Do you run a retail store and need ideas to boost foot traffic? If YES, here are 50 guaranteed ways to increase retail walk-ins and get customers in the door.
In the business of retail, the number of customers that go through your door determines your profitability. It also goes to determine if you are going to stay long in the business or not.
For this reason, every entrepreneur that is engaged in the business of retail has to make great effort to increase walk-ins in their business. Growth in walk-in is vital if you are to achieve your long-term goals, and maximize your profits. But getting people through the door can indeed be very tricky. You should start figuring out various creative and unique ways to make customers come through your doors and not that of your competitor.
When trying to boost foot traffic, you should first understand your customer base and target market. Then look for ways to differentiate your business from that of your competitors while remaining relatable and relevant to your target customers. This is where you need to start testing and trying out ideas. You learn best by trying and failing than by not trying at all.
If you need tested and trusted ideas on how to increase footfall to your retail business, we have provided you a couple of ideas so you can make your choice, based on the type of business you run.
50 Ways to Boost Retail Store Walkins and Get Customers in the Door
- Tidy up your shop front
This might sound like a very common idea, but a lot of shop owners still take it for granted. Competition on the High Street is fierce, so it is vital that you make your premises as attractive as possible to customers. It is a fact that neatly trimmed hedges and well-kept front areas will make customers comfortable enough to walk in.
You can often see big increases in walk-in by making very marginal changes. Something as simple as leaving the front door of your shop open can help to make you seem more approachable, and encourage customers to enter.
You should also make sure that any window displays are as smart as they can be, and in keeping with the season. Make sure that you change displays every few weeks, and that seasonal items are removed as soon as they are no longer relevant. If you have a Christmas display up in February, then know that you are being careless with your business.
- Partner with local businesses
If you want to increase walk-in in your shop, then you need to get more people to help you out. It is common for retailers to presume that they are in competition with every other business in their area. This may not be the case. Instead, you might well be able to benefit from partnerships with other local businesses.
Think about ways that you can build relationships with customers of other, related businesses in your area. For example, if you sell musical instruments, consider asking your local record shop if you can put some leaflets by their point of sale – and offer to do the same in return. This customer cross-over can be mutually beneficial, and will help to increase awareness of your business in the area.
- Move into the street
Many retailers presume that they are limited by the four walls of their premises. This is not true. In fact, there is nothing stopping you from heading out onto the street in search of customers. If your products are easy to demonstrate, think about offering samples or examples to passers-by.
This is particularly useful (and easy) for retailers offering food or drink – just think about how popular free coffee samples are outside major chains. Meeting customers on the street can be a great way of enticing them into your shop, and building brand awareness at the same time.
- Build customer loyalty
Loyalty schemes are a great way of increasing walk-in in your retail business. Repeat customers are the bedrock of any successful business, so you should consider ways that you can encourage customer loyalty. You can increase repeat business by offering discounts or incentives to returning customers.
For example, you might choose to offer a discount on a customer’s fifth or tenth purchase. Schemes of this sort are particularly useful for businesses that have direct competitors in the area, as they help to differentiate your firm from the rest.
- Award Discounts for In-store Visits
Encourage customers to check in on Facebook or another app that your target market is likely to use. This encourages them to come into the store, as well as spread the word. Take it a step further and tell them to post about how excited they are for the discount so others learn of this opportunity. Exclusive freebies for in-store purchases can encourage customers to visit your space instead of ordering online.
To allow customers to “check in” to your store, create a free business profile with Google, complete with your location, phone number and updated business hours. Set up a profile with Swarm/Foursquare as well, so users can check in to your location via the app.
- Boost your marketing
If customers do not know who you are, they are not going to come around. So, it is important that potential customers know who you are, and where to find you. In order to achieve this, you need to make sure that your marketing efforts are as comprehensive and as targeted as possible.
If the majority of your business is conducted through brick-and-mortar premises, consider ways that you can target your marketing to the local community. This might be through direct mail, adverts in local papers, or geo-targeted online marketing. Increasing awareness of your retail business is key to increasing walk-in, yet it is often overlooked by business owners.
- Examine Your Pricing Strategy
Price is one thing that often scares customers off a shop. When purchasing and pricing products, be sure you’ve considered the cost of goods and that your retail shop is able to make a profit at that price point. Your product price should be competitive, but still profitable. Do not price too high, and at the same time, do not price too low.
- Deliver a Superior Customer Experience
The impression your customer has after visiting your business will determine if they come back or not. Customer experiences need to be seamless, as today’s shoppers expect the same level of service online and offline, no matter where they are in the world.
