A funny thing happened on the way to FloorCon
By Steven Feldman – After attending countless floor events over the past 27 years, I kind of know what to expect from each event. After all, the framework of each event is more or less the same with a few new wrinkles thrown in for good measure. And then there was FloorCon.
Call me skeptical, but I tend to live my life without having high expectations. High expectations often lead to disappointment. As for FloorCon, the folks at Broadlume (the parent company of FloorForce) had been hyped for this event for quite some time now. Actually, they were also working on last year’s virtual event, and you all know how I feel about virtual conferences. So on November 16, I traveled to Sarasota, Florida, with my curious streak in full swing. When I left on November 19, that curiosity gave way to legitimacy, excitement and a breath of fresh air.
First of all, Broadlume deserves all the credit in the world for setting up such a useful and educational event for retailers. Forget it was their first attempt. It was as professional as any industry event I’ve ever been to. Credit goes to Jeffrey Bieber, vice president of marketing at Broadlume. Who knew a techie could double as an event planner.
In the span of two days at FloorCon, you had keynote speakers — including former Washington Redskins Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs (he coached the Redskins, not the Washington Football Team) — you had 16 educational sessions across four tracks, and you had America’s Jason Goldberg of Floor Source opens his playbook to the approximately 300 retailers present. Oh, and the event culminated with a gilded dinner, award ceremonies, a 10-piece band, and nearly 100% of those in attendance raised their hands when the Broadlume team asked who would attend FloorCon 2022 next year.
If there were Broadlume skeptics before the show, those skeptics became believers. After all, representatives from just about every major group and manufacturer were present.
So, what was this all about? Broadlume has created the flooring industry’s only end-to-end technology system that enables independent flooring dealers to simplify their systems, optimize their marketing investments, increase profits and create the best consumer experience. It boasts a team of 160 people, the technology and the funding needed to create software for the 21st century. Broadlume also announced that they recently raised $40 million from some of Silicon Valley’s most notable tech investors to further accelerate their platform. Today, the Broadlume platform serves more than 3,000 retail locations across all of its systems. Here’s the best part: Retailers can take all or part of the offering. They can sign up for just a website, just the CRM, or they can take on everything.
As Chief Innovation Officer John Weller explained, it’s all about generating more business for dealers and creating the best consumer experience. The fact that Broadlume has acquired FloorForce (websites), Creating Your Space (websites), Freetail (room visualizer) Retail Lead Management (CRM) and RollMaster (ERP) shows that they are here to provide an all-in-one build platform. It’s what all these things do together that creates the seamless experience.
It starts with the consumer searching for floors on Google, or any search engine for that matter. Since Broadlume is owned by former Google sites, Todd Saunders and Dan Pratt, they know a thing or two about SEO and paid advertising. (A bit like building the security system at a bank, I’d know how to break in.) Anyway, the Broadlume dealer ranks high on any flooring search. The consumer will then experience a better experience than on any other website. She can search that store’s extensive product catalog. She can upload her own room to see how the products she tags will look like in the actual room. She can order samples. She can chat with the dealer via text message. All the while, the retailer is put in charge and can contact the consumer about scheduling a store visit. Everything the consumer does at home is housed on the retailer’s system called Dealer HQ, so all of its in-store activities are accessible.
At FloorCon, Broadlume unveiled its retail sales system that connects the online experience with the offline showroom. The sales system will house private label products from 20 to 30 suppliers. There are four different brands that offer everything from value to performance to luxury. How was it received? You tell me. There were nearly 75 dealers participating in the beta program at the start of the year, and during the show’s first intermission, there was a line out the door with retailers willing to sign up. Not bad for $30,000 each.
One thing: Broadlume makes it unequivocally clear that it is neither a buying group nor a manufacturer. As Saunders repeatedly told me, “We are not a buying group, we are not a manufacturer and we are not a supplier. We are a technology platform. Our retailers have been telling us for years that building an all-in-one platform cannot stop at technology. It has to be completely in line with the showroom.”
I wonder what Broadlume will do for an encore.