7 Best Ways How To Boost Foot Traffic to Your Retail Store

By Bob Phibbs

attract more customersRetailers often ask me, How can I bring more customers to my business?

In my last book, The Retail Doctor’s Guide To Growing Your Business (Wiley) I detailed several ways to attract more customers. I told you to clean out your windows, to increase your signage, to repaint, and to sweep off your sidewalks and parking lots throughout the day.  These are basic but often forgotten ways to attract more people to your store.

And every business wants more...

More shoppers.

More customers.

More money.

Here’s the thing, when you're looking for how to sell more, you have to go out of your way before shoppers will go out of theirs.

That means you also need to create great in-store experiences as well as use new marketing ideas to increase your customers.

7 Best Ways To Get Shoppers Into Your Store

1. Master One Social Media Platform. Over half of shoppers follow brands on social media to view new products. While it would be great if we all could do every social media channel well, the reality is, without a lot of money, you can’t. Done poorly, social media can be a distraction from the hard work of waiting on, serving, and selling to those on your sales floor. Done well, it can attract a whole new audience for you from around the world, but you have to be a student of one channel and master it first.

Shopify reports that Instagram boasts the highest average order value ($65) while 2/3 of all social media visits to Shopify sites originate on Facebook. Choose one and do it well.

If you choose Instagram, make sure you understand why and how to put the link in your bio, how to find the right hashtags, what influencers repost, how to add to your story, how to understand you shoot videos in vertical format, how to use IGTV for 30 second videos, how to use captions for your photos, and how to connect your online store to be able to sell via Instagram.

If you choose Facebook, even though it is connected to Instagram, it is a whole different animal. Facebook users will spend twice as long on a brand’s Facebook page that has a video, so make sure you understand how important LIVE video is, that they are filmed in horizontal mode, why Facebook rewards those LIVE videos with greater reach (and lower cost to boost,) how to create custom audiences and lookalike audiences, and how to connect your online account to allow people to buy via Messenger.

And for those of you who also love YouTube... according to a 2018 study by the Pew Research Center, after Google, more people search on YouTube than on any other site. It is the most popular platform among teenagers, beating out giants like Facebook and Instagram so if you can commit to video and you have a young target audience, YouTube is where you should be.

Learn all you can about one social medium but don’t just pawn it off to someone’s sister’s boyfriend’s friend who “knows social.” Unless you know, you’ll probably throw time and money down the drain.

2. Hold an event.  You’ve heard me say it before, Retail exists to answer a shopper’s query, “What’s new?” While you can hold an event and give away food and prizes, unless it gets visitors to unlock their wallets and buy something, it’s often a bust.

I came upon a hardware store that was tired of traffic declines in late winter, so they held a belt sander race. Yes, it’s a thing. And where did entrants go to soup up their power tool? The retailer. If you decide to do an event, commit and use enough resources to make it stand out in everyone’s mind.

A good way to start is to brainstorm with your crew. “What kind of event would stand out in our community and get people talking?” Then ask your best customers for ideas. Planning is the key to creating the best in store events so checkout this blog 9 Elements To Make Your Store Event A Success That Builds Retail Sales

3. Watch HGTV.  Curb appeal isn’t just for house-flippers. Their techniques to highlight front entrances translate to retail quite easily. Having a clear, landscaped path to your door may seem like a luxury if you are on a Main Street, but you can still put colorful pots of flowers to set your business off from the mainstream.

Making sure to water with Miracle grow in the summer and putting lights in conifers or on tree limbs makes your store bright even in the dead of winter.

4. Be consistent.  You can’t keep changing on a dime over and over again. You will confuse your customers and confused customers can’t rave about how you are if that’s how you used to be but aren’t anymore. You can’t be posting multiple times a day on one social media and go dark the next. You can’t send an email out at the holidays but at no other time.

While you want the overall message of your store to be consistent, its looks need to change with regularity or it becomes stale.

You may remember all the changes JC Penney has gone through in the past 7 years. First no coupons, then coupons were back; then Baby Boomer moms were their main focus, then they were dropped and Millennials became the ticket and now they aren’t. You must be consistent and know exactly who your girl or guy is and speak to them consistently all the time.

5.  Redo your website. Most every shopping trip is a special trip that begins, in one way or another, online. To get those online shoppers to visit your website, your site needs a modern look that is not built on the same template as everyone else’s in your association and the latest in technology.

A modern look is visual, tells a story, and gets shoppers to linger. To bring your great in-store service onto your website, use technology to provide a more personal customer experience. Add a chatbot that can answer basic questions and even allow scheduling. As the chatbot gets smarter, its underlying artificial intelligence can help you understand your most frequently asked questions.

After you refresh and remerchandise your store – yes, I just threw that in – hire a professional photographer to professionally photograph it. Make sure to have people shopping in the store – you don’t want it to look dead. You want to provide as many ways for online shoppers to share and buy your products as you can. Add social sharing buttons under every product to help convert lookers into buyers and into brand ambassadors.

6. Ask for referrals. You have to work word-of-mouth. Ask your customers at the counter, “Who else do you think would like our shop?” In one of my podcasts, Patricia Fripp explains how she gave every customer at her salon three business cards. She would say, "One is for you and two are for the next two people who tell you how good your hair looks."

Why not for your tire store? Your running store? If they love the experience – and they’d better – why wouldn’t they help you?

7. Hire better. Like attracts like. If you’re having trouble keeping people, if you’re having trouble holding employees accountable to arrive on time every time, and if you can’t get them to take retail sales training, then realize you probably weren’t as thorough as you should have been in your hiring process.

Average people can craft an exceptional experience as well as anybody provided they are trainable, they have self-esteem, and are willing to learn on the job.

When that happens and you provide them the right training and a culture of excellence, they can make shoppers refer to your store as their store because it feels like shopping with a friend.  How to increase retail sales? Understand that people who feel they matter buy more than those who don’t.

See also, 6 Smart Ways to Spend $1000 (Or Less) To Attract More Retail Customers

In Sum

When writing about ways to increase walk in customers and get loyal shoppers to return more often, I would be remiss if I didn’t add that the best way to attract more shoppers is to create an exceptional experience that shoppers will rave about. 

That takes retail sales training either in-person or online.

That’s because you can’t wing engagement. You can’t wing authenticity and you sure as heck can’t wing competing against Amazon and the rest. Many retailers’ only method to attract people is offering more discounts, but there is always someone cheaper- always.

Use these seven tips to attract more shoppers while at the same time use retail sales training to focus on converting those shoppers who enter your store from lookers into buyers.

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