Today’s busy shoppers demand convenience, and technology can help retailers elevate the shopping experience to a whole new level. High-end brands are often celebrated for their deep domain expertise and keen eye for manufacturing detail, and they need to apply the same level of precision and care to improve the service they offer.
- Empower Your Sales team
Your sales team is paid for a reason, and that is to help your store increase walk-ins. For this reason, you need to empower your sales team to do just that. They should know how to draw traffic to your store, whether online or offline.
A clienteling tool, for instance, can help personalize the shopping experience by making customers’ personal information available on mobile devices in a completely secure manner. It is also the perfect way to engage with customers in-store, and to nurture relationships over time.
What’s more, savvy brands can use a CRM solution to offer exclusive items to their most loyal customers and develop tier-based loyalty programs. By offering items customers couldn’t otherwise find, store associates can truly add value to the customer experience and make their interactions all the more meaningful.
- Satisfy your customers more than they expect
Some shoppers have high expectations and tend to be harder to please than regular consumers. To get the right customers to walk into your store, you need to make the shopping experience both quick and convenient.
For instance, many department stores now have a bridal category on their website, making it easier for customers to select the items they need for the big day such as designer shoes or wedding accessories. By making customers’ lives easier, you can create endless opportunities and also attract customers that normally wouldn’t visit your website.
- Include Younger Shoppers in Your Sales Strategy
With Millennials now being the largest generation in America, it is critical that you include them in your sales strategy. Younger shoppers want retailers’ stores to be destinations more than simply transactional retail outlets. Today’s shoppers expect to enjoy all the interactions they have with your brand, both online and offline.
Having a strong brand identity is extremely important as well, as it can help you truly stand out. While there are many distinctive ways retailers can market their brands, storytelling is a strategy that tends to resonate with younger people the most. You need to find a way to be more creative with your story telling.
- Ditch the negativity
Before you clock-in or even walk in the door of your shop, stop yourself and do an expectation check. What are you concentrating on? Will customers be hostile, mean, penny-pinching, window shoppers or will it be a fun day helping people buy from you? A phrase goes this way, “Garbage in, garbage out”, so watch what you listen to or watch before coming to work as it might trap you into a negative world-view, and such views can impact your sales negatively.
- Make some effort with your looks
Yes, you can wear sneakers but no, you probably shouldn’t. You should know that customers usually assess retail businesses, especially clothing retail, by how their owners look. You can’t look ratty or pretty casual and expect your customers to listen to your opinion about clothes.
It would only show that you have no experience with what you are selling. I have been to fairs where customers buy clothes that the retailers were wearing, practically buying them off their backs. This is what you should aim at achieving. You should be the billboard that advertises clothes to your customers.
- Watch what you say about your customers and other businesses
It is a fact we love to talk about people. From the craziest Internet stories to celebrity falls from grace, gossip is more popular than ever. The danger is that it comes from a place where we feel better about ourselves at someone else’s expense.
That’s the opposite of selling. Let me sound a note of warning here, you should never, ever make your customer the butt of a gossip or joke. This could get back to them some how and jeopardize your chances of running a decent business in that community. If you really must talk, just stick to celebrities. Keep your clients out of it.
- Your business is to serve
In retail right now, we often have employees acting as King or Queen, they feel that they are doing the customer a favor. This is wrong. You are not doing them any favour because they can as well go some other place to make their purchase.
The customer in turn is the one doing you a favour. You should endavour to be courteous when serving your customers so that they can come back again and increase your footfall. Yes, that your nasty habit can drive customers away no matter what you are selling, or the discount you think you are offering.
- Create a Fun Zone
We’ve all witnessed, or may have been the parent with a screaming toddler in a store. It’s embarrassing, distracting, and sometimes enough to cause the parent to leave the store without purchasing anything. You can mitigate this risk by offering a fun zone that will keep the kids busy while their parents shop.
Another way to keep the kids — and adults — entertained in your store is to offer arcade games. Who doesn’t love to play Pac Man? You could also extend this to other entertaining games. The key is to have something that can keep the kids interested enough to let their parents alone.
- Partner with Celebrities and Influencers…if you can
One other way to increase walk-in at your retail store is to partner with celebrities or brand influencers. If you have a celebrity in once in a while, it will attract a whole lot of people to the shop. Again, if you partner with brand influncers, they have a way of spreading the word that can get customers to start trooping to your store.
Verizon Wireless has hosted events during which customers can come to the store and join a video chat with NFL players. Another spin on sharing access to NFL players, Verizion has had them dress as store associates and surprise customers. Once word gets out, customers are likely to visit your store for the chance to meet an icon.
