Major retailers are disappearing from our towns, and it’s a trend that looks set to continue. So far in 2019, Macy’s, and even Walmart, have announced plans to close some of their stores, while Barney’s New York has filed for bankruptcy.
On the face of it, the future for brick-and-mortar stores doesn’t look good and the reasons are well-recognized. The way consumers are shopping has changed and many larger chains have failed to keep up with the trends.
Although many analysts are speaking of a ‘retail apocalypse,’ research shows that most shoppers prefer visiting a physical store to shopping online, and prefer stores with an omni-channel presence.
And there’s more good news for offline retailers. By introducing some simple online hacks, you can take advantage of the surge in internet use and boost local footfall to your own store.
In this article, I’ll provide you with five expert tips for doing just that.
1 – Optimize your website for mobile customers
According to Research by Pew, 81 percent of Americans have smart phones and 79 percent of those surveyed by Google use them while they’re out an about, especially to find the local stores and services they need.
Since Google heavily favors mobile-friendly sites in its search engine result pages (SERPs)s, one of the most effective ways to boost local footfall is to optimize your website for smart phone use.
- Checking your website loads quickly
- Ensuring its design is responsive
- Producing content (articles, video and images) that’s easily viewed on a smart phone
- Finding a reliable web host so your site loads as quickly as mobile users expect
2 – Reach out to your customer base
If you’ve already got an online customer base, reach out to them through regular email marketing. Ask them to opt in for weekly offers and the latest news. You could even give them a small discount on their birthday, store anniversary or if they introduce a new customer to your store.
And don’t worry! You don’t have to build the world’s most complicated Google Calendar to keep track of everything. A raft of tools exist, like Clover Rewards and FiveStars, to track and automate these programs for you.
3 – Create promotional offers
Promotional offers are commonplace for e-commerce businesses, but not enough brick-and-mortar stores focus on this strategy.
But you can go far with a little ingenuity. You can create incentives for your customers to head to your premises by:
- Posting exclusive in store promotions
- Putting on special in-store events
- Stocking exclusively in-store products
These tactics will bring otherwise online shoppers and your social media followers to your door. And, if when they’re there, you offer them a positive in-store experience, they’ll want to keep coming back for more.
Which leads me to point number four.
4 – Build your online reviews
The power of online reviews should never be underestimated. They increase your visibility in local search results, enhance existing and future customers’ trust in your brand, and increase search engines’ confidence in your business (pushing your media up the SERPs).
Just how important are Google Reviews when it comes to search engine visibility? According to research, reviews account for 15.44 percent of how Google ranks a local business.
One of the biggest players in online reviews is Google. Their official position is that “High-quality, positive reviews from your customers will improve your business’s visibility and increase the likelihood that a potential customer will visit your location.”
Google also highlights how important it is for businesses to respond to reviews. Responding shows your business is engaged, currently in operation and cares about its customers. All are issues search engines consider when ranking local businesses in search results.
You can encourage your buyers to leave reviews by:
- Placing signs in store that show your current star or number rating on review sites and asking your customers to ‘have their say’
- Linking to your existing review profiles in any follow-up communications like emails
- Highlighting your review profiles and existing star or number ratings on your social media profiles, like your Facebook page cover photo, for example
- Parsing review profiles to your website using free plugins
5 – Use social media
While we’re on the subject of social media, if you’re not using your profiles to drive footfall, you’re really missing a trick.
According to research by Colourfast, the right social media strategy:
- Drives sales both online and offline
- Boosts brand awareness, which makes your store more recognizable to passers by
- Guides around 74 percent of people’s purchasing decisions
- Is 60 percent of people’s go-to resource for checking out a brand online before making a purchase
And the beauty of social media is that it’s open to any sized business, regardless of its marketing budget.
Final thoughts …
With even high-profile brands going out of business or closing stores on a regular basis, it’s easy to think that the brick-and-mortar approach to retail is dead in the water. But, survey after survey shows this isn’t the whole truth.
While consumer habits have changed, people are simply asking more of physical premises. Businesses that provide a good in-store experience and have a solid online presence, and understand how to leverage both to drive shopper traffic to their stores, will get at least as much consumer attention as any e-commerce enterprise.
About the writer: Jane Fazackarley is a freelance writer specializing in the e-commerce, payment processing and retail sectors. Her work has been featured on numerous sites such as GoDaddy, Webretailer and Skye High Media. She is also a content contributor for UKWebhostreview.com As a ghost writer, her work has been used by multiple high-profile American chain stores. You can connect with Jane through LinkedIn.
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