ReBuild LL – A Proxy Fight to Boost Growth and Profits at Lumber Liquidators Forums General My wife's visit to the website to use Picture It …

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  • Ooo Blah Dee
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    A website has a lot of parts that can go wrong. So a description of a website experience will have a lot of words. For that I’m sorry…

    As background, we are a married couple in our 50’s, old enough for our kids to know we’re stupid. But smart enough to own and not rent like our kids do.

    My wife watched our Picture It ad with the dog on HGTV last week and thought it looked like fun. I know how to use it but she thought it’d be fun to role-play being a regular shopper. First she mis-remembered it as an app and looked through her phone’s app store (android). Not finding it there (because it’s on our home-page, of course) she suggested looking for our ad on HGTV. She remembered that it said what to do at the end of the ad. I pulled up the ad on I-spot, and she watched it. She said something like “Oh, it’s LL flooring dot com”.

    [Insight — our ad should have spent less time on the dog in order to point out that it’s not an app but available on all of our websites and that it works with a phone, laptop, tablet or chrome book. Market research with consumers might have revealed that by only showing swiping on a phone our ad would lead some people to presume it’s an app.]

    With that she searched in the google app store for “LLflooring.com”, “ll flooring.com”, “picture it app” and “lumber liquidators app”, which, of course did not bring up any Lumber Liquidators links because we are not an app. She was annoyed and frustrated. I then told her that it’s not an app. So she went to her phone’s browser, and searched LLflooring.com. This brought up several links to different pages of our website, all of which say “lumberliquidators.com” which she assumed not to be the LLflooring.com site needed for the Picture It tool. (Geez, digital team! How stingy are we with the search terms we buy?) She almost clicked on L&L floors, a flooring contractor, I think, but said “That’s not what I want”. She then saw the searched images and the first one was “Picture it” (score one point for the digital team!) so she tapped on that. Unfortunately that link was only an image, so she backed out of that. (deduct two points from the digital team.) She said, “This is ridiculous, I’d be going to Home Depot by now”, so I again intervened and said it’s on the lumber liquidators site. So she went there, still on her phone, by clicking on the link titled “Lumber Liquidators/ About Us”. Unfortunately, that is the one screen that doesn’t lead off with a link to Picture it.

    [Insights — our clever rebranding of lumberliquidators.com into LL flooring.com could have been saved for another time when we weren’t trying to get people to our site for a specific purpose. I assume we could also mirror our site under the alternative name, LLflooring, and avoid all the links showing up as the old lumberliquidators site name. Nasdaq is doing something similar with their site, with it sometimes jumping to new.nasdaq.com even when the older nasdaq.com is entered. Alternatively, we could simply add the Picture It link to our About Us page’s header.]

    First thing there, it asked her if you want to share information; she tapped “no”. Then “Are you a contractor?” Again “no”. Then she tapped the three horizontal lines and scrolled down through the list of links and back up twice. She somehow tried the first tab “what’s hot” and found Picture It, but not without being asked a second time if she’s a contractor. Once there at the Picture It screen, her first instruction was to pick a floor, but she wanted to take the picture, another 15 seconds frustration, and she went back and did it in order, picking a floor. About this time she realized it was loading slowly and waited. It came back asking her to upload her floor, with only a pink camera icon to indicate that she could take the picture directly rather than upload it from a file. She tapped on the camera icon which then asked “camera or directory” and she was visibly reassured when after selecting camera it moved to the camera display with which she’s familiar. (Why not just start there?) She snapped a picture of our kitchen, and was excited when it came back with the sample floor she chose. Scrolling through other options she said “This is fun” and “I could do this all day!” and “Why do they have to make it so difficult?” “She also said, “My mother watches HGTV, She’d never be able to figure out how to get this to work.”

    [Insights — 1. Our search for the contractor needle in the housewife haystack is understandable from a financial standpoint, but it’s insulting to the 99% of visitors. We could ask if they are a homeowner or a contractor, or ask if they are shopping for their home or working on a project for a customer. And regardless, asking repeatedly is just inept. 2. the three horizontal bars are the starting point for all mobile apps and many desktop versions of sites. It’s stupid not to have the Picture It tool on the first page of the three bars. 3. Our Picture It instructions say pick a floor regardless of the page you’re on. Sometimes it means scroll down and click below on a floor (any floor) to kick off the Picture it tool which will then ask for an image of your room. At other times (when there’s no floor SKU links on the page), it means back out of this Picture It page, browse until you pick a floor (any floor), and follow the Picture It link at the bottom of that flooring SKU’s page. It might help to lead off by saying “two ways to use Picture it, launch the tool and follow instructions or pick any floor on the site and then launch the tool. And I have to wonder if it would all be simpler if we set it up to first upload the picture, then pick the floor(s). 3. A spinning clock or hourglass would be helpful to let users know the tool is processing something and not just idle. 4. As fun as it is to flip through the floors suggested, it would be more productive to have color-based choices like “cool grays” or a slider bar to show lighter/much lighter floors, similar to a copy machine’s. 5. The target we like, the one that knows how to use our site on their phones, is not the same group of people who own homes, and the group that’s old enough to be thinking about selling their home is even less likely to put up with the poor communication of the phone-speak generation.]

