One thing almost all retailers will need to deal with at one point or another is a remodel. That is of course if you stay in business long enough, and are able to adapt during your reconstruction. For most retailers, remodels are both necessary and essential for their survival. On the downside, they are costly, timely, and often leave unappealing eyesores for customers to deal with. Being that it is so essential, how can you make the absolute most from your remodel to not only bring in more customers after the remodel, but to continue to drive an amazing shopping experience during the whole reconstruction? This case study will focus on my experience at a grocery store local to my parent’s house in VT, while home during the holidays. Being the retail technologist it was all at once eye opening, exciting and excruciating to see the process unfold. Here are my observations, notes, tips and objections to the way Hannaford’s handled their reconstruction (note: I was not available to see it happen end to end, but I saw multiple pieces throughout the process).
To give the reader a better idea of where this comes from, I am no expert in remodels of retail stores. Instead I consider myself and the amazing team I represent at Orkiv do understand the technological and marketing intelligence aspect of retail. So, this curiosity from the Hannaford’s remodel all began from my mother coming home from the grocery store one day complaining it took her far longer than expected to do her regular shopping because the remodel happening at Hannaford’s. I asked what she was talking about, and she mentioned a massive remodeling going on at Hannaford’s, to which I dove more into detail: why? when? what?… Her answers of course exciting a motivation to check this out first hand. As a first and cautionary note, if your customers are complaining this much about the process you put them through to do their normal shopping, there could be a few things done better to enhance the transition period for customers. Nonetheless, I went to check it out.
Quick background: Hannaford’s is a medium enterprise grocery chain operating mainly in the Northeast with 189 stores and was bought by Delhaize America Company a few years back.
As it turns out this Hannaford’s was taking one of the most progressive leaps in [grocery] retailing technology I’ve seen, all the while happening in rural Essex VT! Their plan? Add a whole new wing of the store, and technology alongside to aide customers in buying online, picking up in store. They would create a new application and website which now allows customers (just like Peapod) to shop for their items, pay online, get an expected pickup time, and then drive through a garage of sorts where the items will be loaded into your car, hassle free! The service is similar to Crurbside, Peapod and others, but it was the first real adaptation of the building infrastructure I’d seen to truly support the effort on a mass scale. On the interior, my understanding was they would have cubbies and more of a “mobile checkout” system which would also help shoppers with a frictionless checkout experience to add products to their cart while going through the store. In addition to the frictionless checkout I had heard from the manager they were planning to integrate the shopping app/website with the Alexa app, so it could automatically sync with the customers phone and order products automatically. In my opinion, this is where all retailers should be, yet I’ve seen less than 5% truly embracing the technology to this level. (Shameless plug: reach out to a email@example.com if you have no f*ing idea where to begin, or if you’re advanced and want to get to the next level) I digress, but in addition to the new technology updates this store would be receiving they would be doing a re-haul to the design and layout of the store itself. I will generally stay away from the overall interior redesign itself as I do not have full details on what the true plans were (though I suspect to encourage more purchases, higher value add services like larger deli and prepared foods, and to allow for the additional space needed for the B.O.P.U.I.S. “buy online pick up in store” program). With this general plan outlined, I was happy and excited again to hear a store like this was updating the infrastructure to support a program like this. That being said, I stepped back to look at the presentation to the customers with respect to how they handled it.
First off, if you are going through a remodel, customers NEED to know this is a good thing. It should not leave them discouraged (though this may be hard to avoid) or resentful of shopping with you. Therefore your remodel should leave them with the same feeling I had; excitement and joy of the upcoming benefits by continuing to shop with them. It’s an important time for you, your business and your customers. In this case, Hannaford’s did let customers know they would be going through a remodel, through flyers, the website, and in store. Oftentimes, alerting your customers should be done, redone, and triple done in nearly everything: flyers, receipts, coupons, website, social, email etc. This is your opportunity to “brag” about the remodel. Get customers excited if anything about the possibilities to come with your remodel, whether that be a new update, a thorough cleaning and painting, or a radical new addition and technology updates. While it can take quite a few resources to make this all happen, consider it just a normal part of your marketing, since in the end you are bringing about brand awareness. The most important point here is to make your remodel seem like it’s the best possible thing to happen for your customers, and you will make it as effortless as possible for them to keep shopping with you. In the case of Hannaford’s, despite their efforts to make people aware, they did not do as much as they could to make it a real marketing positive, nor did they use it as a method to actually bring in more customers during the reconstruction. They did announce some of the benefits of their new program, but I felt they failed to truly excite people into coming in, checking out the remodel, and maybe even signing up for their program with exclusive benefits for signing up early. This is a fatal, but easy to make flaw.
When it comes down to it, your stores should come to be familiar in the customers mind no matter how long they have been shopping with you, especially for the grocer. It’s important here to keep the layout, similar in fashion because there is little margin for frustration. Customers go to one place over and over for their groceries because it’s part of their routine and they know how to accomplish it easily without sacrificing the time to understand a new place. With the overhaul of a new store design, you risk losing loyal customers to the competition nearby if these same customers are not used to (or strongly dislike) the addition and change of the store upgrades, if even temporary. This potentially temporary solution for customers, with proper marketing while identifying their pain points during the remodel can be turned around, and in the long term, may work out better. The key here though is to make sure the customer understands the remodel taking place. Coming from a consumer perspective, they want to know what they can expect, clear signage or maps of where items have moved, and how they can go about their normal shopping routine. What would I do if I planned the remodel?
*a basic app in this case, might be a great segway to your new technology unveiling at the end of the reconstruction (ie. Email collection)
Each of these helpful methods of informing the customer helps keep them loyal, encourages them to adapt easily during the reconstruction while enhancing their ability and want to adapt to the new changes coming.
I have yet to see the completed Hannaford’s store. My hope is that they have a successful launch of the new technology and redesigned store layout being put into place here. In anticipation, I will come up with a few things I don’t think they will benefit from, and how they (or you in the future) could have. Many of these have already been mentioned but it becomes an important part of how you follow up. Hannaford’s signage was pretty bad, with poor design and over documentation, it didn’t make me want to understand or read it. They could have easily put an extra $500 into making the signs more appealing and properly placed in multiple easily accessible situations. They did not have any real mention that I was aware of that I should go to their website or mobile app in order to get a more clear idea of what’s happening. If they did, I may have signed up for their online ordering program. Large aisles were misplaced with no clear signage of where they went, though they did place several items around the store alerting new locations, it was not explicitly clear. We have yet to see, but when they do launch the new store design, I hope to see several email blasts, a flyer, radio and local events taking about their new launch.
My hope here is that a few tidbits of information during the remodel phase each store must go through at some point along the journey. If you’ve got a question or have something you’d like to add please add it to the comments. If you think you’ve got a tip or “hack” which could ease the pain during the remodel phase, use this as a discussion point, I would love to hear the chatter! As always if you want a solution for your retail technology stack, reach out to a Specialist@orkiv.com