How Flooring Brand Armstrong Went Mobile

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Crafting a mobile strategy is hard enough, but the degree of difficulty rises when it comes to brands that have both business and consumer audiences.

Take Armstrong Worldwide, a $3 billion maker of floors, ceilings and cabinets that sells to both consumers and contractors and other business entities. During 2011, it saw a spike in mobile traffic, pushing it to come up with a solution.

The knee-jerk reaction, particularly at that time, would be an app. Armstrong considered this, only to reject it because its analytics showed mobile traffic split among iPad, iPhone and Android. Building three separate apps was a pricey and cumbersome proposition. Instead, Armstrong decided it needed to stick to the basics and concentrate on the mobile Web.

“It was a no-brainer,” said Sally Kresge, commercial e-marketing manager, Armstrong Worldwide, at a Netbiscuits Mobile World event in New York. “It’s where our customers are – because they aren’t necessarily tied to their desks all day — and we wanted to make it easy to give information on our products to them where they are.”

Starting from scratch in May 2012, Armstrong began to figure out which aspects of its desktop site made most sense to a mobile audience. Contractors, architects and the rest of the B2B audience need fast answers to the problems they are having out in the field. Armstrong mobile-enabled installation product information and its how-to videos, because these aspects of the desktop site would help this audience get their jobs done faster and easier. Also, the fact that most of the mobile traffic to the desktop site was going to the product section and location tools, made it easy to decide on what to mobile-optimize. 

On the consumer side, homeowners need answers fast to problems they have with installations. Here, the product information and location tool – which helps find retailers that sell Armstrong products – were mobile-optimized.

Since the launch of the mobile sites, Armstrong’s desktop site has seen a 30 percent increase, so mobile is not taking away traffic from desktop, which is a concern for many brands debating on getting into mobile. Currently, 4 percent of overall traffic is mobile, the executives said. But measuring the success of the mobile Web is still a challenge. Mobile traffic is not an indicator of sales for Armstrong. If a consumer locates an Armstrong retailer on the mobile site, there is no way to tell if they person moves on to purchase. The company can’t close the loop yet.

It is, however, doing a test with a few of its retail partners to try and tie mobile Web usage to sales. The executives did not share much on this, since it is a fairly new initiative. On the other had, from a business-to-business perspective, the strategy is not to sell products because the audience — architects and contractors — aren’t the ones purchasing. They actually suggest to their own clients which products would be best for their installation. So the success of the B2B site is judged by sheer volume in traffic. The aim is to get the information out there. Then the contractors and architects, armed with this info, are the ones pitching Armstrong products.

Since launching the sites in May, Armstrong hasn’t done much marketing of the sites. But it plans to use QR codes in-store and on product packaging to drive mobile traffic. From the B2C side, the brand is analyzing whether a mobile app would make sense.

“Our competitors are not on mobile yet,” said Bronwynn March, residential e-marketing manager at Armstrong Worldwide. “So we’re ahead of the game.”

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