Customers. They’re the lifeblood of any retailer. You can have the most efficient operations, fantastic employees, and a beautiful storefront, but if you don’t have people in your store buying your merchandise, your business will flounder quickly.
Certain factors—like your location—will naturally affect how many people walk through your doors every day. But successful retailers, even those in imperfect locations, have uncovered other secrets to driving more foot traffic into their stores.
Keep in mind that as you grow your customer base and foot traffic, you’ll want to make sure you have the right coverage in place to protect against the problems that growing your customer base may bring. (Read more about the risks to retail business.)
Here are some ways you can increase customer traffic to your store:
Host in-store events. Small retailers can differentiate themselves by offering a unique experience. One way to do that is to create fun and interesting events that draw a crowd into your store. HighStreet, an upscale design and furnishings store in Cincinnati, hosts several events throughout the year, culminating in their annual Black Friday/White Russian Holiday party the weekend after Thanksgiving. The event draws a crowd into the store, encouraging them to shop for the holidays while they drink white Russians and eat appetizers.
Offer rewards to repeat customers. Giving your regular customers rewards—whether emailing them coupons or providing extra discounts and rewards through a formal customer loyalty program—can help increase repeat business. Offering discounts or special perks keeps your business at the forefront of customers’ minds, allowing you to continually communicate with them and encourage them to come back to your store. The trick, of course, is designing a loyalty program in a way that is both very attractive to customers while also cost-effective for you. You’ll also want to be careful not to send too many communications to your customers. They may be happy to hear from you once a week or every two weeks—but more than that is probably too much.
Cultivate unique inventory. Stores that sell items that can easily be found online and in big-box retailers will lose customers to those larger venues. Some of the most successful independent retailers have realized they can stand out by differentiating their products and adding hard-to-find or exclusive items. The Toy Market, a Hammonton, New Jersey toy store, specializes in offering educational toys that local consumers won’t find at the local Target or Toys “R” Us store.
Provide value-add services. Some retailers create useful services to engage customers. Badowers, an upscale men’s clothing store in Des Moines, Iowa, offers its customers personal stylists who understand their customers’ fashion preferences and tailors who can hem pants and make other adjustments on site.
Independent retailers have the advantage in that they’re local and can get to know their customers on a personal level. Offering personalized service and creating an in-store experience that’s far superior to what major retailers offer will help ensure your customers keep coming back for more.
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