Driving in-store traffic is the daily mission for every brick-and-mortar retail business. As a store owner, you’ve no doubt tried a few things to increase that footfall. You’re probably also becoming aware of how customer behaviour is changing as more people head online. But online isn’t ‘killing’ the high street as much as many once thought it would. In fact, according to The Telegraph, in-store experiences have never been held in such high regard.
So what does this mean for your small business? For the brick-and-mortar companies who are happily surviving, creativity has been at the heart of their success. And just as they saw value in rethinking their approach, you can do the same.
It starts with dividing your footfall tactics into two groups — direct traffic drivers and indirect traffic drivers:
A direct method targets a specific group, or offers a specific value for customers to visit your store (think promotions, loyalty programmes and events).
An indirect method relies on customers discovering your business.
Rethink your approach to brick-and-mortar retail
Here’s a list of ideas that make use of both methods:
1. Verify your business on search platforms
To drive people to your store indirectly, utilise the power of search and verify your business on Google. Listed businesses appear whenever someone Googles their name or their type of shop in the area. This listing includes your business information and location on Google Maps, and can feature photos and customer reviews. And with 46% of all Google searches conducted locally, it’s well worth your while.
2. Let customers power up
Take a cue from retail giants like John Lewis, H&M and Selfridges, and offer phone charging stations and free WiFi. You’ll need to advertise these perks outside and around your store. People who are running really low on juice will browse and potentially buy more while they wait for their phones to charge.
To get the most from offering free WiFi, you could consider asking users to provide their email address in return for access. With GDPR now in full swing, just make sure they’ve agreed to be added to your mailing list before you contact them.
3. Offer refreshments
Another effective way to indirectly drive foot traffic is to hydrate your customers (and their pets). Shoppers get thirsty walking around, so offering free water can not only make a good impression but invigorate them to come in and shop some more.
Offer pets a few water bowls near the entrance of your store, and have waste bags on-hand so you can easily clean up any accidents.
4. Improve curb appeal
Grab the attention of passersby with an extravagant window display or chalkboard sign. Include a witty message and hashtag that allows them to post about you on social media. This kind of user-generated content can increase people’s trust in your brand and their likelihood to buy from you.
Offering something people can use, such as bike racks or luggage lockers, can also help drive in-store traffic.
5. Offer deals
Everyone loves a deal, so utilise store signage, social media and email blasts to ensure your customers know when there’s something big happening in your store. People don’t know unless you tell them.
6. Hire micro-influencers
You can ask social media influencers to promote your products to their own highly-targeted audience. These are ‘sponsored posts’, in which the influencer wears or features your product, writes a small endorsement or reviews your brand to create awareness. You could have them mention your brick-and-mortar location and any in-store promotions you might be running, or have them simply tag your business’s profile.
7. Encourage gift card purchases
Existing customers can purchase gift cards and encourage others to come in and make a purchase at your store. But you may already have big fans who want this gift card as a present, and therefore drive in-store traffic from someone who’s never even heard of your brand before.
8. Host an event
Consider partnering with other businesses looking for retail space. There may be retailers, food companies or local groups who need a physical location to host their event. In return, you could ask the organiser to give a shout out to your business and products.
9. Use the power of loyalty
Loyalty programs can keep customers coming back for more. Offer a free gift with a purchase or a special discount when a customer spends a certain amount. You could even offer bonus points for customers who find you online, then visit your physical store in-person.
10. Let customers pick up or return online purchases in your store
A Harvard Business Review study found that those who did online research spent 13% more when they shopped in the company’s physical location. One way to make use of this behaviour is to offer services like buy online, pick up in store (BOPIS) and buy online, return in store (BORIS). In both cases, purchases are made online and then either collected or returned in a brick-and-mortar store, where you can engage those customers in person.
11. Pay attention to the full experience
People are bombarded with promotions, offers and brand messages all the time. Your brick-and-mortar store needs to stand out from this by offering something extra special. Think carefully about your store layout and how that welcomes (or deters) customers. Avoid unnecessary clutter that could put people off making a purchase, and invest in a point-of-sale system that’s set up to look sleek, inviting and simple.
The way people shop might be changing, but the brick-and-mortar store is here to stay for now. With the right mix of direct and indirect tactics, you can increase your chances of staying competitive and creating even more new business.