When you are trying to attract customers and get more foot traffic the focus is squarely on your store's appearance.
You have to grab passersby attention so they want to enter. New customers are the lifeblood of stores. With the advent of Covid-19, your displays and merchandising have to get them over any hesitation to shop in a brick and mortar location.
Here are 12 ways that work best for attracting new customers and boost foot traffic to your shop.
1. Create A Memorable Monument Sign For Your Business
Signage for retail stores has to start at the curbside. Don't do what everyone else does with black block letters on a beige concrete sign. While many developments have strict monument sign policies which reduce most businesses to a commodity by the road (Think Jane's Fun Toys For Girls and Boys reduced to TOYS,) if you present a compelling sign, you can get away with it like this learning center has done. Who wouldn't think it would be fun to send their child there? Even better, consider digital signs that can change on a dime.
2. Make A Great Window Display
If you are in a popular destination with great foot traffic, create a store window that tells one story and tells it well. Your window display must be your invitation to enter. A well-designed window display encourages impulse sales and piques the curiosity of a potential customer. It might even tug at their heartstrings.
A June display at a jewelry store featured a miniature park scene. Seated on one end of an oak bench a young woman held out her left hand as her fiancé, on bended knee, placed a sparkling platinum diamond ring on her finger. At the other end of the bench, an elderly woman, alone, admired her own wedding band. A simple sign overhead said, “A diamond is forever.”
The best hoteliers and event producers know there is nothing that screams "special treatment" like red welcome mats. The 20th Century Limited passenger train used a plush red carpet to direct people as they boarded. A simple mat with Welcome on the front in a high traffic area draws attention to your retail business. When I was in New Zealand I saw a florist who used red rose petals (probably from old roses) scattered across the sidewalk like a carpet to draw the attention of passersby to her beautiful windows and into her shop.
Beth Hnatio-Pumphrey with EJP Studios in Frederick, MD suggests writing on the sidewalk with chalk. She advises drawing "arrows, cute sayings, types of items or lines you carry. It is different. People notice and it leads them to your door."
4. Put Your Best Merchandise Out Front
With the advent of Covid, many retailers are looking to bring their merchandise outside so shoppers can browse in the open air. Rotate your best items in front of your store every day. If you’re a motorcycle dealer, know that nothing grabs speeding customers’ eyes faster than the display of a shiny new vehicle. And not the one that's cheap, but the one that turns heads and drives foot traffic because they see that you are the source for excitement.
5. Add custom parking lot signs
Light pole signs – You’ve seen these at gas stations and fast food restaurants. Make sure these are printed in full color. For example, a red product photo with text that proclaims, “Valentines Day Is Coming” and your logo at the bottom would be great for January. Speak with your landlord to see if there is an objection. The goal with this type of sign is not to “sell” anything (Big Sales 20% off!) but to showcase your best product. Think something short like, “Learn To Sew,” “The Perfect Birthday,” or “You Can Cook.”
6. Add pennant flags across your parking lot
A string of pennant flags from a light pole to the front of your business. You can get a multi-color version at sporting goods stores for under $50. The trick with flags is to replace them about every other month while they are still bright and before they are all ripped.
7. Use murals on buildings
Notice how Skribbles carried their fun theme to their building too.
If you can make your building immediately recognizable for what you sell, have at it. If you can't you can still put a tall banner from roof to sidewalk in eye-catching colors (think forest green instead of a garish fluorescent pink). At the top put, “We’ve Got...” and add pictures of your best products. Again, the goal is not to scream price, but to showcase the wants. See if your vendors or even nearby businesses would co-op to save money. City sign ordinances may seem to not allow but check – usually they will let you have it up for 90 days.
If you can't put it on the building, you can get freestanding banner holders to place by your doors. Placed outside, these are used where you cannot use a building banner but with the same message. Costs with weighted banner holder can be a couple hundred dollars and can be changed monthly to refresh your image.
Wickets are lightweight signs often used by realtors for open houses because of their reasonable cost (less than $30 each). They are pushed into the ground and stand three feet high by two feet wide. For a limited time promotion, these might be a good choice for a small business owner to get your message out into your parking lot or next to the sidewalk of a busy intersection. Some are sturdier than others but they do not take much wind. Even if your city has sign police, these can generally be used on weekends when they’re off duty.
9. Add sandwich board signs
My Little Red Wagon in Hudson, Ohio, uses their portable sign to challenge their customers. Like this one: "Finish our 9 piece puzzle in less than 5 minutes and get a free puzzle!" Others use them for a short bulleted list of benefits, a snappy saying, to catch the attention of their target market, or to draw attention to a hard to find item.
Using a professional curb sign like the MDI Windmaster gives your store’s message a professional look. For under $300, you can use this important tool for high quality color graphics to stand out from your competitors who write a generic “Sale” on an old slapped together "A" frame sign. Weatherproof with a base you can fill with sand, water or anti-freeze, the Windmaster will last for years. Again, check with local authorities on signage regulations. I've seen some clients only use them on weekends when the sign inspector is off but when foot traffic is highest.
10. Use colorful landscaping and planter boxes
One of the most successful restaurants in California spends very little on ads but a bundle on the landscaping around their restaurants. There is not a patch of earth that is not blooming throughout much of the year. Why do they do this? Because they know their abundance of flowers will attract customers’ eyes, so everyone knows where their location is in town.
If you have nothing but sidewalks in front of you, plant up some large pots with something like bright red geraniums and keep them watered, fed and well maintained. In the winter plant junipers and string lights on them.
I can hear some of you thinking, “Guys won’t appreciate that.” Remember guys are often the ones maintaining their own yards.
11. Decorate your store exterior using balloons
There’s nothing cheaper that provides movement and attention to your business than balloons. If you have a railing, use that. If you have nowhere to tie them, you can use cinder-blocks laid flat to tie the strings through the holes. If you don't like the way cinder-blocks look, disguise them with cloth, burlap or oil cloth. Be sure to use plenty and replace often as helium deflates in the sun. Don't forget, they also look great in malls, just check with your management office first.
12. Use QR codes so shoppers can buy from you easily even when you are closed.
QR codes are those square barcodes you scan to call up information. In a high traffic retail area, these codes are great for providing a shopper with product details - at night. For example, a customer scans a QR code you've placed in your front window display. When you're closed or they walk by, they can scan or accept the beacon to go to your website and learn more about a product or order it directly from you.
One more tip to stand out from your competition, make sure every year you have your parking lot patched and sealed– you have to look new and successful, not old and struggling.
When you make yourself look bigger and feature our wants, you’ll pique our interest in what you have waiting inside.
Nothing looks more desperate than a sign twirler with a red arrow at the sidewalk pointing to the business. Your human directional may get attention but it is customers thinking “poor guy.” (If your location is that hidden, you should have thought of that before you opened. You don’t want to be 100 feet from success.
The people chosen for sign wavers are typically the saddest looking people, bored, a pair of headphones in their ears and their eyes vacantly looking into traffic; oftentimes with a cheap beach chair by their side. Worse is using your own kids. Is this the image you want for your business? No.
Sticking your old sale merchandise out onto the sidewalk looks like a garage sale. Those driving past will judge you by what you have chosen to represent your business out front which are things no one wanted so you put them on sale.
These aren't all of the innovative ways how to attract customers to your store, get more foot traffic and increase your retail sales, but they can give you an easy lift without a lot of cash outlay.
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