Community ConnectionsExperts' Corner

3 Ways to Build Stronger Customer Relationships

How well do you know your customers? Many of the things you thought you knew about their buying behaviors have changed during this pandemic. Now, consumers are primarily concerned about their health and safety, and ways to be productive in their spare time at home. Fortunately, home improvement retailers who accept this new reality can adapt and respond to consumer’s concerns. 
It also requires understanding the local marketplace and implementing strategies to attract new business and strengthen relationships with current customers. 

“The heightened attention paid to where we live, and spend so much of our time, has resulted in increased consumer demand for home improvement solutions, but also an expanded customer base, says Shay Kraft, NPD’s president of U.S. home improvement and major appliances. “The home improvement industry has an opportunity to strengthen these new consumer relationships that will support future success.” 

In terms of demographics, there have been several noteworthy changes that can help retailers target consumers who are purchasing home improvement products and identify how they access information.

  • Homebuyers are more likely to be single females without children
  • Younger generations initiate more DIY projects and spend more than older generations
  • Gen Y uses read more online reviews and watch YouTube videos for instruction and advice 
  • “Nesting” and aging in place motivate consumers to invest in long-term home improvements

More Spare Time Equals More Projects
By all measures, the DIY Market is booming. According to research conducted by Home Improvement Research Institute (HIRI) related to the impact of Covid-19 on the DIY market, there was a significant shift in buying behavior. In store purchases went from a high of 88 percent, down to 75 percent. However, online purchases grew from 49 percent to 72 percent. While health concerns fueled online purchases, 23 percent of respondents mentioned they couldn’t find the products they wanted in-store.

The most common projects in the Spring were painting, lawn and garden, and general maintenance. However, with more time on their hands, DIYers were willing to tackle more complex projects such as plumbing, electrical and HVAC. Respondents gave several reasons for the increased number of projects.

  • At home more than usual 
  • More spare time 
  • Don’t want to hire a contractor, doing the work myself
  • Contractor unavailable, doing the work myself

Use Multiple Channels to Get New Customers
Home Improvement retailers must be innovative to acquire new customers in the upcoming year. This requires a commitment to increase e-commerce sales and view it as an important channel to promote the business’s long-term growth. Online sales reached record levels in 2020. Consumers will continue to shop online in the future. Shoppers want options to buy online or in-store. Several surveys indicate:

  • Sixty-four percent of consumers will spend more online this year than last year 
    (PowerReviews Holiday Consumer Survey)
  • One in three consumers shop online daily (34 percent). One in five shop (19 percent) multiple times per day (Vertebrae Consumer Survey)

Communicate with Customers
Good communication is the basis of a solid relationship with customers. Be sure to have a professional-looking website, and also use social media to provide information about products, pricing and services. Customers have high expectations and want businesses to share information they may find helpful. 
Try supplementing digital communications with an e-mail or letter. Both can go a long way to help customers stay connected to your business. 

Focus on Safety and Service
Even shoppers who are unsure about buying products online are giving it a try—including older generations. Avoiding crowds and conducting transactions in a germ-free environment outweighs their initial discomfort. However, they are also willing to buy online and pick up in-store. Retailers should make shoppers aware of the service. Many people are willing to drive into the pick-up area, and have merchandise placed in their car without contact. 

For customers who opt to shop in-store, cashless payment options are increasingly popular, especially with younger shoppers. Some stores have installed plastic shields at checkout and placed markers at 
6-ft. intervals to promote social distancing. Placing hand sanitizer throughout the store is convenient for customers and employees.Change is never easy, but is necessary to move forward. During the past year consumers and businesses have adjusted to challenges they’ve never encountered before. However, this is the perfect time to reflect and identify new opportunities for the upcoming year.

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