    She then went to her Chromebook to see a bigger display. Picture It was less intuitive, despite the larger display. The three instruction panels neatly filled the screen: Pick a floor, snap a picture, Transform your room but none of the available panels were links showing the “handpointer” icon. She got stuck. (It turns out that you have to scroll down to get a “clickable” link.) Looking for help she clicked on the hovering “Chat Now” link, but that was not manned at 4pm on Saturday. (Banker’s hours much?) So she sent a message asking why “chat now” really meant chat later. (Of course, quotation marks are invalid characters so she had to edit her feedback to something grammatically incorrect in order to submit it. Finally she got it to work but after over thirty minutes she was fed up. She did say, I can’t believe these guys have our money and are doing such a bad job.

    [Insights — 1. here again, clearer instructions (scroll down to pick a floor) would help. 2. Chat means live, message means e-mail, don’t offer what you can’t do. If you don’t allow normal punctuation characters, say so upfront rather than make people edit themselves. (How many people quit our site mid-visit must be appalling!)]

    Trying to replicate her results on my phone, I realized that if you go to the Lumber Liquidators home page, it does lead off with Picture it. (Clicking “about us” was just a bad break.) But for some reason, on my android, I don’t get a pink camera screen with a choice of either taking a picture or uploading one; I get a yellow screen with only an option for uploading a previously taken photo. (both phones are LG androids, but different OS versions) So I’m trying to figure out why that happens and I click on Aquaseal 24 hour 12MM Desert Horizon Elm Laminate, and lo and behold, below the usual square swatch (squatch?) of the floor product, are the first words I’ve ever seen on the site asking about a shopper’s individual project — “How much flooring will you need?” And then this! “Enter SQFT of your room (length x width)” And even more amazingly, there’s a calculator like icon next to it. We’re actually beginning to specifically help people with their projects! Of course, when you click the calculator icon it brings up a page with a calculator. But the calculator is sized almost too small to be recognized because the page also has a long paragraph formatted extremely wide. (One step forward, two steps back) The long paragraph sets out to explain measuring a room’s dimensions (shouldn’t that be the floor’s?), but it doesn’t run long because it explains how to combine parts of an irregular L-shaped room or deduct non-floor areas like kitchen islands and cabinets. It runs long because it explains in way too much detail how different materials and diagonal flooring have different rates of waste. It doesn’t explain that 20% waste means dividing your area by 80% (100%-20%) which meane 25% more rather than adding an extra 20%. And of course, it doesn’t provide the specific waste factors for the floor you’ve chosen to calculate. Basically, we aren’t calculating what a shopper needs for her job, just throwing a generic calculator at her, and covering our butts with a big impressive (and largely incomplete and irrelevant) explanation.

    [Insight — The net is, our digital team is showing signs of life. But they are not communicators, like you need in a marketing function, and make no mistake, the website is about marketing. They appear to be just phoning it in. (No pun intended, but it’s nice when things work out!) The tool doesn’t recognize my phone’s camera, if that’s widespread it might be worth a paragraph explaining that on the following phones, it’s necessary to first take a picture and then upload the image.]

    What’s sad is that the Picture It tool is only a temporary advantage for LL’s marketing. If it takes six months for competitors to copy us, we’ve largely wasted that six months with a poor execution unsupported by other improvements to the website. Competitors are working on their version of it and you can bet someone will do it better. We should be working already on our new and improved tool to roll out and make theirs look lame. I’ve posted specific competitively sensitive ideas for an improved tool on the LL comments pages and website interruption surveys, but I doubt anyone in Toano has read it. It’s an ironic sign of the times that to open a secure channel of communication about the website with Charles Tyson in the year 2019, I’ll probably have to send him a letter. With a stamp, no less.

    Back in the age of marketing dinosaurs, it was understood that communicating clearly with a wide range of Americans was a tricky thing. But it was as important as it was expensive. So everything — every ad, every label, every brand name — was shown to consumers recruited to give their opinions. It was always amazing how stupid they could be not to recognize our genius. But sometimes they actually caught huge mistakes we had made. It was time consuming, but made a difference. Moreover, the culture of caring about the consumer’s experience went right to the top of most marketing companies. Everyone talked to their wives, girlfriends and families about our products, our ads, etc. and often a product would be held up for review because of some higher-up’s wife questioning it.

    Today apparently we’re in a glorious new age where every employee is empowered, and the more time you spend on your phone, the more you’re presumed to be an expert in all forms of digital communication. And because a portion of the site is continually replenished for the latest SKUs and promotions, there’s always something to work on and no time to review it all. I get it. It’s hard work. The question is, is anyone in Toano willing to do that hard work to save their jobs? Of course, no one with digital skills and an entry level job wants to stick around, the fastest way to promotion is a bigger newer IT startup not weighed down with brick and mortar (yawn!) products, much less actual stores. The people executing our website don’t care about their job or how consumers react, that’s obvious. The question is, does Charles Tyson? If he does, my prescription would be to pair each IT whiz kid with a pure marketing person to check whether the intended communication is accomplished. They need to have regular access to actual consumers to check their work and calibrate their daily gut decisions. And when those marketing foot soldiers finally start getting it right and making changes in the right direction, they will run up against other parts of the organization who won’t want to be bothered. At that point, Knowles, Mulvaney and the rest of management will need to be on board with this becoming a marketing company.

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