Online Marketing Strategies to Get Traffic to Your Retail Store
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Recently here on Packhelp’s blog, marketing expert, Phil Forbes tackled one of the hottest debates in the modern world of retail:
Is the advent and evolution of e-commerce killing the brick-and-mortar store?
Throughout his article, Phil cited numerous studies and recent occurrences that do, in fact, paint a bleak picture for the future of brick-and-mortar retailers.
(Source / You don’t need to be a math wizard to draw conclusions, here…)
However, Phil also touched on a number of ways in which e-commerce stores simply cannot replicate the in-store customer experience, such as:
- Providing the ability for customers to interact with items before making a purchase
- Providing simplified transactional processes, from checkouts to returns
- Providing a truly immersive experience that stimulates all of the senses
Additionally, Phil provided numerous examples of companies that have survived the “e-commerce revolution” by changing their approach to the brick-and-mortar realm altogether.
At any rate, the consensus is that brick-and-mortar stores aren’t dying because of the changing expectations of the customer (actually, most consumers would still rather shop in-person.) Rather, specific companies are being forced to shutter their brick-and-mortar locations because they’re not doing enough to get their customers in the door.
That’s why if you own a brick-and-mortar store, you absolutely need to find a way to get your customers off their couches and phones - and into your store. Which is exactly what we’re going to be discussing.
Before we dive in, though, let’s quickly go over the reasons why generating foot traffic is so important in the first place.
Why is Foot Traffic So Important, Anyway?
Okay, so that might sound like a pretty silly question at first.
But we’re not asking “why is more foot traffic better than less foot traffic?”; the answer to that question is a no-brainer.
What we’re really asking, here, is:
Why is more foot traffic better than more web traffic?
As the old saying goes, “let me count the ways.”
First of all, the average conversion rate for brick-and-mortar retailers is estimated to be anywhere from 15-30%. Compared to the average global ecommerce conversion rate (around 2-3%), this is huge: for every three to five people that walk through your door, there’s a pretty good chance one of them will make a purchase (as long as you do everything right, that is).
Going along with this, the cart abandonment rate of in-store transactions is nearly half that of potential online transactions. Typically, once a consumer physically takes an item off the shelf, there’s a pretty good chance they’ll end up buying it.
It’s also worth noting that consumers who are already in-store may be more apt to make additional purchases than their online counterparts. That is, they’d rather purchase the additional item while still at the store than have to go back a few days later.
Most importantly, getting your customers to visit your physical location gives you one more chance to “wow” them with a great customer experience. If you can provide a top-notch experience to your brick-and-mortar shoppers, you’ll have a huge advantage over competing brands that focus most of their energy online.
Two Overarching Principles of the Brick-and-Mortar Experience
As we just mentioned, the main reason you want to drive more foot traffic to your brick-and-mortar locations is to provide yet another positive experience to your customers.
That said, it’s essential that your brick-and-mortar stores:
- Are worth visiting in the first place
- Fit into the omnichannel experience you provide your customers
Let’s take a closer look at what we mean, here.
Make Your Store Worth Visiting
We said earlier that the brick-and-mortar stores that are at risk of going extinct are the ones that haven’t evolved with expectations of the modern customer.
(We’ll get more into what these expectations are in a bit. For now, just know that the “traditional” department store doesn’t cut it anymore.)
In many cases, the situation is even worse: many companies have not only failed to keep up with the modern world, but they’ve actively neglected their brick-and-mortar locations altogether.
A quick personal story:
During last year’s holiday season, I visited a once-thriving department store to pick up a gift card for a family member. I was shocked to be greeted by barren shelves, dusty displays, and absolutely zero personality (remember, this was during the busiest time of the year for retailers). It took me at least ten minutes to find someone to help me, and another ten for them to actually get me what I wanted so I could quickly get out of there.
In hindsight, it would have been much easier for me to just log onto the company’s website and order the gift card that way. It’s no wonder this company (which shall remain nameless) has been forced to continue closing its brick-and-mortar locations to this day…
The point, of course, is that an increase in foot traffic will only benefit your business if the people who come into your store have an enjoyable experience.
On your end, this means you need to provide your in-store shoppers with:
- Top-notch customer service and support
- A simple and streamlined path to purchase
- An overall positive environment
If your in-store CX doesn’t match the experience you provide your online customers, they might as well shop from the comfort of their own home.
Brick-and-Mortar as Part of an Enhanced, Omnichannel Experience
But it’s not enough for your in-store experience to simply match your online experience.
