Now that we’re entering the prime time of “flooring shopping season,” it’s important to revisit a few key things we learned in Part 1 of this series.
Unlike appliance shoppers and holiday shoppers—who are definitively high-intent shoppers—we have to approach flooring shoppers a bit differently. Whereas other shoppers might make a purchase within a day or a week of initiating the process, customers in the market for new flooring take a deliberate, methodical, almost dizzying path to purchase.
And there’s a method to their madness.
Let’s take, for example, someone shopping for a new car.
If you go to 10 different car dealerships, you’re likely to hear 10 different messages from 10 different people. And, further, when you line 10 different cars up on the lot from 10 different auto manufacturers, odds are they’re all going to look markedly different from one another. The same could be said for clothing; different brands are known for different looks, and customers tend to gravitate toward certain brands to get the look they want.
With flooring, it’s not quite as cut and dry.
In this blog, we’ll explore a few of the top brands and retailers in this space and how they’re leveraging content to create a unique experience—which can be a challenge in an industry that is often plagued by “Sameness Syndrome.”
The challenge with “Sameness Syndrome”
What do we mean by that, “sameness”?
Think of it this way, using the example just laid out: If you looked at 10 models of vinyl plank flooring in a charcoal finish, would you be able to (without cheating) discern which model belongs to which brand? It’s almost impossible.
The key with flooring shoppers is to turn their research and discovery phase—which can last months—into action, and right now, there’s no better time to ignite action. As we know, most customers want new flooring installed in time for the holidays, and we’re encroaching upon the holiday season.
How do different brands and retailers hope to achieve this?
Nailing the “endless aisle”
The Home Depot, one of the big dogs, offers more than just flooring—but their advantage is a reasonably priced, high-level inventory with name recognition. People know Home Depot, and they’ve come to trust it. It’s a one-stop shop for virtually anything related to home improvement, and it features robust and convenient options for purchase and delivery.
As far as product pages go, Home Depot gets it.
Flooring shoppers want to have their questions answered, and we know from market research they also want the option of an in-store experience. Check, and check; Home Depot prominently displays pricing information and a customization feature (bottom right) that enables customers to input their required square footage—so they have a clear idea of how much it’s going to cost and how much product they need to buy.
If you’re a customer and you’re good with what you see here, perfect. Home Depot gives you the option to purchase online and either have it delivered or picked up in your nearest store. Not ready to buy online? You can go in-store, see it for yourself, and then make the decision.
Here we see an example of a product page from Lumber Liquidators, a brand we covered in the enhanced content introduction to flooring. Its online experience is not too dissimilar from Home Depot, but there’s one major caveat when shopping from this retailer: it’s a TON of content to digest before you even get to the product page.
In a way, it’s no surprise: Lumber Liquidators is a flooring retailer exclusively, but they have a “warehouse” approach that makes it feel like shopping at Costco. Sensory overload.
Once you’re able to navigate through the myriad options and find your way to a product page, the experience is solid. But the challenge is to get your customers to the page quicker and easier, and that’s where Lumber Liquidators falls a bit short. Do you want them to look at daily specials? Would you rather they look at clearance sales, or house brands? There’s no direct flow.
“Try” before you buy
We’ll wrap by looking at how a major brand—Armstrong—presents its shopping experience to customers. Spoiler alert: We’re HUGE fans of this approach.
If you want to see yourself in a car, take it for a test drive. If you want to try on a new sweater, take it to the fitting room. With flooring, it’s really difficult (and expensive) to take a mulligan. Arming shoppers with plenty of information and visual confirmation before they buy is really important, and Armstrong nails this. And though you can’t take flooring for a test drive, this designer tool allows you to upload your own photo, try out different colors and finishes, and make a decision on what’s best.
The big takeaway here is that flooring shopping doesn’t have to be creatively prohibitive. Yes, it’s true that many brands are swimming in the Sea of Sameness—but these three different approaches are geared to move things along in different ways. Home Depot sells its accessibility, Lumber Liquidators sells its massive inventory, and Armstrong pushes a crafted approach with customization.