Business Management Software Update: Major providers are rolling out new features, with more on the way – Jan 2022
By Jennifer Bardoner
With the majority of consumers beginning the shopping process online, having a robust software system to capture and streamline those potential sales can make or break a business, industry software experts say. And the flooring industry is unique in terms of the software required to get the job done. On-demand inventory, measurement tools and room visualizers are just a few of the key functions required to operate a nimble flooring operation today. But just as customers’ expectations and retailers’ needs continue to evolve, so too must business software.
Those in the industry say they roll out several major updates each year, alongside regular tweaks, oftentimes based on client feedback. “Just this year we had 33 releases of updates: two major and 31 minor updates,” says QFloors president and CEO Chad Ogden, adding, “Those 31 updates, 90% of that is coming from [feedback from] our customers.”
Ogden and the other software operators with whom we spoke say they are constantly looking for ways to give retailers greater flexibility as the consumer experience evolves. “No matter what your job is in flooring, we need to give you the functionality to do your job from a tablet or computer screen,” says Rod Bayless, COO of RFMS. “The consumer expects to be able to do everything with you from their tablet, whether in the showroom or from their couch.”
While the industry can seem fairly standardized in terms of needs and offerings, individual retailers are not, making customization a key aspect of any business management system’s functionality. Most can be tailored by turning different features on or off or through choices at more granular levels, like credit card payment processing models, but there is one focus they all have in common: time savings. “I’ve learned, through studying and talking to retailers across the industry, the enormous amount of time retailers spend [on tasks] that have no correlation to selling and installing good floors,” says John Weller, chief innovation officer for Broadlume, which recently acquired RollMaster. “If we do nothing else but integrate these things and give the dealer 80% of their time back that they were spending on the administrative side of their business, they should be able to double their business.”
As developers continually evaluate the user experience, both on the side of the retailer and the consumer, some key updates have emerged.
With supply chain disruptions now part of the vernacular as constraints impact everyday life the world over, RFMS’ summer release of its Warehouse Mobile app was fortuitously timed. In development for about 18 months, it offers a streamlined system for receiving, mapping and managing inventory. “Everybody in the world knows about the supply challenges right now, so if you can be in front of a customer in their home and say, ‘They have this much at the mill,’ that really helps,” Bayless says.
The new app came on the heels of a credit card payment processing function that was added earlier last year in partnership with a third-party processing platform. The card can be swiped at the beginning of the sales process, at the point of sale, or a request can be sent to the customer for follow-up payments.
“[Dealers] need to be able to meet their client when and where and how the client wants to be met, from a shopping standpoint all the way through the sales process,” Bayless says, alluding to two new major program rollouts to be announced at the owners’ conference in May.
To help meet the unique needs of managing multifamily jobs, RFMS will release a new product called the Property Manager Portal in Q1. The new portal will be a one-stop tool to help property managers keep track of projects, inventory, work and product orders. “They will be able to see all details of the project, including a visual floor plan, product list and prices,” says sales and marketing specialist Kaitlyn Harris. “They can even pay for it online too, as well as view their entire portfolio of properties, units and orders.” So the next time a particular unit needs a refresh, the select floor plan, measurements, cuts, product selections and associated inventory and prices will be easily accessible to all involved-which could also be used to help property managers walk consumers through the customization process.
“The builder can take a client through all the selections throughout the home and show them the upcharges and give them the price,” says RFMS president and CEO Madeleine Bayless. Any selections will tie into RFMS’ existing suite of business management tools for ease of ordering and tracking inventory.
It has become second nature to reach for a credit card when checking out-they account for 82.1% of in-store transactions in the U.S., up from 78.7% in January of last year, according to the NDP Group’s most recent “Checkout Receipt Data.” Credit cards offer consumers a streamlined way to pay, but for the retailer, the experience is anything but, Ogden says. Processing fees can vary; hidden charges can stack up; liabilities can get sold off. “Our customers do not know who to trust with credit card payments,” he says, adding, “Things would be good for a while, then that company would get purchased and things would go bad.”
