Foot traffic is one of the metrics when it comes to operating a brick and mortar store. Traffic in the store means customer engagement and sales which in turn means more revenue.
So how do you get more foot traffic in your store? As a former owner of a boutique art gallery and pottery studio, these are things that I did that will help you to get more people in your business.
First, let’s define foot traffic.
I remember looking at my 3000 square foot space and thinking that it needed to be maximized. What did that mean? That meant utilizing my space, so it was productive in terms of staffing and utilizing equipment.
I had 16 pottery wheels upstairs and 1500 square foot space downstairs. Empty pottery wheels and under-utilized space downstairs meant no money. I knew my space was maximized when all wheels were going, my space was used upstairs and downstairs and as well as inventory being moved. I had part time staff, and volunteer art instructors.
The only day I was closed was Monday.
So, in today’s retail space, you can measure foot traffic by using people counters, mobile tracking technology, heat sensors, or video surveillance. These tools not only count the number of people in your store, they can also track shopper behavior, dwell time and other metrics.
Tips to Increase Foot Traffic to Your Retail
Keep it well maintained
A well maintained, attractive storefront does wonders for your curb appeal. Nobody wants to walk into a store with peeling paint, dirty windows, dust on shelves or disorganized, dark space.
Keep your store front clean and organized. That should be a daily task. Fresh paint and updates – that should be put in every few years.
As a business owner, you should step outside and take a look at it from the outside. Evaluate the physical state of the windows, doors and walls, (and if you have a garden- evaluate that too) – identify the things that need sprucing up. You should have staff taking turns taking care of sweeping, washing or wiping down the exterior or hire a third-party company to take care of your exterior for you.
Pay attention to visual merchandising
It does make a difference in drawing more foot traffic to your store, especially if you have window displays.
I changed out my front window every week to keep interest high. Yes, it was laborious, but it made a tremendous difference. It drew in various foot traffic depending on what was on display. During the holiday, I gained the reputation as the most beautiful decorated window display of all of downtown because I went all out.
Sure, visual merchandising does require a sense of aesthetic, but there is a science to it. You can replicate it.
One way is to think of your targeted shoppers. I knew that most of my shoppers were women. Hence, I revolved around gift ideas, things for the home or for themselves or what they could do for Ladies night out. My store gained the reputation as the place to get unique one of a kind gifts.
The other is to find inspiration for product displays. I chose themes often. White and Black. Red, White and Blue. Bridal Days. College Days. Housewarming Days. Whatever that I saw that was coming up on calendar, I tried to find inspiration. I was also a member of the downtown merchant authority. We had themes for events in downtown. For example, we had St. Paddy’s day. I was decorated all green. Green or Yellow lights, various green items and complementary colored items. Not necessarily about St. Patrick’s but in color. Halloween was another favorite one of mine. Orange and black. Red and Black.
If at all possible, I tried to engage all of their senses if I could. If not, I tried to delight them with surprises or something out of the ordinary. Being a creative person myself, I often grouped things in threes and in similarities. What I meant by that is that highs, mediums and lows. Then in similarities would be categories or in pricing.
Add curbside extras
Go beyond the typical window displays by having additional elements outside your store. I had two sandwich boards – one for the front door and one for the back door. Sometimes I would write messages on the sidewalk with chalk. At one event, I hired a popular chalk artist to create chalk art outside and around my storefront. If I had metal sculptures, with the artist permission, I could take outside, I would do that as well.
Invest in employee training
You can have the prettiest shop, carry the latest and hottest items and offer the most enticing offers, but if your staff members provide poor customer service, you will be hard pressed to drive visits to your location.
More business is lost due to poor service and poor treatment than poor product. One and tried and true way to drive people to your store is to provide excellent customer experience.
You only have one opportunity to make a great first impression and gain a repeat customer. Poor customer service can stop a purchase, create a negative social media shaming and ruin a brand.
With that said, invest in training your employees on customer service. Remind your employees that “Thank you for shopping with us” or “we appreciate your business” can go a long way, it cost nothing and leaves a positive lasting impression.
Prepare your employees with a little bit of toughness. Educate your staff that not all customers will be nice. Your staff will be on the front lines of occasional customer abuse. Warn them in advance and make sure that when those incidents happen that they are to treat the customer with politeness and respect. We all know that the customer isn’t always right. But they remain the customer.
