Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Flooring Retailers, Are You Evolving Your Digital Retail Experience?

Christine B. Whittemore

Flooring Retailers: Take Note! Are You Evolving Your Digital Retail Experience To Take Into Account Gen Y Women Consumers' Greater Use of the Internet?

It's a question that comes out of Stuart Hirschhorn's post about Flooring Trends Target Generation Y and his statement that the generation born between 1974 and 1993 [aged approx. 35 to 16 in 2009] and known as "Generation Y will cause changes on where and how floor coverings are sold."

More specifically, "Generation Y looks to the Internet to retrieve product information, get opinions from social networks, and use electronic connections to communicate .. and make purchases."

Do you agree with Stuart?

I do, and eMarketer does per Younger Women Step to Social Beat, but I think the statement goes beyond just Gen Y.

And, I would hate for you to dismiss it by thinking that Gen Y isn't your customer, or that what you're doing now works just fine. As important as demographics are, here are two reasons for not relying solely on age when you consider your customers:

1. Our core consumer, who makes or influences over 80% of the purchase decisions for the home [and that includes flooring], is a woman. Women tend to follow lifestage behavior patterns more closely than they do demographic patterns. Plenty of Boomer and Gen X women behave Gen Y-like as a result of where they are in life and their technology adoption level.

2. Age cohorts or generations do not exist in a vacuum. What one group does influences the others. Boomers are probably the best example of this; they reinvented the meaning of every lifestage they have gone through so far...

That means that the relevant flooring customer group is larger than Gen Y.

Women consumers matter to the floor covering industry, and Gen Y consumers are particularly Internet savvy.

So, if you meet or exceed the requirements, demands or needs of your most demanding customer group - in this case Gen Y and women - you will also benefit your other customers who may not have articulated the same needs, but have them nonetheless. As it relates to women customers, this is something that American Express discovered while researching business travelers.

Across the board, customers start the shopping process online at a search window. The numbers vary -- from 93% who research product online according to Accenture and 68% who search for information online before visiting a store according to Deloitte [see Ignite Your Consumer-Dealer Sales... where I reference these stats]. If they aren't doing so themselves, they do what my 82 mother does: ask me or my sister to do the search for her.

The truth is that customers are finding out about you elsewhere that via your brick-and-mortar store.

That's not to say that your store isn't important. Quite the opposite as I explain in Higher Calling For Retail Brick-and-Mortar Stores! But, stores - and flooring stores in particular - need to evolve.

They need to evolve to take into account that consumers in general and women consumers in particular are time starved, do not want to be taken advantage of, and want to be educated consumers.

Are you surprised then that consumers are turning to the Internet for product information, to social networks for opinions, perspectives and advice, or to electronic tools to communicate more efficiently?

And, it's not just Gen Y who relies on Amazon-like product reviews or Twitter exchanges or Facebook advice.

So, are you evolving your digital retail experience? And, how are you doing so?

~ Christine

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