This led QFloors to launch its own credit card processing platform in 2021. Called QProPay, it integrates with the rest of the company’s software to simplify the process for dealers, but the main benefit is more tangible than time and headache savings, Ogden says: “We have saved 95% of all applicants money [on charge fees].”
Lenders charge retailers and consumers alike for the luxury of buy now, pay later. It’s simply one of the costs of doing business for store owners, who have to offer the option in order to serve today’s customers, and with each point in the process accruing a fee for the assumption of financial liability or the development and maintenance of technology to facilitate the transaction, credit card processing can represent a significant expenditure against retailers’ bottom line. “Some stores are paying $150,000 [a year] in credit card fees,” Ogden says.
QProPay offers dealers competitive processing fees and a trusted partner, says Ogden. It also allows dealers to offset processing fees by charging them to the consumer through an emerging pay model known as surcharging. “I think you’re going to see a lot of floorcovering stores start to go to this method,” he says. “It’s almost like a tax. They’re pre-collecting the surcharge, and at the end of the month, they return all those surcharges to the credit card company, and it’s a net nothing if they do that.”
One of two new QProPay features being formally launched in January offers yet another way to mitigate processing fees’ impact on retailers. E-checks allow customers to pay directly through their bank account, and this method comes with the lowest fee due to the reduced risk of fraud and consumers defaulting on payments.
The other update is a “pay now” button, which can be sent in an email and/or posted to a dealer’s website, offering an automated way for customers to pay. Dealers will be automatically notified when a payment is made.
There are also major announcements in store for QFloors’ core software, says Ogden. “One has to do with the QPro products-we’ve been working on some things with that for a year and a half now-and one has to do with sales generation,” he says, noting that they will be announced in conjunction with Surfaces.
Having recently acquired RollMaster, a back-end enterprise resource planning (ERP) software system, Broadlume is looking to become a one-stop shop for retailers by pairing its existing digital marketing operations with RollMaster’s ERP and customer relationship management (CRM) tools. “I believe as we continue to optimize and integrate these solutions, the efficiencies created with the platform are going to be overwhelming,” Weller says, though he adds that the front-end marketing system will remain open, allowing retailers to pair it with the CRM and ERP programs of their choice. “I can’t point to something we developed in the last ten days since the acquisition, but I can promise you there will be a tidal wave of new technology and integrations that will be built into this system.” Broadlume is funneling $40 million in seed money from its board and Silicon Valley backers into its all-in-one platform.
The company plans to approach program developments through the lens of the end-user experience. Last November, at FloorCon, Broadlume’s inaugural trade show, the company also unveiled a new selling system that embodies the approach. Dubbed Flooring Stores United, it offers consumers a curated shopping experience that is then mirrored in the store through color-coded displays aligning with what Weller says are the four main product categories consumers end up in, before ever considering material, style or color. “There really are four drivers,” he says, “value, performance, designer and luxury.” The selling system-which can be populated with the dealer’s products of choice and even paired with other selling systems-was piloted last year with around two dozen retailers of varying sizes, and the response was overwhelming, he says. Following those dealers’ testimonials at FloorCon, 100 retailers signed up for the service within a few weeks, Weller says. “When you just throw the kitchen sink at the consumer and say, ‘Here’s eight million choices, find something,’ you’re not really providing as much value as a curator in the industry would,” he says. “If you can segment what they’re interested in, then give them a very simple but curated experience and do the work for them to give them a selection, we’ve shown that consumers will react very positively.”
The pilot showed no prices, but Weller says consumers came in ready to buy whatever product they’d been recommended through the digital selection process. And with the online platform’s integration with the in-store sales process, both through the marketing information and visuals used as well as the detailed leads generated, customers didn’t have the frustrating experience of having to go through the whole process again with the sales representative.
“We did over 1,000 surveys of consumers who purchase flooring from stores we work with, and we learned that consumers felt like the online experience and what actually happened after they submitted their information and got in contact with the flooring store were completely disconnected,” says Weller. “I’m very confident that the user experience is the key variable in success today. The sentiment our dealers have today is ‘It’s all about price, it’s all about price,’ but in my opinion, that really is because we’ve failed to provide the consumer a user experience or value propositions that are worthy of a different conversation other than price.”
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