Retail store traffic is slowing across the board. Over 3,000 stores are slated to close in 2016 and beyond, including names like Walmart, Sears and Sports Authority. So, what can you do?

Here are 13 ideas to help you revive traffic to your retail stores »

  1. Show Store Inventory

    • More than 80% of U.S. consumers want the ability to check for nearby product availability (PixelMEDIA).
    • One in four consumers say they avoid stores because they don’t know if a product is in stock (Google).

    Showing consumers the items you have in stock at nearby stores is a proven way to drive more traffic. Google Local Inventory Ads, which show actual store inventory to online searchers, can be an excellent resource here. For example, after adopting Local Inventory Ads, Sears Hometown and Outlet Stores saw a 122% increase in store visits.

  2. Offer Buy Online, Pickup In-Store (BOPS) Services

    A study by two professors at Dartmouth College & Northwestern University found that BOPS option increased sales overall. While online sales decreased slightly, in-store sales increased more than online sales decreased. What’s more, another study by comScore and UPS found that have shipped an order to a store for pickup, and 45% of those shoppers bought something else while picking up the purchase.

    BOPS services can be effective tools for driving in-store traffic and increasing transaction sizes once you factor in upselling or successfully merchandising by the “pickup” area.

  3. Implement Location-Based Marketing

    • Google searches with “near me” have grown 2.4X year-over-year (Google).
    • 50% of consumers who conduct a local search on their smartphone visit a store within a day (Google).
    • One in three shoppers has purchased from a company or brand other than the one he or she intended to because of information received in the moment (Google).

    Today one of the best ways you can take advantage of the “mobile craze” is to capture consumers with location-based marketing. You can place very inexpensive ads targeted in your geographic location, whenever a consumer searches online for products and services. Some options here include Facebook’s Local Awareness Ads or mobile apps like Pushlocal or RetailMeNot, all of which use a smartphone’s GPS data to target audiences within a certain radius (a technology called geo-fencing). Another option is the small, Bluetooth-enabled, beacons, which when paired with a retailer’s mobile app or Facebook’s Place Tips platform, can be used for a wide variety of marketing purposes like rewards, sale notifications, reminders, product recommendations, more to help drive shoppers into your stores.

  4. Practice “Smarter” Merchandising

    Who are your most loyal customers? What influences them to purchase? What do they purchase? What brings them back to your store? We all agree this counts; yet these insights and patterns are not always evident on spreadsheets. It’s easy to get lost in the data flood and lose sight of what’s important. But, it is only through data-driven decision-making that can retailers begin to see a return on their investments and greater interest from consumers, and ultimately improve store traffic numbers. Options like in-store analytics and mobile research offer a great solution.

  5. Incentivize In-Store Check-Ins & Engagements

    Only 25% of loyalty programs reward customers for some form of engagement. For instance, 2% of loyalty programs reward shoppers for in-store check-ins (Capgemini Consulting).

    When it comes to loyalty programs, it’s important to stratify rewards and recognize loyalty in whatever form it exists. Some shoppers buy from you every day or take part in all your in-store events, while others may stop by only occasionally or engage rarely. Your goal should be to align the right investment with the right engagement—whether it’s a freebie, an exclusive invite to try a new product, an in-store event to get free tips from an expert in-person, etc. This will help you to deliver hyper-targeted experiences and marketing and build relationships with shoppers that will make them want to come back.

  6. Focus on Online-Proof Experiences

    • Lululemon hosts in-store yoga classes…
    • Nike hosts events like run clubs…
    • Bonobos lets you book an appointment to try on anything and everything you might have seen online with your own personal guide to ensure you find your perfect fit and color…
    • Malls are adding more “online-proof” spaces such as restaurants, gyms, urgent care centers, and testing concepts like gourmet food halls in lieu of dated food courts…
    • Target opened an in-store space that simplified the confusing connected home category by showcasing the products in context with scenarios that emphasized how the devices could work together.

    Here’s the thing. You may not be able to compete with online giants like Amazon, offering fast service, styles, sizes, availability, etc., but you can offer your shoppers a memorable experience, entertainment, the ability see, touch and try out products and immediate gratification. You can also take things up a notch and use digital signage and/or interactivity to create next-gen digitally enhanced in-store experiences that will keep consumers coming back.

