importance of this trend as it relates to flooring retailers should be very clear: consumers who are making fashion and style oriented big-ticket purchases are looking to see their product as it will look installed. In fact, data collected from the hundreds of independent flooring store websites that Creating Your Space manages proves the value of visualization. In reviewing the data from tens of millions of views in the past eight years, we find that more than 70% of consumer time is spent visualizing the dealers’ products in product catalogs, the Virtual Room Designer or in an upload of the consumer’s actual room. The average online visitor views five different products during their time on a website.It is also apparent that major manufacturers like Shaw and Armstrong as well as the big boxes and the larger buying groups understand this. On their own websites, they make it quick and easy to view their products in catalogs and within various visualization tools.Of course, if it were easy to visualize products in catalogs and room scenes, every dealer would be doing it today. The primary obstacle is accessing high quality, seamless images from the suppliers that are represented in a dealer’s showroom. Shaw led the way in making images available at a low cost to dealers, and Mohawk has followed with a similar offering for dealers’ catalogs. However, that leaves thousands of other suppliers that offer limited access to their product images or no images at all. How can a retailer begin to provide a visual experience for visitors to its website?• First, partner with a flooring industry-focused website provider because they will have access to product images.• Second, make sure your website provider offers a comprehensive list of suppliers. Ask to see this list before you sign a contract.• Third, be sure that the website provider’s visualization tool works for the flooring categories you sell. A ceramic tile retailer has little use for a rug visualizer. If you are still not sure that visualization will benefit your business, consider the following situation. A consumer walks into a store and finds a great new laminate product for their kitchen but isn’t sure how it will look installed. The salesperson pulls out their iPad; locates the product on their company website; chooses a room in the visualizer similar to the consumer’s; changes the wall color, cabinets, and countertops to match the consumer’s current products; and shows how the flooring will look in the room—on the spot!Even more powerful, if you are one of the dealers promoting a shop-at-home program, you are now equipped with a wide assortment of many of your showroom products via the website catalog and visualization tool. With this comprehensive and interactive online catalog, you won’t have to discover that you forgot a product sample in your showroom and miss the opportunity to close a sale.You may think that you’ll hold off on implementing a visualization tool until the value of the concept is proven. Today, that proof of concept is complete, and your customers are expecting this experience from the company they will buy flooring from. Will it be you?
Copyright 2013 Floor Focus