How to retain clients after disruptive building works

Taj Shopping Mall in Embakasi, Nairobi.  PHOTO | MARTIN MUKANGU
Taj Shopping Mall in Embakasi, Nairobi. PHOTO | MARTIN MUKANGU 

Intensive construction around a business’ premises can lead to a sharp drop in sales, in some cases by more than 40 per cent, presenting building works as a business crisis that needs swift and urgent marketing mitigation, as Taj Shopping Mall in Embakasi has demonstrated with a new construction-oriented social media drive.

“On how sales were affected during construction, most of the respondents in our research gave percentages averaging ‘30 per cent down’ or ‘I estimate a 20 per cent decrease in sales,’” reported researchers Hernan Solminihac and Robert Harrison on the effects of highway rehabilitation on businesses in Houston, Texas in the US.

“These responses confirmed that during construction some businesses are affected more than others, where six per cent reported improved business owing to the construction, about 60 per cent reported that sales were down by less than 20 per cent and only 12 per cent reported a sales drop greater than 40 per cent.”

Mitigating such sales falls requires marketing strategies before and during the construction to keep consumers informed on the development of the construction and on the business still going on inside the premises.

“Keeping in touch with customers is key. When construction is happening, it is hard to rely on foot traffic, because it is harder for consumers to get around. Companies have to take matters into their own hands by getting in touch with their customers and reminding them why they love to frequent the business,” said Karla de Leon, lead business advisor for Main Street Launch, a community development financial institution in an article titled, ‘Things Businesses Can Do When Construction is Near Their Location’.

“This can be inexpensive or free through social media and email marketing platforms. Whether it is collecting email addresses or asking clients to sign up for the company newsletter. Companies need to figure out a way to stay in touch with their customers so they do not forget about the business while construction is going on.”

For Taj Shopping Mall in Embakasi, Nairobi, whose business has been disrupted by the ongoing construction of Outer Ring Road, has used social media to keep in touch with its customers.

Through its Facebook account, it has been frequently updating customers on the progress of the construction, what’s available in its different stores, how they can access the mall during and after construction, and benefits accruing from the project.

“Although the short-term impact of construction projects on business is likely to be negative, infrastructure improvement has the potential to engender significant long-term effects, including reduction in transportation costs and an increase in economic activity,” according to research conducted by University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“But to enjoy these long-term benefits, business must survive for the duration of the construction projects, hence the need for mitigation efforts.”
Businesses which fail to implement mitigation marketing strategies during construction risk losing revenue and customers to a degree that may effect their business for the long term as customers find alternative sources for their goods and services.

- African Laughter