Rather, your goal should be to use your brick-and-mortar location to enhance your customer’s overall experience with your brand. More specifically, you want to provide so much value via your brick-and-mortar locations that your customers will need to stop in in order to get the “full experience” your brand has to offer.
In other words, your brick-and-mortar store shouldn’t just be a place where your customers come to purchase your products. Instead, it should be a place where they can engage further with your brand and become fully immersed in your niche.
You can use your brick-and-mortar store to:
- Promote new product releases and/or upgrades
- Showcase augmented reality (and even virtual reality) displays
- Put on workshops and classes relating to your industry
- Host VIP events and influencer appearances
- Promote charitable causes your customers care about
Additionally, you want to connect your customer’s in-store and online experiences, rather than simply having each mimic (or repeat) one another. Providing a true omnichannel experience means making it easy for your customers to “pick up where they left off” when switching between engaging on- and offline with your brand.
We’ll dig a bit deeper into both of these points as we go through the following section.
4 Online Marketing Tactics to Get More Foot Traffic to Your Brick-and-Mortar Store
Okay, now that you understand how your brick-and-mortar locations can bring added value to your customers, let’s get into how to actually get them in your store in the first place.
Specifically, let’s talk about how you can use your online presence to increase your offline foot traffic.
Optimize Your Online Directory Profiles
For people to visit your store, they need to know where you’re actually located, right?
They also need to know your store’s hours, if you’re closed certain days of the week if you offer parking...the list goes on.
And they’re probably not going to make the trek over to your physical location if they don’t know for sure that they’ll be able to stop in. After all, they can do just as much shopping from the comfort of their own home.
So, it’s up to you to provide all of this information - and more - in the places your customers are likely to check online. This includes your company’s:
- Social media pages
- Google My Business listings
- Listings on third-party directories, such as Yelp and Trustpilot
Now, there are a number of things you need to do when optimizing your store’s profiles on these pages. Let’s take a closer look at the most important factors.
(A quick note: To do any of the following, you’ll first need to claim your business on the platform in question. This basically means you’ll need to confirm that you are, in fact, the owner of the business in question - which will allow you to take control of your listings.)
Provide as Much Info as Possible
First and foremost, you need to fill out every single applicable section of your profile for every platform you’re listed on.
For some of these platforms, this is relatively simple. For example, the screenshot above showcases the main info you’ll include for your Google My Business listing getting started.
For other platforms, such as Yelp, you’ll need to go a bit deeper:
Think of it this way:
Your audience will be expecting certain info when checking out your listing on a given platform.
If this info is missing, there’s a pretty good chance your potential customer isn’t going to stop in any time soon.
(It’s also worth noting that the more information you provide, the better off you’ll be in terms of SEO. So, not only will your fully-fleshed out profiles be more attractive to those who see them, but you’ll also increase the chances of them being seen in the first place.)
Provide Photos and Videos of Your Location
Along with completely fleshing out your business listings, you’ll also want to include photos and videos of your physical location, as well.
(Source / In addition to the numerous photos included in its Google My Business listing, A Taste of Olive also provides video tours of each of its locations on its Facebook page.)
This, of course, will allow you to give your online shoppers a “preview tour” of what to expect when they visit your physical location.
For such multimedia to be effective, it needs to:
- Be high in quality
- Showcase specific features of your physical location
- Showcase the value your customers will get by visiting your store (as opposed to simply shopping online)
The goal, here, is to bring your brick-and-mortar store to life and get your customers excited for their visit.
Ensure Consistency Across Platforms
As you flesh out your business listings on multiple platforms, it’s critical that you ensure the information you provide on each remains consistent.
As a rather simple example, let’s say your Google listing shows your store opens at 9AM, but your Yelp listing says it opens at 10AM. Obviously, this can cause a number of problems.
First of all, those interested in checking out your store will need to call to confirm when, exactly, you open...which they would have had to do had you not included your hours in the first place. In other words, this inconsistency defeats the purpose of being listed online altogether.
Secondly, this inconsistency may cause doubt in the eyes of your potential customers, as well. From their perspective, if you can’t manage to correctly list this simple piece of information, there’s probably a lot more going wrong on-site.
So, while you might include more information on certain platforms than others, be sure that any common information between each of your listings stays consistent.
Have Separate Listings for Multiple Locations
Going along with that last point, if you have more than one location, you’re going to want to let your customers know this:
Yes, this means you’ll need to do everything we just mentioned for each of your locations - but that’s not a bad thing. If anything, it will allow those who live a similar distance away from two of your locations to make an educated decision as to which storefront to visit - rather than not visiting either of them at all.
