Remodeling Your Store? Here’s How to Keep Your Customers During ConstructionDon’t let a chaotic and noisy environment drive away your loyal shoppers.
Every store needs a facelift from time to time. But while remodeling will ultimately improve the shopping experience for customers in the long-run, the chaos of a construction project might leave them disoriented.
“Your customers will be putting up with some bother when you do the remodeling, so you want to make them feel like it’s worth their while to continue shopping with you,” said Bruce Sanders, author of “Retailer’s Edge: Boost Profits Using Shopper Psychology.”
There are a number of things store owners can do to make customers feel more comfortable shopping during remodeling, said Sanders. Here, the consumer psychologist shares his top tips for keeping your shoppers at ease during your store’s makeover.
Ask for suggestions
As you plan your store remodeling, ask customers for suggestions on what to improve, suggested Sanders. Not only does it give them a heads-up on your upcoming construction project, they’ll also feel included in the process, and may even offer ideas you hadn’t thought of.
“They’ll feel more of a sense of ownership in what’s going on,” he explained. “You probably won’t take all their suggestions, but you and your staff can report that you’ve taken note of ideas from customers, and that will help bring loyalty.”
Solicit suggestions with an online survey, an in-store questionnaire or a friendly conversation during checkout. Advice questions (“What are some ways we can improve the layout of the store?”) rather than opinion questions (“What do you think of our store layout?”) will resonate more with customers and give you better responses, said Sanders.
“Advice questions create an intimacy which results in increased sales before, during and after the remodel. Opinion questions are less likely to produce intimacy,” he said.
When customers feel that they’ve contribute to a store, they’ll feel a deeper sense of connection with it.
Remodel with a reason
Your remodeling may aim to tackle several different areas, but give your customers one main rationale for the makeover, so they see how it will benefit them in the long run, said Sanders.
“This preserves a unity of mission and message for you and your staff when shoppers complain about the bother of the remodel or debate the need for the changes at all.”
What reasons should you give for the remodeling? “Anything that will make things better for the shoppers,” said Sanders.
Keep the theme simple. Perhaps the construction will make room for a broader product selection, or maybe you’re planning to widen the aisles so shoppers can navigate the store more easily. Shoot for bonus points with a reason that reflects customers’ suggestions.
“In reality, there may be a bunch of reasons why you’re remodeling. But when the salespeople have practiced a response, it will help give a clear reason that everybody can understand and get excited about,” he said.
Stick to a schedule
If you’ve ever watched a home renovation show, you’re no stranger to the inevitable delays that can impact a construction project. Waiting a few extra weeks on a home project might be annoying, but unexpected delays in a store renovation can seriously damage your customers’ trust in your company, said Sanders.
“The schedule is a promise to customers, so if you fall behind, push your contractor to get you back on schedule.”
One effective strategy is building extra time into the schedule you share with customers, said Sanders. If you expect to finish up in early May, consider telling your customers that you’ll be back in action by Memorial Day as a buffer for any delays.
“If you give yourself a long enough timeline, you can say to shoppers that you finished up ahead of schedule, but it won’t leave you in a bind if things get tight.”
Finally, if you do have to push your schedule back, communicate it as a service to customers. Sanders recommends telling them you’ve moved the completion date so you can make even more improvements to the overall shopping experience.
Offer a small discount
Shopping in a construction zone isn’t usually pleasant. Your customers may have to deal with extra noise, dust, layout changes and shifts in opening hours. Offer them a small discount to encourage them to put up with the inconvenience, said Sanders.
“There are very few times that you can get by offering customers a 5 percent discount. Most of the time, shoppers feel like that’s peanuts. But it works during remodeling,” he said.
As with every discount, communicate the reason you’re cutting prices. Let shoppers know that the discount is to compensate for navigating around the construction, said Sanders. However, be careful not to paint it as a major inconvenience, or shoppers might not want to come at all.
Keep things familiar
Customers tend to crave familiarity, so “as much as possible, maintain the same store hours and store merchandise mix,” said Sanders. “Although you’ll probably need to change where some items are located in the store in order to accommodate the construction, keep your most commonly sought items in their same relative store locations.”
The same goes for your playlist and store scent.
“Signature fragrances and music provide customers a comforting sense of familiarity during times of change,” he said.
Introduce bigger changes to your store gradually. While you might want to update the look and feel of your shop, you don’t want your customers to feel it’s an entirely different place. Not only will this prepare customers for what’s coming, it can also help build a sense of excitement around your brand.
Throw a reopening party
Finishing a big construction project is reason enough to party, but there’s actually a subconscious reason you should plan a reopening celebration, said Sanders.
“When shoppers enter your store knowing it has been recently remodeled, they are likely to be more price-sensitive than otherwise because they consciously or subconsciously recognize that the construction cost you money you’ll want to recoup.”
He recommends offering modest discounts storewide to help customers feel good about your store during a time when they’re paying closer attention to your prices.
Then, expect to see a boost in business.
“A lot of business built from a remodel comes from new customers. There are people who walk through a store and never really buy anything, but when they learn there’s been a big change, they’ll come back and give things a closer look. There’s generally a good uptick in business after you remodel,” said Sanders.