Caring mindset – your employees need to care. That is the mindset that they must have. Every customer that walks in your business, they all must be treated equally and as if they were bringing a million dollars of business to your store.
It does not matter if you’re having a bad day, in a foul mood or whatever. They must be upbeat and positive. They cannot be on their smartphones texting, ignoring those who walk in the store. The only time they can be on their phone is during breaks.
It was exceptional customer experience that brought people back into our place again and again. They were always greeted warmly. We got to know our regulars pretty well that we knew them by name, if they were coming in for gifts or for themselves.
Have an online presence
Even if you have a brick and mortar store, you still need to have an online presence. I am talking about a website, with an ecommerce store. Otherwise, you will fall behind with the times. More people are spending more time online. Am I contradicting myself by saying having an e-commerce store will drive people away from your store? No.
Look at it this way. Having an e-commerce store will generate more revenue for you, but it will also increase more awareness and foot traffic. You are providing your shoppers options. Especially if they are local and if they love your products and services, they can opt to purchase your items online to have it shipped to their home when they are not able to make it your store or have it placed on hold in the store so that when they come by to your store, they can pick it up. Research show that 50% of respondents love to have the option of being able to have the in-store pick up! The other option is also for gifts. Perhaps they may order online to have it shipped to someone they care about as a gift.
They may order an item from your online store and then decide to stop in to learn more about you. So, why turn away opportunity for new business?
Get listed online
I spent much of my time making sure my store was listed online. Where was that? Yelp. Facebook. Google. Apple Maps. Local Online Newspapers (Patch, for example- take advantage of their free listings for events and activities!) and other local online directories. Investing in Moz local or an SEO agency that specializes in LOCAL optimization services will be worth it.
Whatever you do, make sure that your address is consistent all across each listing. For example, whatever address you have published on your website, it must match on the listings and on all of your social media channels. Consistency helps improve your chances of being found during searches.
Leverage Social Media
Keep your social media accounts active with updates and interesting tidbits.
Consistently and regularly post on your social media accounts to showcase cool things your business is doing in the community as an example. Do you have specials? Are you co-partnering with another business? Feature each one of your employees. Ask questions. Do a live demo. These are all good content for social media.
Social media drew traffic to my website plus to my store. It also invited inquiries about products and classes. It was good for engagement.
Advertising on social media does not have to be ridiculously expensive. You can boost a post or even allocate a small advertising budget to see a return on investment.
Implement email marketing
Email marketing for me generated the most response for me. If you are not collecting email addresses, do it now.
For example, do you have any in-store specials or promotions going on? Got an event coming up? Email is one of the ways to keep your “loyal fans” updated. Mention the perks of showing up in-store such as exclusive offers that can only be redeemed on-site.
Make customer loyalty a bigger focus
Your foot traffic strategy shouldn’t just be about getting new people to walk in your store. What about your regulars? As I had mentioned earlier, I had a lot of regulars. They meant the world to me. They brought their friends and family to my business.
They received discounts on classes and parties. They got first dibs on new items that came in the store. If there was something that was a favorite of theirs, I paid attention and if that artist brought in something new, they were the first ones to be notified. I knew their birthdays and anniversaries. They received personalized cards.
What can you do for them?
Be more targeted with your promotions
That is how my loyal fans got the first dibs. If you could segment your subscribers, you could send out relevant promotions. Pay attention to your customer data and start using that information to send out targeted campaigns.
Rather than putting up a SALE sign – unless you are Krispy Kreme – your CRM functionalities can allow you to track and connect with your most loyal shoppers.
For example, if you are having a promotion for a particular brand, you can check your database to see who has shopped that brand in the past so you can notify them.
If you can – hosting events is one of the best ways to get people to head to your store because they offer experiences attendees won’t find online or in other shops.
To make your events more fun and enticing, consider co-partnering with other brands or merchants or individuals. This creates a win-win for everyone involved.
Partner with like-minded brands, experts, artists or organizations to host events in your store could be a designer showcase, a talk by a local artist, or fundraiser. This allows you to provide an opportunity to draw in more traffic by offering your customers something unique, leverage audience of like-minded people to grow your fan-base and grow your relationships with those individuals and organizations.
For example, I grew my network with artists and wineries who gave talks, partnered with downtown merchants for events and hosted a couple of fundraisers a year – all increased my fan base as well as my foot traffic.
Those are the things I leveraged that generated more foot traffic to my boutique store. How are you driving traffic to your location?