Solicit and Showcase Reviews
Positive customer reviews of any kind are helpful in terms of generating new business in any form.
But if your goal is to generate more foot traffic, you want to solicit social proof that showcases the value of your physical locations.
The reviews above showcase exactly what customers should expect when visiting A Taste of Olive:
- An “adorable” atmosphere
- The ability to sample different oil and vinegar
- A helpful and courteous staff
As we alluded to earlier, these are the type of features that simply cannot be replicated online. For customers to get the true experience of A Taste of Olive, they’d have to make the trek to their nearest brick-and-mortar location.
Use Location-Based Marketing Tactics
So we’ve talked about the idea of getting your customers off their couches and out of their houses.
But, it’s a lot easier to get them to check out your store if they’re already out and about.
Whether they’re currently in the near vicinity of your store, or currently in “shopping mode,” the chances of them stopping in are almost certainly higher than if they were relaxing at home. Which is why you’ll want to take advantage of the most effective location-based marketing tactics to get your high-probability customers into your store.
Geofencing, Geotargeting, and Beacons
Geofencing, geotargeting, and beacons are related to one another in that they use an individual’s physical location as a trigger to provide ads and promotions to them via computer or mobile device.
However, they each differ in how they work on both the back- and front-end of the equation:
Geofencing triggers ads and promotions to be shown when an individual enters a specifically-defined geographic area. For example, a clothing retailer located in a mall might set a push notification to be sent out to app users when they enter the mall’s parking lot.
Geotargeting takes geofencing even further, targeting only individuals who fit specific criteria. For example, if the aforementioned clothing retailer is promoting a sale on women’s jeans, it might set a push notification to be sent only to female app users.
Beacons are more useful when customers are already in your store, so this tactic falls a bit outside of the scope of this article. Still, providing value through beacon technology certainly can enhance the customer’s overall experience - making them more likely to return to your store in the future.
Justina Perro of Localytics shares the following personal story, related to the image above:
“I was walking by Sephora in Boston when I got this message and had completely forgotten about several Sephora gift cards I received for Christmas. 45 minutes and 0 later, the gift cards were spent. This is a prime example of geofenced push notifications done right. Sephora used it as an opportunity to serve me up a friendly reminder not only about them but about the free money I had to spend. And with that one-two punch, I was back in and shopping at Sephora again.”
Had Sephora not used geofencing technology to catch Perro’s attention, the company would likely have missed out on this opportunity.
As far as best practices for geofencing, et al. go:
Most importantly, use this technology in conjunction with the information you’ve gathered on your individual customers over time. That is, make sure your geotargeted offers actually matter to the recipient; you don’t want to bombard your customers with irrelevant push notifications every time they walk by your store.
Another strategy to consider is where you “set” your geofence.
While the area surrounding your store is the most obvious choice it actually might be more beneficial to choose an area that’s related to your store in some way. For example, if you sell running gear, you might set a push notification to be sent when a user enters the local park.
Or, you might even want to target the area surrounding your competitor’s storefront. This will work especially well if you’re currently offering a promotion or sale on certain items that you know are more expensive at your competitor’s shop.
Location-Specific Google Ads
While technically a form of geotargeting, location-specific Google Ads are worth mentioning separately.
For companies running Google Ads and Google Shopping Campaigns that also want to generate foot traffic to their physical stores, location-specific ads are key. There are two “types” of location-specific Google ads:
- Local extension ads
- Local inventory ads
Local extension ads dynamically include the contact information of your closest storefront depending on an individual’s current location.
(Source / A generic example straight from Think With Google)
While this tactic might be enough to get people to visit your site, you’ll want to go a step further to actually get them in your physical store.
Which is where local inventory ads (LIAs) come in.
LIAs allow you to use your Google Shopping Ads to show that you:
- Carry a specific item in-store as well as online
- Only carry an item in-store, not online as well
- Have x amount of said product currently in stock at a nearby location
By using LIAs, you can instill a sense of urgency in your customers (based on your inventory count), and potentially get them to stop in for a quick purchase as opposed to waiting 2-3 days for an item to be delivered.
For either local extension or local inventory ads, you’ll want to adjust your bid based on:
- The device being used
- The timing of the user’s search
Basically, you’d only want your location-specific ad to appear on an occasion in which it’d be convenient for the consumer to stop in.
For example, a sneaker retailer might bid highly for the search term “sneakers near me” on Saturdays at noon, when the searcher is less than five miles from their store - that is when everything is perfectly aligned for the customer to want to drop by.