- Connect With your Customers
Excellent customer service is the key to increasing sales. Listen to your customer to understand their needs and wants. Then educate him/her about the products. Finally, let the customer know you appreciate their business. Offer value-added services and products.
Create a mailing list by asking for contact information from each customer. Remember, the customer is looking for an experience and not just a product. If he or she is satisfied, they will come back and bring others with them.
- Don’t offer too many confusing alternatives
People think they like choice – but too many options can be paralyzing. This is what scientists call the paradox of choice. In a popular study, Iyengar and Lepper (2000) set up two tables in a Grocery Store. At table A, customers could have a taste from a selection of six jams; at table B, they could choose among 24 different jams.
Although more people stopped by table B, where the selection was larger, only 3% of them actually made a purchase. On the other hand, 31% of people stopping at table A left with a jar of jam. The lesson, for retailers, is simple: limit the flavors, color and brand options you store. If you offer too many alternatives, you may end up selling less (and will be left with a lot of stock to turn).
- Sell on purpose
Know both what to do and why you’re doing it at every step of the way. Who are you targeting and why? What are you going to tell them and why? What are you going to ask them and why? What is your proposal going to look like and why? When are you going to ask for the order? If you don’t feel sure of yourself at every step of the selling process, get some training or guidance.
- Develop your attitude
Your attitude is controllable. Conquer your fears. Change the beliefs that limit your success. Your thought habits control your commitment, enthusiasm, persistence, resilience, happiness, and confidence. Be aware of them, decide which ones are unproductive, and then make a commitment to change. With time and effort, you can become the person you want to be.
- Talk to Your Current Customers
Your current customers are one of your best resources for increased revenue. It’s much easier to upsell a client who already is familiar with your work, the quality of your product and services, and has already incorporated aspects of your services into their business.
If you’ve built a relationship with your clients, and they consider you a trusted partner, then they are likely willing to share current challenges they are facing. By listening, you can easily analyze how you might be able to help them address these challenges by offering new or alternative products. This approach allows you to continue to be a good partner while also increasing your revenue.
- Bundle Your Products
Many small businesses have found success by selling bundled products and services as a package rather than individual offerings. Customers equate a bundle of services with savings, even if the savings are nominal, making it a much easier sell for you.
If possible, try to keep your bundles somewhat flexible; a potential customer may reject a bundle because he or she feels that only three of the six services apply to his or her business. If you can stay flexible enough to swap out different products or services to align with multiple needs, you’ll find success.
- Generate a Buzz
Whenever anything noteworthy happens within your business, send a press release to the media. The idea is to grab any free coverage possible. Get involved with community events. Consider hosting classes, meetings or other networking events in your retail store. Use a unique promotional event to generate a buzz about your business.
- Host events in your store
Look at your store as more than just a store — approach it as an event space. Customers will associate your store with being fun and a place to visit even when they don’t really need to shop. This is why retailers should consider sponsoring events and activities that draw participants into their stores.
You can also co-host events with other companies. Partner up with other businesses, whether they have a retail space or not, to tap into a new audience. Many retailers partner with Yelp to co-host in-store events. Another example is fashion retailers partnering up with an apparel or accessories brand to host a fashion show.
But you don’t need to sell apparel and accessories to host a fashion show. Maybe you sell wellness products. Ask some of your most loyal and inspiring customers to model and show off their improved bodies after using your product.
- Create the illusion of scarcity
People value things differently depending on how common or scarce they perceive them to be. The rarer a product, service or opportunity, the more valuable it appears. Martin Lindstrom found that he could increase the sales of canned soup simply by adding the sentence “maximum 8 cans of soup per customer”.
People bought more cans even if the soup was priced the same as the day before. The feeling of scarcity —the Millennials’ “fear of missing out”— triggers in shoppers a survival instinct that makes them buy more, quickly.
- Use Social Media to Your Advantage
If you have even a small following on Twitter or Facebook, using social media to promote and tout your product offerings is a great way to raise customer awareness and walk-in to your store. Customer testimonials are perfect for posting to social media feeds, and they can spark an interest in your offerings.
Additionally, don’t just view social media as a sales tool, but as an open line of communication. Use it to disseminate interesting industry information, retweet or repost articles of particular significance or further illustrate how your business works, perhaps with behind-the-scenes photos or videos. Social media is first and foremost social; use it as a personal touch point to your audience.
- Raise Your Prices
Again, this might seem antithetical to increasing sales, if only because higher costs might make some potential—or even current—clients hesitant to buy from you. When you do raise prices, don’t do it quietly. Announce the increase to your current clients.
