With the surge in online shopping, some business gurus, pundits, and futurists have been sounding the brick and mortar world’s death knell for so long, that it’s kind of a white noise that just continues in the background. Indeed, it’s as if we’re all waiting for the day when we walk or drive to a shop or mall, and find a giant, tumbleweed-whirling wasteland instead of familiar stores full of nice people and useful things that we can see, touch, smell, taste and hear. Heck, we can even break them (and then buy them, as per store policy).
And while it’s true that some parts of the retail world have been damaged or pretty much destroyed by the e-commerce, rumors of brick and mortar’s total obliteration from the business landscape have been greatly exaggerated. In fact, Amazon has already launched seven retail stores, with more on the way.
All of this means that if you’re running a retail store — in addition to or instead of an e-commerce site — then you don’t necessarily have to start racing for the exit. Instead, you can focus on what retailers like you since time immemorial (give or take) have needed to do: increase foot traffic. Here are three practical and proven ways to make this happen:
1. Leverage Search and Social
First, Amazon makes its way into the retail world that it spent the last few decades scourging. Now, you’re being advised to use search and social to drive foot traffic into your store. Is this bizarro world? No.
Search and social are actually allies in your quest, because 85 percent of your customers are going to live in a five mile radius of your store — and many of them are going to discover you by conducting an online search. Making sure that you’re easy to find in all of the right places (e.g. Google Places, Google Maps, Yelp, Facebook, etc.) isn’t just smart, but it’s essential.
2. Get a Great Business Sign
The importance of business signs for retailers cannot be underestimated. For example, a study by FedEx Office found that 76 percent of customers said they entered a store that they had never visited before entirely because of the sign. Of course, not all signs are created equal — some are better than others, a few are amazing, and most are generic and unmemorable. Make sure that yours is in the amazing bucket — but don’t get too fancy. A study of customers by the University of Cincinnati found that the most important aspect of signs is legibility, not creativity (although that’s still important, too).
3. Hold Workshops and Classes
Yes, you’re busy. Yes, you’re doing the jobs of at least (two) but probably more people. Yes, advising you to hold workshops and classes is adding yet more to your mountainous to-do list. But you know what? Yes, this is also effectively and profitable — which is why it’s on the list.
Even if you can’t hold workshops and classes in your store — either because it’s too small, or it’s just not practical to do so — you can rent a nearby space (or better yet, find a strategic corporate partner or non-profit you can lend space to you) and engage your local target market in ways that, frankly, can’t be done by online stores. You’ll build a fan base and a following that will not only buy your stuff, but serve as voluntary brand ambassadors that spread the good word. Plus, as busy as you are, you’ll probably find the experience rewarding and satisfying, which is always a nice bonus.
The Bottom Line
Whether retail is your passion and calling, or it’s a stop on your career journey, your goal is to succeed and thrive. That means anything that brings you more foot traffic — including the tips above — is part of your solution, and essential for your bottom-line.