Marketing Minute: Sustainability can enhance the dealer’s value proposition - Aug/Sept 2021

By Paul Friederichsen

For years it was said by manufacturers and retailers that in choosing between two products-all other factors equal (price, quality, quantity, warranty)-the consumer will see green attributes as a tiebreaker. This point of view has been widely held on the residential retail side of the flooring business for many years. Flooring for the commercial side, however, has been another story. Architects and designers have responded to the green movement and, as a result, served as a catalyst for offering the market more environmentally responsible flooring products.

The pandemic may have accelerated this appetite on the residential side, too. Covid, with its period of lockdown and working from home, has influenced culture in a number of ways. One of these byproducts is how many consumers now consider their home’s impact on their own wellbeing, their family’s wellbeing and the environment as a whole. With 40% of Americans now preferring to work from home full-time, according to a USA Today survey, this preference for responsible residential flooring choices will likely only intensify.

Couple this with a consumer movement driven by increasing Millennial and Gen Z home-related purchasing power, and you’ve got, in the words of Jim Collins of Good to Great fame, an unstoppable “fly-wheel effect.” In a 2020 global survey by Accenture, the consulting firm found consumers “have dramatically evolved,” and that 60% were reporting making more environmentally friendly, sustainable or ethical purchases since the start of the pandemic.

Sustainability as a product claim is evolving from nice-to-have to can’t-do-without. Flooring manufacturers answering the need recognize that this environmental consciousness has morphed into what marketers call a “shared value” among consumers. Shared values define who we are and inform our belief system: “I buy this flooring because it’s made in a responsible way, and I believe we should all do our part.” Shared values also define and sustain brand relevance, while irrelevant brands soon decline and become extinct.

Retailers don’t make flooring products or determine what goes into them. But they can capitalize on this environmental mindset, often shaped in the media.

On a recent episode of Property Brothers–Celebrity IOU (HGTV), stars Jonathan and Drew Scott pointed out during a deck construction sequence: “Outside our team … is laying down a new modified pine board, which is more sustainable and environmentally friendly to manufacture, offering the same durability and beauty of wood.”

This “new modified pine board” was positioned by the show as superior to what would have been installed, because it is “more sustainable and environmentally friendly to manufacture” and yet there are no trade-offs in “durability and beauty.” The Property Brothers demonstrated in about 15 seconds of their show how to sell a sustainable product. Clearly, sustainability enhances product value.

Atlanta Flooring Design Centers (AFDC) is a large regional commercial and residential flooring company with a staff of almost 400. “I continue to believe sustainability is important and should continue to play a larger part of the thought process that goes into purchases of flooring,” says Donny Phillips, owner. “But it seems that searching for the best value in flooring is the biggest deciding factor. I hope that our industry continues to find better ways to lower our impact on the environment while continuing to provide great value in flooring.”

Adds Nik Burdett, also of AFDC, “I agree the vast majority of consumers are looking for value. We have created an age of Amazon/Wal-Mart shoppers, and everyone is searching for ‘that’ deal. However, we do try to use sustainability as a sales tool to differentiate product. From recycled plastics in fibers to virgin materials in manufacturing, we explain how good environmental stewardship can benefit the consumer and their family. We look to manufacturing to help us with the story for the environment.”

And what about the ardent environmental shopper? Justin Atcheson of AFDC observed, “When a consumer is looking to be more green, then how much ‘green’ it costs does not seem to be an issue. Currently, we see less than 2% of customers making this type of decision.”

AFDC serves as a good example of recognizing the enhanced value an environmentally responsible product plays in helping the dealer make the sale. And as in Atcheson’s estimation, this applies to the other 98% of his residential shoppers.

Here are the key success factors in leveraging sustainable flooring products for an enhanced value proposition for you and increased sales at the dealer level:

• Understand and appreciate that the product’s sustainability story on your showroom floor is every bit as necessary and useful at communicating value as its wearlayers or stain resistance. “Sustainability” communicates quality.

• Know your product’s sustainability story by heart. In my interview with AFDC, they pointed out brands they carry that do an excellent job in communicating an environmental message. Those brands make it easier for the sales associate to internalize and share with a knowledgeable customer.

• The store brand should maximize its marketing communication to remind shoppers of its sustainable product offerings and its alignment with shared values of the environment, wellness, value, performance and durability.

Copyright 2021 Floor Focus 

Related Topics:Atlanta Flooring Design Center