When you’re running a brick-and-mortar business, foot traffic is the most essential element, and increasing that foot traffic is job one. More traffic equals more opportunities for sales equals higher revenues. As you are trying to attract more customers, the obvious first step is to focus on appearance. Make the most of what you’ve already got, and decide what else you need to add to draw those customers in.
To make the most of what you’ve already got, look at the “bones” of your store – your store itself and your employees.
YOUR STORE: Your store is your pride and joy! Keep it maintained! Make sure your storefront is clean, well-lit, and maintained. A well-kept store front offers a lot of curb appeal. No one wants to enter a business with a rickety door, dirty windows, an unswept walkway, or peeling paint. The same goes for inside your store. Clean floors, organized shelving, and a tidy check-out area reflect good management. Emotionally, this transfers to the customer that the business is a good one. On the other hand, sticky floors and a messy store communicate the opposite. Figure out which tasks need to be done daily, weekly, monthly, yearly. Hire them out or divvy them up among employees to spread and lighten the load of them. Lots of tasks can be done during the nooks and crannies of the day in between helping customers.
YOUR EMPLOYEES: Your employees are your most important asset because they reflect your business, they work with the customers, and they manage the merchandise. For this reason, invest in associate training. It doesn’t matter how clean and inviting your business is or how great your giveaways are if your employees are below par. Make sure your employees are aware of their behavior at all times. They should avoid looking bored or tired to customers. Who knows when someone might walk by and see them and be turned off enough to walk on by? Train employees in excellent customer service habits – greeting customers, helping them cheerfully, conveying that they care. Customer service expert Nancy Friedman warns, “Retailers spend lots of marketing dollars trying to convince us to buy their products, but if customer contact is not handled just right in a store, all that money is wasted. You have one chance to make a first impression and gain a repeat customer. Poor customer service can stop a purchase, create negative social media shaming and ruin a brand.” So, make sure your associates are helping your business, not hurting it!
Once you’ve taken a look at your store and your employees and spruced them up to be customer-ready, consider these other winning strategies to draw people into your retail space.
- CREATE AN ATTRACTIVE MONUMENT SIGN. Woo your customers in with a sign that is colorful or clever or at least memorable. Take a look at your signage and consider a change if it’s time for it. Often, monument signs stick to a non-descript design with a basic heading – TOYS, HARDWARE STORE, GROCERIES. But they don’t have to! Consider an eye-catching monument sign to pull people in from the road.
- CONSIDER PARKING LOT ATTENTION-GETTERS. Flags, light pole signs, and wicket signs are all inexpensive ways to attract customers. The goal here is not to SELL something, but to ATTRACT someone. Flags are just plain fun and eye-catching. Light pole signs might feature a current promotion – “Spring is coming! Got seeds?!” Wicket signs are fun to push into the ground for a limited time promotion. Whatever signage you use, people will notice.
- ADD SOME CURB APPEAL. Why not take advantage of your store’s entry way or curb to add a sandwich board with a clever message? Or a sign that invites shoppers to take advantage of a special deal? Or a display of the latest, greatest product your store has? If you have large enough products, wheeling your best one out is a great way to lure customers in. They get a sense of experiencing your product before they enter the store. Of course, this won’t work for a jewelry store, but if you’re a motorcycle retailer or a hardware store or garden center, your appealing curb designs can make people drool.
- USE A WELL-DESIGNED WINDOW DISPLAY. If you’re lucky enough to have a great window in the front of your store, use it! Forget the old stand-by of some products thrown in the window with a sign. Use your window to tell a story, to invite passersby in. A hardware store could display a wintery scene to sell everything from sleds to andirons. A bookstore might display people in various settings reading books – in the park, on the train, under the covers, by the fire. Don’t waste your window by simply throwing products in it. Create an atmosphere!
- OFFER CLASSES. Home Depot offers woodworking classes for kids. Lululemon offers free yoga classes. Williams-Sonoma offers cooking classes. Sephora offers makeover classes. These businesses are doing it right! They are corralling people into their stores by offering them help and advice and experiences. And once a class participant uses Williams-Sonoma’s awesome frying pan and realizes it’s 100% better than their own, why wouldn’t they buy it?!
- OFFER EVENTS. Another way to get people in store is to host events. Bookstore host authors who read and sign their books; local car dealerships host carnivals and family-fun Saturday events; toy stores have meet-and-greet character times where kids can meet and take pictures with their favorite characters from TV shows and toy lines. These events, while a bit more work, draw a larger audience into your retail space, one that might not be walking right by it.
- BE SOCIAL. Always, always, always remember that social media is, above all, social. People do NOT like to miss out on specials or opportunities or giveaways. If your store is hosting something special, having a community event, or just running a “Today Only!” sale on an item, be sure to post about it on social media. Our local charity thrift store has a different special each day. It might be 50% off designer handbags or a pallet sale on Amazon returns, but each day they post about the day’s special, and you better believe I watch for it!
There are probably as many ways to draw customers into your store as there are customers. Be mindful! Be creative! And be ready for that foot traffic to come through your front door.