Thursday, December 1, 2011

How Consumers Purchase Flooring: In-Store, Online

Christine B. Whittemore
Did you get a chance to read National Floor Trends' article titled WFCA Consumer Study: Consumers Not Using Social Media For Flooring Purchases? It caught my attention.

I love data about consumers and the purchase process. Especially in flooring. In a world where the overall retail experience is evolving beyond the physical store to encompass digital tools, how different is flooring? And what role does social media play?

According to the article "Seventy-five percent of consumers surveyed used online resources when shopping for their most recent flooring purchase."

That's not too different from what Google details in an ebook titled "ZMOT" which states that 84% of Americans engage in ZMOT activities prior to purchase. This is based on research by Shopper Sciences of 5000 shoppers across 12 categories. [Note: "ZMOT" stands for 'zero moment of truth' [i.e., the moment between purchase stimulus and purchase decision [aka first moment of truth as identified by P&G] when buyers go through extensive research to learn about their eventual purchase]. The majority of ZMOT activities take place online.

[To learn more about ZMOT, read my article Inbound Marketing and ZMOT: Perfect Together?.]

According to National Floor Trends, "Consumers are most likely to decide to visit a store to purchase flooring products based on previous experiences with a store, information they’ve found online or based on a referral from someone they know."

Intuitively, this makes sense. The majority of flooring stores represent local businesses. They have ties to the community and are proud of the referral based business they have established over the years. Having an online presence further cements all of that hard relationship-building work and allows retailers to address consumer questions and concerns.

John Jantsch, leading marketing and small business consultant, explains in an article titled How spreading the ‘local love’ can help small retailers capture consumers’ attention that "Search engines – like Google, Yahoo and Bing – are now among the primary means that people find products and services in their hometown. And, 82% of local searchers follow up offline via an in-store visit, phone call, or purchase. As a local retailer, you, of course, want to be among those search results."

Does this surprise you?

By the way, I hope when consumers do enter flooring stores they will find welcoming and engaging retail experiences. If you need advice on that front, please read Marketing To Women, The Retail Experience, Manny Llerena and Flooring. And be sure to offer solutions rather than products!

Finally, on the subject of social media and flooring, National Floor Trends details that "Even though 80 percent of survey participants use social media, they are unlikely to use it to find a specialty flooring retailer and do not find it important that specialty flooring retailers are involved in social media. Social media does appear to positively influence consumers’ perceptions of specialty floor retailers. Consumers indicate that retailers involved in social media are focused on growing their customer base and feel that those retailers are more up-to-date on current product trends, are doing well and are investing in new ways to better serve their customers."

Social media tools - think Facebook, Twitter, even LinkedIn - favor strengthening existing relationships. Many retailers find them more effective for connecting with customers than with prospects. They also work best when used to communicate as real people rather than as a megaphone for deals and formal messages.

Blogs, on the other hand, because they offer the means for creating richer, deeper content that answers questions and concerns prospects may have, not only offer retailers the means for participating in ZMOT activities and getting found online, but also for developing new relationships that help to prequalify prospects into becoming in-store customers.

What are you noticing with your customers? How do they use online resources? If you have embraced social media, at what point in the purchase process are you finding it effective for connecting with customers?

Let me know in the comments.

If you find this subject as fascinating as I do, I invite you to subscribe to Flooring The Consumer where I explore these themes and more.

Best,
Christine

Christine B. Whittemore
Chief Simplifier
Simple Marketing Now

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