Give them the chance to renew their contracts or purchase products and services before the increase takes place. This kind of increase can spark the thought that there must be something different going on, or there may have been an upgrade that has made your store more valuable.
Raising prices is not something that should be taken lightly. Be sure to analyze the pros and cons of increasing your prices for both the short- and long-term.
- Create Your Own Holiday
Most retailers only celebrate the national holidays like July 4th or Christmas. But, people love to celebrate. They love excitement. So why wait for the big holidays? Create a holiday of your own.
Consider fun things that your store does or sells and the customers who shop with you and then make a holiday around it. For example, a shoe store can celebrate National Hamburger Day. Granted the only connection is that shoes and burgers are both made from cows, but making an event out of it will draw a lot of people.
- Advertise More
Just when you may think it’s time to cut back the marketing dollars, you should probably be advertising more. It is wise to increase marketing efforts during slower sales periods because there is more competition and fewer consumer dollars.
Consider newspaper ads, magazines, specialty publications and other forms of marketing. One great way to do this is to use remnant advertising. These are spaces in the paper that are “holes” for the local newspaper. You simply create a branding ad that the newspaper can drop in at its discretion.
- Ask for Referrals
Your current customers are also a great asset in providing you with client referrals. If you know that a client is satisfied and happy with your products, ask him or her for the names and contact information of other small business owners who might also benefit from working with you.
You can also ask satisfied customers for testimonials and then use those on your website and in sales emails or newsletters. Always be sure to ask permission first when using a customer testimonial.
- Go the Extra Mile
Selling is like anything else—persistence pays off. You don’t want to be pushy, but you also want to be diligent in your follow-up, both pre-sale and after-sale if necessary. Show customers that you genuinely care about their experience and want to help them.
This is because so many other retailers couldn’t care less about their customers. Consistently making small personalized contact can go a long way toward increasing your sales. In many ways, making a sale is a courtship, and there’s nothing wrong with “wooing” customers as long as you’re honest and forthright.
- Design Store for Sales
Take advantage of cross-merchandising strategies and impulse sale opportunities. Use lighting techniques and creative displays to attract customers. Play videos for product education, customer entertainment and any other upsell or promotional tie-in. Involve all of the senses in your visual merchandising. Remember, an energetic store is a magnet.
- Sell to customer’s needs
Always assume your prospects will buy only what they need. But how can you convince them of that need? Emphasize the features of your product or service that reduce costs and solve problems for the customer. Sometimes you can reposition your wares. For example, you sold wool uniforms for their look and feel; now stress wool’s durability and lasting value. Be creative in your sales and marketing.
- Overhaul your signage frequently
Whether you call them sidewalk talkers, A-signs or Sandwich signs – they are a super important weapon in your arsenal. If you have one of these signs, how often do you update them?
If you work in a tea and coffee shop specializing in freshly ground coffees and teas for weight loss, you should use sidewalk boards to tell your customers about your new recipes and blends. Consider getting a chalk board style sign – then you can update it every day. A hand written sign looks welcoming and saves you money on expensive design and print costs.
- Get involved in charity
Another way you can get massive awareness for your business is by participating in charity. You can use some of your worst sales days to participate in these events. You can partner with a local charity and create an event in your store. This can help your business to build a whole lot of credibility in the community and it will in turn translate to increased walk-ins.
- Take your business outside
It is a retail phenomenon that when stores look like something is going on, people will want to check it out. Enter the sidewalk sale.
This old but good idea has been around as long as retailers have. Taking merchandise outside will create a look as if there was something going on at the store and people would get curious and come check it out. When you do this you get the “passers-by” who normally ignore your store – after all, it’s not on today’s to-do list. But when they see stuff out front, it draws their attention and that can create traffic for you.
- Provide Free Wi-Fi
Unlimited data is no longer the norm for cell phone providers, and that’s left consumers feeling more than just a bit displeased. Help them with a pain point and offer free Wi-Fi in your store. This is a great opportunity for retailers; 62% of businesses reported that customers spend more time in-store after they introduced free Wi-Fi. This could lead to more sales and engagement with your brand.
But you can go beyond just offering free Wi-Fi. You can also provide devices for customers to use while at your store. Place iPads throughout the store. This can be a way for customers to learn more about your product, engage with your app, take and post photos with your product, test out your product and more.
- Have well-themed Lounge Areas
Shopping can be uncomfortable and tiresome. Give your customers a break and encourage them to sit back and relax while in your store. This can be accomplished with lounge-like areas that have entertainment options and refreshments, as well as other comforts. Televisions can be a great way to make customers feel at home. Tap into your customer base and think of what they watch. If you sell sporting goods, cast ESPN or games, for example.
