How to Gain Better Retail Foot Traffic

May 29, 2020

“I need more traffic in my door. If you bring them in, we will sell them.” Oh, the number of times I have heard that. The truth is, retail traffic has been in steady decline for several years.

Unless you’re the Apple store. Unless you’re Rolex. Unless you’re Louie Vuitton.

People aren’t buying less; they’re shopping differently. One of the big reasons is that monster, the world-wide-web, has devoured lots of brick-and-mortar business. When the consumer knows what they want, they go searching online. They collect referrals, read reviews, and many times make their purchase online right then and there. Many enjoy the convenience of shopping in their pajamas and never leaving their home (we’re all guilty of this pleasure every now and then). It’s been the independent retailers’ challenge for some time.

But the best news for “brick-and-mortar” retailers is this:
1) You can’t see it before you buy it
2) You don’t reallllllly know what you’re getting.
3) Have you ever tried to return patio furniture? You pay the return shipping. Yuck.
4) Consumers want to touch, see, and feel luxury items.
5) Sales are relational. If you didn’t make the sale, it’s because you don’t have a relationship.

Many consumers still WANT to shop brick-and-mortar! They like seeing, touching, and feeling things directly. They like receiving help in making the right decision with their purchases. They like instant gratification and taking their purchases home with them immediately.

While people are shopping less, closing ratios are higher than ever. The consumer has researched online. They know what they want. When they come through the door, they’re generally ready to purchase. Tire-kickers and time-wasters are a thing of the past.

There is no “one size fits all” in building store traffic, but I’ll throw out some ideas that have been successful in the past. Most notable, traffic during a pandemic is a whole new challenge. That being said, many stores are finding ways to return to business safely. Many of the ideas presented are more applicable to “normal” retail times when gathering is not an issue (hopefully sooner than later) but may aid in post-pandemic growth and implementation. Since most of BLM’s retail client base are jewelers, many of the ideas presented are geared around that industry, but some can be applied to others too.

Be there! If one of the number one factors in declining brick-and-mortar sales is online sales, you need to be on you’re A-game online. Many of our stores tell us that customers walk in the door with items saved on their phones (as I’ve mentioned, they’ve done their research).
• To “be there”, good SEO (and at times SEM) are a requirement. In a product search, the first challenge is not being buried by all the other local and national competitors that are battling for that first or second page in the search results.
• When you get them to your site, it needs to be good. This means it’s easy to navigate and loaded with the info they’re searching for, including expansive inventory with excellent pictures, descriptions, and prices.

Wow me! “Experience over things” is not just a millennial or Gen Z thing. Roy Williams has been talking about the importance of your Personal Experience Factor (PEF) for years! CREATE AN EXPERIENCE in your store. Highly trained staff with “wow” service will build customer loyalty. You have one chance to make a good first impression and gain a repeat customer. Stores with an outstanding selection and one-of-a-kind experience will not only bring customers back through the door, but that customer’s friends and family may come too. A structured referral program would help even more.

SALE! While many stores do not want to be discounters, that four letter word can still be very powerful, especially when it comes to a true sale, and when the frequency of the word “sale” isn’t overblown to the point the word loses its luster. Consumers like to save money, especially when it’s on a quality product.

Tell their friends! Tell everyone! Reviews are more important now than ever. Get them! If you ask for them, you typically shall receive! Many are going to integrated platforms but, even without those, ASKING and receiving a review should be a part of the sales process.

Let’s Party! Events are increasingly popular – maybe because consumers like experiences! If you’re having an event, it must be special! Entertainment, discounts, food, cocktails, and prizes are some of the more common elements for success. Some types of events might include:

Trunk Shows – Feature the brands your customers love the most, or introduce new ones

Buying events – Many of our customers have had great success bringing dozens, even hundreds of new customers through their door with a third-party buyer (we happen to know a great one)

Birthday parties – offer a gift or discount to everyone who was born that month and celebrate them

Estate events – Old is new again! If you don’t have a big estate inventory, bring in a third party

Gem events – many of our jewelry consumers have partnered with a direct-from-the-mine vendor that has all the stories behind the gems and knows how to help sell them!

Custom design event – Who wouldn’t love creating their own one-of-a-kind jewelry!

Cross-promotion – partner with other businesses on an event or ongoing basis

VIP Parties – invite your top customers for a one or two-day savings and celebration that’s exclusive to them

Scavenger hunt – these can be great when combined with a community gathering like a holiday parade. Hide items all over your community. Ask people to come in the store to pick up their actual prize. Share their photo on social media

Charity event – food drive, coat drive, giving trees… build traffic and give back to your community… it’s a win-win for everyone. Host a fundraiser!

Themed parties – How much fun could you have with a Great Gatsby, roaring 20’s event!?! Or a Beach Party? Do a gem dig with it! 80’s Nights done right could bring out some big hair and big purchases (all of this goes back to the love for an experience and creating raving fans).

Bridal event – Partner with other vendors to create a special opportunity for those looking to tie the knot! If you have the space, bring in dresses, cake decorators, photographers for a one-stop-shopping opportunity.

Like everything marketing, what works in one community may not work in the next. You know your customers and what they will be more likely to respond to. Let’s get creative!

No strings attached! Send a no-strings gift card to your top customers to say “We love you”. Send a no-strings gift cards to customers who spent money with you in the past but haven’t been in for a while to say “We missed you”

Lotteries: Scratch-offs, keys to winning, mystery discounts and the like are a bit “old school” and might not work quite as well as they once did but are still successful when paired with the right offer or event.

Rewards program: Reward your customers for their loyalty. Bring them back to redeem rewards they’ve earned and they’ll likely spend a whole lot more when they do!

Free services: Free cleaning & inspection are staples in the jewelry industry yet not every store calls to remind their customers to get in and do it. When they do, they just might find something they want to buy!

Last, but certainly not least – ADVERTISING!
Customers are shopping online – BE THERE! (It’s worth repeating).

Your consumers are on social media – BE THERE TOO! And maximize what you’re doing with engaging content and money behind it to make it work for you.

Binge watching is the thing to do (a LOT these days). While TV consumption has rapidly changed, the amount of time consuming it hasn’t gone down. Whether traditional broadcast or cable or OTT for the streamed programming, it’s a great time to promote your store, your event, your product and make the viewers wish they were inside your store NOW!

Radio is still going strong!

The old adage applies, “The man who stops advertising to save money is like the man who stops the clock to save time.” Consumers are spending money. And I believe that in the future, we may see an even bigger desire to spend money locally to support their local community. Make them want to walk in your store! Get creative and give them reasons to shop today and get in front of them with a great message and the information they need to want to walk in! Then, knock their socks off when they do so they’ll be back again with friends in tow!

I know right now, some of you reading this are still shuttered and wish that you had the opportunity to invite a customer in your doors. Work on your plans. Make improvements in any area possible. Your day is coming! Our hearts are with you. We’re ready to get growing again too!