  7. Offer Free Expert Advice & Services

    A few years back, Hy-Vee supermarkets introduced in-store dietitians who provide shopping tours, health screenings and other nutrition services for health-conscious customers. Likewise, Birchbox, the beauty subscription service, offers services like makeup touch-ups, nail polish changes and a “Try Bar” to test all the newest trends.

    Consumers always appreciate freebies, but they also appreciate having knowledgeable experts on hand to answer their questions and give them tips. These little extras improve their overall experience and offer one more compelling reason why they should choose your store over another.

  8. Experiment with Interactive Store Windows

    New Zealand fashion retailer recently rolled out their fun, new Colourmatic window display tool that rates outfits of passersby on a scale of 1-100. It awards points for originality, identifies weak links in the overall ensemble and provides advice on colors and pieces to push an outfit from a fashion “don’t” to a “do.” According to company reports, sales increased about 16 percent at the Colourmatic test location.

    A study by POPAI found that the more time a consumer spends engaged with a brand the more likely they are to convert, or in this case, go into the store and purchase. Today, there are several retail technologies that connect to mobile devices, analyze and respond to a shopper’s age/gender/mood, sense/trigger an event or deliver targeted real-time marketing. These technologies can be used to create unique, engaging experiences outside of standard, static window treatments that compel consumers to enter your stores.

  9. Take Cues from Online

    • 69% of shoppers say they would be more likely to buy if given self-help options in-store like digital displays or kiosks (InReality).
    • Two in three shoppers who tried to find information within a store say they didn’t find what they needed, and 43% of them left frustrated (Google).

    Seasoned by online shopping and digital tech conveniences, empowered shoppers are increasingly expecting to lead their own journeys. This expectation has extended in-store. Shoppers don’t want to be walking in circles trying to find what they need or want to know in-store. Empower your consumers with kiosks and digital wayfinding tools so they can seamlessly continue their journeys. Beauty retailer, Sephora, has been a leader in treating in-store digital behavior as a major opportunity. They’ve created augmented reality experiences that allow consumers to virtually try on makeup and using their mobile app consumers can scan products to receive product ratings, reviews and other key information.

  10. Rethink the Role of Your Store Associates

    46% of shoppers stated that they usually know more than the sales associate (InReality).

    The reality is that the traditional role of the store associate is having less and less impact on shopper decisions. In fact, many shoppers feel they know more than the associate. So, sales associates need to be armed them with tools to make them more helpful to shoppers. In fact, 63% of shoppers said they would be more likely to buy in-store if sales associates equipped with tablets were available for product information, availability or ordering (InReality).

  11. Use Your Digital Marketing Tools

    When used correctly, your online tools can be huge drivers of store traffic. If you haven’t done so yet, start looking into online initiatives to help increase traffic to your physical locations. Here a few ideas:

    • Social Media—Keep your customers privy to in-store events and promotions you’ve got going on via social media and do mention any perks of showing up in-store.
    • Ad Remarketing—Google AdWords offers retargeting capabilities that lets you restrict ads to only target around your location.
  12. Build Strategic Alliances

    Not too long ago Target announced plans to sell its 1,700 in-store pharmacy locations to CVS. The plan is to build Connected Health sections that will operate near or within those CVS-branded, in-store pharmacies and feature smartphone-connected blood-pressure monitors, scales and other medical-grade devices. The move enables Target the freedom to focus on adding a new category to its mix to entice shopper visits and refocus on its core strengths, while gaining additional pharmacy traffic. Are there any smart alliances that your brand could make?

  13. Make Your Real Estate Work Harder for You

    • Bonobos and Warby Parker are using stores as showrooms for their online operations—satisfying shopper needs to touch, feel and try products before ordering online…
    • Whole Foods is trying to turn its stores into a “hangout” destination…
    • Macy’s is testing out a more experiential and upscale shopping experience, with personal shoppers and a spa…
    • Fashion retailers like Burberry, Gucci and Giorgio Armani, to name a few, are opening up their retail spaces to restaurants, cafés and bars…

    These are just a few examples, but the point is that stores no longer have to be just “stores” as we knew them—built solely to house and distribute product and bring in sales. Store real estate can be used in many different ways to generate traffic and drive new revenue streams. Food, for example, has become a popular focal point for retail reinvention, and for good reason. According to Quartz, in an interesting reversal of historic trends, more money is now being spent at restaurants than at grocery stores.

Weigh In…
What are some other things that might make consumers want to visit stores? The holidays are coming… How will you drive foot traffic?

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