It’s a common saying today that “brick and mortar stores” are dying out. While it’s true that online shopping has become more and more popular, that doesn’t mean nobody wants the physical retail experience anymore. All this means is that you can’t be casual about how you manage your shop. It’s important to take active measures to engage customers with your brand. Below are several key methods to help keep your store competitive and increase essential foot traffic so your shop will not only survive, but thrive.
In today’s fast-paced and busy world, you’ll find fewer people wandering the streets to window shop. People in general have become a lot more direct about how and when they leave the house, and if you want people to know you’re there, you need to have an online presence. This means having a website, social media pages, and your shop information set up on Google maps and other search engines to ensure that when people search for your type of store, they’ll find you. Retail store foot traffic these days depends heavily on the search traffic you get online. (Tip: see post on SEO tips for small businesses.)
When it comes to setting up your website, more information is better. Don’t worry about giving away spoilers of the in-person experience; tell them what you’re selling and at what prices. When people search online for “dairy free cupcakes” or “women’s halter-top shirts,” you want the search engine to send them straight to you. If you don’t offer shipping, allow the people-shy or schedule-heavy individuals the convenience of ordering ahead and picking up their orders in-store. The more convenient it is to buy, the more purchases they’ll make.
If you really want to increase foot traffic to your physical store, you need to make the trip worth the extra time and effort. Offer experiences that you can’t get through online shopping. For example, places like Costco allow customers to try out new products through free food samples offered around the store. Clothing shops can offer in-person fittings to help people find the right size and try on outfits before they buy. Coffee shops and restaurants offer comfortable places to eat and relax, and mattress stores let people try out the mattresses with sales attendants that guide their experience.
All of these tactics have something in common; they appeal to your senses. Taste, touch, smell, sound, and sight should all be used to create a unique in-store experience. Create an atmosphere with music, fresh smells, things to touch, and things to taste where appropriate for your industry. Let them smell those fresh-baked goods, touch your tile samples, hear your whisper-quiet portable fans, etc. If your customers feel welcome and enjoy just being in your store, you’ll get a lot of return foot traffic and free word-of-mouth marketing.
Another way to get customers into your store is to host events. Bookstores are popular places for author book signings, and many small grocery stores will host yearly trick-or-treating for the locals. Use seasons, holidays, and local celebrities to draw customers out of their homes and into your store. Just a few events a year can keep regular foot traffic flowing and maintain your connection with loyal customers.
However, your events should be about more than just activities and popular guests, it should also be about connecting with your local community. Small businesses especially thrive through community connections and customer loyalty. Big corporations can offer convenience, but you can offer genuine care for the community and the people in it. You can do this by hosting charity events, participating in trade shows, and collaborating with other small businesses in the area for local holidays and celebrations.
When it comes to giveaways, you don’t have to go big to win over your customers. For the most part, free stuff is free stuff, and something as simple as a pencil or a refrigerator magnet will linger in their home for years as a reminder of their visit to your store. While pamphlets and business cards can be informative, they ultimately will end up in the trash. If you want to keep them thinking of your store regularly, opt for lasting gifts like keychains, promotional water bottles, and reusable shopping bags.
Giveaways can be given out seasonally for certain holidays or promotional events, mailed to newsletter subscribers, or even passed out at the door or checkout counter as a thank-you for coming to your store. For larger giveaways like backpacks or branded wine glasses, consider in-store promotions such as giving out a prize to every 100th customer. The more rewarded customers feel for coming, the more you’ll see an increase in foot traffic.
Just because window-shopping is becoming less common, doesn’t mean it isn’t still important. Especially when your main customer base is local, you want people driving or walking by to take one look at your shop and know exactly what type of business you have. Many businesses rent a building and don’t take time to personalize the exterior, leaving many would-be customers passing by without a clue that it’s even a place they can visit.
You don’t need a corporate-level decoration budget to draw in more foot traffic, either. A few touches like a decorated sandwich board, a few on-theme window displays, and a tasteful sign with the name of your shop can do the work to draw in curious passersby on a stroll down main street. To help stand out from the other shops in your industry, try selecting a unique theme or a mascot that you can incorporate into your decorations.
There’s a lot of things a small business can do to increase foot traffic to their retail store, and it doesn’t have to be big or expensive. It’s all about finding ways to engage with the customers and your community. The more ways you can connect with them, the more customers will be browsing in your store. Proactive businesses are the ones that will thrive in this new competitive retail market, and the passive ones will be the ones left in the dust.
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