Serve complimentary coffee and tea. Just make sure the coffee bar isn’t placed next to your collection of white sofas. For example, Lululemon’s flagship space in Toronto has a juice-sampling station in the front of their store, a concept that aligns to their wellness mission.
A hungry shopper can be a grumpy shopper. Consider offering snacks or light bites for your customers to enjoy, free of charge. Every time they’re hungry and near your store, they might pop in for a quick bite and a browse around your shop.
- Think of the pets
People go out with their pets most times. If you want to attract such shoppers, you have to make a provision for pets in your store. If your store is pet-friendly, put out some water bowls and offer treats for the animals. You could also create an animal-friendly area.
Just make sure you have doggie bags so owners can help you keep it clean in case of any accidents. Making your customers’ pets feel welcome can go a long way toward building loyalty. Keep in mind that there may be legal limitations that you need to consider. Check with your local health and safety boards to make sure you’re not breaking any rules.
- Keep that Window Display Up to Date
Your window display is one of the single most important places to promote your business, so don’t ignore it. There is nothing worse than a dusty, neglected window with sun faded products on display – who wants to visit a shop like that? Whether you’re selling sweets, electrics or children’s toys – keeping your window display clean, up to date and interesting is an absolute must.
Change the Window Display every week, or bi weekly if you’re really struggling for time. Clean the window on the outside every week, and on the inside every month. Vacuum and clean the floor – there should be no dead flies or dust rats lying around.
Show your prices clearly. Yes the competition will be able to see how much you’re charging, but if they are really interested, they’ll find a way to find out anyway.
Have you ever looked at a boutique window and decided on the spot that it all looks too pricey and you don’t want to embarrass yourself by going inside and ask how much that gorgeous cardigan is? Guess what, that boutique is losing business by not showing their prices and the same thing will happen with your shop unless you add a couple of price tags.
- Have a Limited-Time Sale or Promotion
Discounting your products may seem antithetical to increasing sales, but even offering a slight discount can make your products and services more attractive to a client. Make sure to clearly define the parameters of the sale—including start and end dates—so there isn’t any confusion if the client decides to continue working with you once the promotion ends.
- Be willing to risk the sale
Sometimes, things just aren’t going well. The customer is at odds with you and it just feels like you aren’t on the same page. Ask, “Excuse me, but have I done something to offend you?” If you say it without malice or sarcasm most will apologize and give you a reason that has nothing to do with you. Without getting that out of the way though, you’re just frustrating yourself and the customer. With addressing it head-on, you oftentimes make the bigger sale.
- Consider your offering
Of course, it is no good increasing walk-in if you are not entirely confident about the products or services you are offering. It doesn’t matter how many customers you get through the door – if they don’t find what they want, they won’t come back.
You should therefore make sure that you are entirely happy with the products or services on offer in your shop. If you are unsure, consider making a visit to a competitor to see what they are offering. Some quick research of this kind can significantly improve your sales rates.
- Create and maintain favorable attention
Effective marketing, referrals, strong sales skills, and strategic questions are the keys to creating favorable attention. Diligent follow-through and above-and-beyond customer service are the keys to maintaining it.
- Personalize your goods
When stuff is relevant to people, they pay more attention to it. This happens primarily when we hear our name (a magic word which activates various sections of our brain), but also when we hear something we are interested in – be it a sport we are interested in, our favorite band or the name of a country we have recently visited.
Retailers can use their loyalty program to gain intelligence around customers’ actions, used the data to optimize and personalize communications, products and offers. And don’t forget to use people’s names!
- Plants to the rescue
One of the most successful restaurants in California spends almost nothing 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.
This is perhaps the simplest and most overlooked tactic when trying to boost your sales. Listening to your clients or potential customers is the best way to understand and address their needs. Without open communication, the chances for misunderstandings and frustrations arise.
Make sure that you and your sales team understand how to actively listen, ask leading questions to get more information and are comfortable brainstorming solutions with clients. If some members of your sales team aren’t okay with employing any of these tactics, that’s fine. It might be better to have them focused more on closing sales or making initial contact than true consultative selling.
- Offer surprise rewards
Surprise rewards are great because they make people happier and more motivated. On the other hand, expected rewards are not as effective – they may even lead to lower levels of happiness, says psychology. Do you want to make your customers happy? Send them surprise coupons or deals. Avoid, though, running repeated promotions, such as offers valid every Thursday.
- Put your best items close to the door
If you have large enough products, wheel your best product in front of your store every day. If deal in kids toys, bring the best ones out to the front. And not the one that’s cheap, but the one every child stars at like candy. You have every likelihood of making more sale this way.