Ask any brick and mortar store owner what he never wants filling his shop, and his answer would probably be this: silence.
Particularly with the looming threat of online shopping and services hanging over their heads, store owners want their own shops to always be hustling and bustling with eager customers. After all, the more people who wander in, the greater the likelihood of landing a sale.
But, enticing passerby to actually step through the door presents a challenge for many small business owners. Fortunately, there are a few tactics you can use to encourage people to stop in and see what you offer.
I connected with a few shop owners around my own town of Appleton, Wisconsin to get the lowdown on how they increase their own foot traffic—and avoid that taunting sound of crickets echoing throughout their stores.
1. Carefully Consider Your Location
If you already have an existing storefront, your location isn’t something you can simply change. But, if you’re currently planning to start a business and are weighing your options, location deserves some heavy emphasis.
“We have a vibrant downtown with a great mix of offices, services, restaurants, and residential.”
Tina Palmer, Owner of Red Door Mercantile, a modern day general store located in Neenah, Wisconsin, credits the shop’s prime downtown location for many of the customers they’re able to attract.
The more people who are milling about in your area, the better your chances of getting them to check out your own shop. So, if you’re evaluating location options and are eager for foot traffic, pay close attention to the other businesses and attractions that surround you.
2. Offer a Freebie or Special
People love free stuff. Offering some sort of free service or special promotion for customers is a great way to get them through your door.
Tennie’s Jewelry, a family-run jewelry shop in downtown Appleton, has experienced plenty of success with this technique.
“Free ring cleaning and checking is the number one thing we use to get customers in our store”
“Free ring cleaning and checking is the number one thing we use to get customers in our store,” says Becky Juedes, Manager at Tennie’s.
Think of something that you could offer your own visitors. It doesn’t need to be anything huge—even the smallest gesture or treat can inspire people to stop in.
3. Pay Attention to Your Curb Appeal
“Make sure your business has awesome curb appeal,” says Palmer, “Don’t underestimate the value of it.”
Palmer mentions her store’s window displays as a key piece of her foot traffic puzzle. “Our window displays are extremely important in attracting and bringing in passerby either walking or driving,” she says.
Tennie’s also relies on window displays to stand out. “We change them regularly and showcase different and new items each time,” explains Juedes, “Customers will walk in and ask questions about them.”
4. Host an Event
The main challenge is to get people inside your store just once. After that, they’ll hopefully want to return again.
Hosting an event within your shop can help get people over that first hurdle. Azure, a clothing and accessories boutique in De Pere, Wisconsin, frequently puts on different special events for that very reason.
From group styling sessions to yoga classes right within the shop, Azure has found that it’s an effective way to familiarize people with the store—and to give them a reason to come back.
5. Piggyback Off of Other Events
If you aren’t interested in putting together your own event, see if there are any happenings in the community that you can use to your advantage. If there’s already something going on right outside of your front door, that presents the perfect opportunity to attract customers inside.
Does the farmer’s market happen on your street each and every Saturday morning? Open up a little earlier that day and offer a 10% discount.
Are you in a prime location for the annual holiday parade? Invite people to come inside and warm up with some hot chocolate or some festive cookies.
That community event has already put in the legwork to get more people in your immediate area—it’s up to you to find a way to draw them into your store.
6. Provide Excellent Service
While providing customers with a top-notch experience might not directly relate to foot traffic in the way a sidewalk sign does, it certainly can help.
Seth Lenz, owner of Seth’s Coffee in Little Chute, admits that increasing foot traffic isn’t something he’s focused on too intently.
“We make sure our product and service are consistent,” Lenz says, “Word-of-mouth has been remarkable for my business, as people just want to bring their friends here.”
Lenz says that the first two or three years of his business saw plenty of slow periods. But, as he continued to keep customer service as his number one priority, he rarely hits those slumps anymore—because customers want to return.
“It’s generally steady for all of our open hours nearly every day,” he adds.
Increased Foot Traffic: It Requires Some Legwork
As with anything in your business, increasing the amount of foot traffic to your store involves some effort and strategy. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to encourage customers to come through your door.
Put some of these tactics to work, and your store will have less silence—and more shoppers.