Even though a strong online presence is essential for many retailers, it’s important to not overlook the power of your brick-and-mortar store. But the challenge for some is how to increase foot traffic and boost in-store sales — and how to measure this.
Given the data, it’s no surprise that retailers might struggle with increasing customer visits to their physical locations. 71% of shoppers believe they’ll find better deals online, but 94% of retail sales are still credited to brick-and-mortar stores.
When trying to boost foot traffic, first understand your customer base and target market. Then look for ways to differentiate from your competitors while remaining relatable and relevant to your target customers. Not every idea will work for every brand. And don’t be afraid to test ideas out. Trial and error is one of the best ways to learn what will be most effective.
While there are many methods to lure shoppers to visit your store, there’s likely some out-of-the-box strategies you haven’t explored. That’s why we’ve curated a lengthy list of unique ideas for retailers to boost foot traffic and increase sales in their brick-and-mortar stores.
It says to customers that you care about them, their comfort, and well-being. Provide them with something they need or that can make their shopping experience better, even if it may not be related to shopping on the surface.
Ever notice how crowds of people gather around charging stations at airports and such? USB chargers are invaluable, especially considering the fact that 72% of Americans and 67% of Canadians own a smartphone. Why not give potential customers a reason to gather in your store?
One high-end example is Neiman Marcus, which has installed smartphone charging stations across it network of stores:
Or you can set up your own DIY charging station. Hit up your local electronics store, grab a handful of chargers (make sure you purchase both iPhone and Android compatible cords), extension cables, and a power bar. Set up an area dedicated to juicing up mobile devices in your store close to an electrical outlet. Grab a table and a multiple device charging station similar to the one below from Houzz. Add some signage to draw your customers’ eye and you’re done.
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.
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.
If it’s not potentially offensive to your target market, offer beer or wine to guests who are shopping. Many nail salons offer a complimentary glass of wine. And shoppers who have a bit of alcohol flowing might spend more money. Before you do this, reference codes and laws in your area to make sure it’s legal.
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.
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.
Create a Fun Zone
We’ve all witnessed (or 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. I remember playing on a slide in an Osh Kosh store while my mom purchased my wardrobe, and the Ikea in Philadelphia has an indoor playground, much like the ones you can find at fast food restaurants.
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 oversized Jenga and Connect 4, ping pong, air hockey or pin ball. Even further, take some inspiration from Dick’s – an outdoor and fitness product retailer — which has indoor rock climbing walls in select stores.
Ever take a seat in a massage chair at Brookstone? It’s a welcome break after walking around the mall. And it’s an effective way for the retailer to promote the massage items that customers can purchase while they’re there.
Shopping can be thirsty work — which is why offering some spots to refill a shopper’s tank can be beneficial to keep customers in your store longer.
This idea is especially relevant for retailers that sell outdoor goods or environmentally friendly products. Not only will you attract some thirsty shoppers, but it’s likely to make a big impression on your customers, too.
In-Store Events and Clubs
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. Which 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.
For more ideas, check out How Retail-Sponsored Events Can Bolster Sales.
Lots of retailers have jumped on this trend, organizing wellness “groups” that meet at the store regularly. Consider a run club, and plan different routes and offer water to runners. This is especially effective for retailers that sell athletic gear, but many breweries do this as well. Host a 5k, and turn your shop into the finish line. You’ll capture not only the runners/walkers, but their supporters as well.
Partner with a local yoga studio or teacher and offer regular yoga classes for free in your space. Again, many breweries have adopted this idea, and Lululemon retailers host community yoga events frequently.
You can also host guided meditation sessions before or after hours. Scuppernong Books, a bookstore/bar in Greensboro, NC, hosts weekly meditation in their community space.
Free massages can also entice customers — you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t want a free massage. Hire a massage therapist for the day and offer customers a bit of indulgence.
Partner with Celebrities and Influencers
Verizon Wireless has hosted events during which customers can come to the store and join a video chat with NFL players. It’s relevant to Verizon because of their NFL Mobile app and exclusive access for customers to live stream games on their phones.
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.
Teach Your Customers
Educational workshops are great to help your customers learn how to use your product (think of in-store demos at Apple, for example). If that’s not the case, there could be an opportunity to educate customers on something related to your product. Maybe you sell chemical-free beauty products. Teach customers how to make their own body lotion.
If you sell food-related products, show your customers how to use them with a cooking demo. Bonus points for getting a chef (or mixologist) with an existing audience.
For customers who don’t necessarily want to learn how to cook, offer tasting events. You can also model it as a customer appreciation event, which can help build relationships with your customers.
Not all in-store events have to benefit the customer. Give people a chance to give back to the community and host a food or clothing drive. This could be extra effective if the items can be purchased at your store. Don’t forget to contribute too!
An animal adoption fair is another great charitable cause to consider. Puppies and kittens are pretty hard to resist. Team up with your local shelter and find new homes for these precious animals, and attract more business in the process.
Award Discounts for In-store Visits
Encourage customers to check in on Facebook, Swarm 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. If you have an existing customer loyalty program, offer bonus points and rewards for customers who visit your physical location.
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.
Don’t just offer products for purchase – offer relevant services that help make your customers’ lives easier. This can not only encourage people to visit your space, but also position you as an expert in your field and create a one-stop shop.
Clothing retailers UNIQLO and Nordstrom are two examples of stores that offer free alterations for their products. They acknowledge that not everything is going to be a perfect fit, but they’re willing to put in the extra work to make sure it is.
Miscellaneous Ideas and Examples
Millions of consumers are familiar with the iconic Converse sneaker. The brand decided to put design in the hands of their customers with their workshop, where you can visit and create your own shoe. Customers get exactly what they want, a behind-the-scenes look and a unique experience with the brand.
Behind the Product
Allow customers to see what goes into creating your products. The redesign of Lee’s Flower and Card Shop in Washington, D.C., will feature a window through which customers can see employees tending to and picking flowers, and many breweries offer tours of their facilities so beer enthusiasts can see how their brews are concocted.
Over the last year, the Pokémon GO app has skyrocketed in popularity. The main jist of the game is that users must go to specific real-life locations to discover and capture different characters. This presents a unique opportunity for retailers to turn their stores into hot spots with loads of characters. Learn how to capitalize on the trend of Pokémon GO and lure customers to your store.
There are so many ways retailers can go with this idea. Take a look at five creative examples of how stores are creating immersive experiences for their customers.
Do a bit of research to find out what type of music your customer base would like to listen to, and hire bands or DJs to play while they shop. Some customers might come into your store for the music – and end up walking out with a bag full of products.
Create an environment in which your customers can express themselves creatively. Bertucci’s restaurants have chalkboard walls in their waiting area, and many restaurants have crayons at tables so patrons can draw on the tablecloths.
A beautiful landscape – whether you are a home and garden retailer or not – can drive customers to see the beauty that lies within your store. Just make sure you deliver on the in-store experience.
Events Outside Your Store
Host a cleanup at your local park, offer a free fitness class at the gym down the street, or give free makeovers to women at their place of work. Then hand out coupons that customers can use if they visit your store.
When looking for innovative ways to attract customers to visit your brick-and-mortar location, get creative. As long as you have your finger on the pulse and understand your customer base, you can find unique opportunities to encourage them to visit your shop.
What unique ways have you seen retailers boost foot traffic to their stores?