The writing is on the wall: malls are dying. According to Forbes, Business Insider, and other major publications, internet sales are killing shopping malls across the globe. If shopping malls aren’t thriving, what chance does a small business have to compete?
Despite this bleak outlook, physical sales are not dead.
In an age where an increasing number of consumers are taking their shopping online, business owners can sometimes lose sight of the importance of maintaining an attractive store. However, the statistics show that physical stores still play a major role for local businesses today. According to Rutgers University, physical sales constitute more than three-fourths of all sales, and consumers spend six times more in-store than online.
Clearly, foot traffic is still the bread and butter of the retail world. But how can store owners draw additional traffic? Here are four tips for entrepreneurs looking to increase foot traffic in a business.
How to increase foot traffic in a retail store
Tip #1: Learn About the Community
Business owners must determine who their target customers are. While hopeful entrepreneurs might argue that their target demographic is “anyone and everyone”, it is impossible to effectively market to a very broad audience. In fact, your target demographic is a key factor in choosing where a business should operate.
Consider: What is the age of your ideal customer? What is their income? What are their needs? Your marketing strategy should resonate with your target audience. Everything from advertising to the appearance of your store should be consistent with the needs and desires of your target audience. This can effectively and naturally lead to greatly improved foot traffic to your business.
With this in mind, take a look at your local community. While looking up demographic information for your region can help, simply observing the area can be illuminating. If residents of your local area don’t match your ideal customer profile, it is time to reassess your marketing strategy.
Tip #2: Create an Attractive Storefront
For a business to have any hope of attracting passing shoppers, a professional storefront is essential. Your storefront should emanate the essence of your brand. Is your product/service aspirational or practical in nature? The decor should be tailored to the needs of your target customer. For example, most jewelers should opt to use ostentatious displays, while office supply businesses should use more pragmatic imagery. Decorative items can serve as signals to attract your target customer.
Your business sign should be prominent and in good condition — nothing repels customers as quickly as an old sign in disrepair. Banners and tapestries should match your overall aesthetic. Simple additions, like a colorful branded banner in your display window, can be an effective way to establish a mood for your brand. Diners or cafes can opt to draw customers with outdoor seating areas and awnings.
Tip #3: Think About Store Layout
If you look at stores that just invite you in vs. those that you’d rather not step into, you’ll notice a few things, such as:
- The lighting and ventilation in the store
- The use of music
- The amount of space available to move around in
- The actual display of each product
It may seem like basic steps, but as the saying goes, rocket science is just that- science. Having enough space to move in, and an airy environment, can immediately put customers at ease and get them to explore the store. Moreover, a store that looks inviting from the outside is often one that sells more.
Tip #4: Consider Going The Extra Mile
If you are put up on a particularly shopper-heavy road, it may be worthwhile exploring options like hiring a mascot or having a statement display right outside your store. Be sure to check the local laws before you pull something like this off.
Even smaller gestures like a blackboard announcing the day’s events, or a witty quote, can do the job for you.
The idea is to bring a bit of the store’s charm to the outside so that more people are tempted to walk in.
Tip #5: Engage Shoppers with Location-Based Services
Location-based services are applications on computers and mobile devices that use location data to control features. This means that business owners can promote their business to locals through coupons, cross-promotions, and other deals. Since 2010, they have had a notable impact on retail. When used for marketing, they can target potential customers in a specific area. For local businesses, they are an indispensable tool for generating new foot traffic.
Keeping a pulse on trending location-based apps can pay off. There are obvious benefits to using apps like Foursquare and Swarm for promotion, but businesses can also take advantage of other apps in creative ways. In mid-2016, for example, businesses across the world began attracting customers by offering in-game incentives to players of Pokemon GO, a location-based video game for smartphones.
Tip #6: Offer an Experience that Will Make Customers Return
The key to creating an in-store experience that will have customers coming back is convenience. Since customers are taking the effort to come to your business, it is your responsibility to streamline the process as much as possible.
The layout of your business should allow customers to organically move through the store. Clear paths of travel, sufficient lighting, and inviting displays can improve sales dramatically. Seating allows customers to take time to consider additional purchases. Digital signs can also be used to inform customers about current promotions, upcoming events, and display ads for products that they might be interested in buying. They are proven to improve sales and customer retention rate
One pitfall that can seriously affect your business is an ineffective POS system. A virus can render a traditional POS system useless for several days. This is a great way to infuriate customers and generate negative Yelp reviews, but it’s not the best way to do business. A cloud POS system, like Primaseller, is ideal for retailers. It can securely store data and is accessible from any location. Streamlining the checkout process can do wonders for retaining customers.
Tip #7: Roll Out The Red Carpet
And we do mean that literally!
A red-carpet welcome immediately prompts people to enter a store. This is because we are all conditioned to expect special treatment at the end of such a special welcome. If possible, tie in the welcome experience with the theme of your store. Several luxury Ayurveda retailers offer customers space for their footwear and a calming wipe at the entrance to make the experience special.
Do note that the approach you choose is reflective of your brand. If you do it in one place, you’d need to do it at all your stores to maintain uniformity. Also, unique is good but outrageous isn’t. When in doubt, always see how customers respond to your attempts.
These tips can help small business owners thrive in what may seem like an uncertain era. Physical sales do not have to suffer, regardless of current trends in online sales. Learning about your community, crafting an attractive storefront, and engaging customers with creative location-based campaigns can help your business attract foot traffic. Focusing on offering a convenient in-store experience will ensure that customers come back time and time again. With planning, your brick-and-mortar store can succeed.
Devin is a freelance writer from Daly City, CA. He writes about small business marketing and SEO. On his downtime, he enjoys experimenting with car modifications and collecting vinyl records. He also enjoys researching and writing about auto history. You can connect with Devin on Twitter.
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