Remember: consumers thrive on convenience, but that doesn’t mean online is always better. The case may very well be that it’d be easier for a customer to head to your store than to order online; you just have to make sure they know how easy it is.
Offer In-Store Pickup and In-Store Ordering
Going along with what we just said about providing convenience to your customers, you also want them to be able to receive their products on their terms.
Offering in-store pickup for online orders isn’t an earth-shatteringly new tactic, but it’s worth discussing nonetheless.
For your online customers who don’t want to - or can’t - have products delivered to their doorstep, in-store pickup provides an alternative option that doesn’t involve doing business with your competitor.
On the customer side of things, in-store pickup is beneficial in that it:
- Allows them to save on potential shipping costs
- Ensures delivery in full
- Allows them to pick up their order when it’s convenient for them
For your company, offering in-store pickup, of course, gets those who opt-in to come into your store more often. This provides you with the opportunity to reach out to them personally, potentially making additional cross-sales in the process. Or, as mentioned earlier, your customers might simply make additional purchases while in-store simply because it’s convenient to do so.
At any rate, if getting your online customers into your brick-and-mortar store is the goal, you absolutely need to offer in-store pickup as a fulfillment option.
How many times have you been in a store, looked at an item, and thought to yourself, “Eh, I’ll check online first”?
You’re not alone.
A full quarter of American consumers do their online shopping while currently in a physical store.
This is a reality that can’t be denied. But you can certainly take advantage of it by offering in-store ordering - and providing a whole different in-store experience.
Perhaps the most famous example of “showrooming” is Bonobos’ Guideshops initiative. At certain Bonobos locations, customers are provided 1-on-1 support while finding the exact clothing products they’re looking for (style and fit), and can then place an in-store, online order directly through the service rep assisting them. The order is then shipped to their place of residence, just as it would be for an online order.
For the consumer, in-store ordering combines the convenience of online fulfillment with the benefit of being able to handle or “try out” products before purchasing them (which obviously can’t be done when shopping online).
For store owners, offering in-store ordering, again, serves to get customers in the door - and also combats the numerous downsides of ecommerce, such as high cart abandonment rates and hesitation due to logistical issues.
Use Email and Social Media to Promote In-Store Events
We’ve said it a few times throughout this article:
In order to generate more foot traffic to your brick-and-mortar location, your store needs to provide an experience that makes it worth visiting.
We’ve talked about a number of ways to do this. Now, let’s talk about how to use your online presence to promote your in-store activities.
There are a number of ways you can use social media to promote an in-store event or other such occasions, including:
- Creating behind-the-scenes multimedia in preparation for the event
- Posting “hype” messages with a bit of mystery to build anticipation leading up to the event
- Co-creating content with your guests, and have them promote the event on their channels
As you plan your approach, there are a few logistical factors to consider, such as:
- Creating a hashtag - or an entirely separate page - for the event that will draw in new and existing customers
- Using the right platforms to promote the event - and publishing appropriate content on each
- Whether to generate interest organically or via paid social ads
Overall, you want to be sure that you’re reaching as many interested individuals as possible via social media as you lead up to your event. As an added bonus, those who are really interested can easily share your posts with their friends, as well.
When using email to promote an in-store event, you’ll be able to get a bit more granular in terms of who you reach out to.
That is, certain events might call for you to only invite specific members of your customer base. As opposed to social media (in which your posts are typically viewable by all of your followers), email allows you to target individuals based on their demographics, purchase history, and more.
For example, an art store might decide to host a “Paint ‘n Sip Night”; in this case, it wouldn’t make sense for the company to send an invite to subscribers who are under the legal drinking age. Or, as another example, a video game store celebrating the release of a PS4-only video game would only want to email customers who own a PlayStation.
Still, it’s certainly possible for your event-related emails to unintentionally reach an uninterested recipient. Rather than just accept this for what it is, you might consider including a secondary call-to-action in these emails motivating the recipient to pass the info along to someone who might be more interested. That way, you mitigate the issue of sending out an irrelevant email, and also potentially gain some social proof in the process.
Hopefully, by now you understand that brick-and-mortar stores aren’t dead - they just serve a different purpose than they did back in the “old days.”
Rather than being a place where consumers go to buy products, a modern brick-and-mortar store is a place where consumers go to experience something new and exciting. At the same time, though, consumers also want their favorite brick-and-mortar stores to provide a sense of comfort and convenience, as well.
With that in mind, you want to use your brick-and-mortar locations not as an alternative to online shopping, but as a way to enhance your customer’s overall experience with your brand.
That’s how you’ll get people to stop in.