It’s important for owners of retail stores and establishments to drive traffic by foot since this has a direct bearing on sales and brand recognition.
Customers interact with businesses through physical stores, but omnichannel interactions are becoming more and more popular.
Big brands like Walmart and Target (to name a few) both have brick-and-mortar stores complemented by an e-commerce component. This is because digital marketing channels can be effectively harnessed to drive more foot traffic into a physical store.
If you’re a commercial real estate (CRE) investor or broker in the retail space, you’ll also be aware of the importance of foot traffic. To make your life easier, we’ve done the homework for you to round up nine effective strategies to drive more foot traffic into your store.
Why Increase Foot Traffic?
Increasing foot traffic helps retailers stay competitive and creates chances for cross-marketing and upselling.
Ultimately, increased foot traffic means boosted revenue and brand loyalty, even though market dynamics and consumer behavior change.
For CRE investors, increased foot traffic makes your retail spaces more attractive to tenants and the public alike, bringing more profit to your pocket.
Nine Strategies to Drive Traffic to Retail Venues
You’ll notice that some of these strategies detailed below link up with others, which is why a multi-faceted approach to driving foot traffic is a good idea. Some of them include digital marketing components, and some good old-fashioned events that get people walking through the door.
1. Leverage Pop Culture with Time-Limited Pop-Ups
Take advantage of popular culture and retail pop-ups to drive traffic to your retail locations. A ‘pop-up’ is a temporary store or kiosk either inside your store or in another retail location. It’s usually themed around a specific event or happening in pop culture. In essence, a pop-up is a stand-alone ‘mini store’. It’s not just a window display.
With a pop-up, you can increase brand visibility and sales, and the results in terms of foot traffic and other data can even help you plan for future events. A toy store, for example, might have a superhero pop-up display in a central part of the mall in which it is located, to time with the release of the latest Marvel movie.
Here’s a shortlist of things you should do first to create excitement and engagement among your customers:
• Keep up with the latest pop culture trends
• Partner with relevant brands to create special promotions or giveaways
• Use email, social media marketing, and VIP access
Choose a strategic location for your pop-up venue based on current foot traffic and popular areas, or partner with established retailers. Sell exclusive merchandise or create interactive experiences, like photo booths and augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) activities.
Case Study: Hello Kitty
Hello Kitty made a spectacular comeback in 2023. One of the ways they did this was by creating brand visibility by parking their iconic Hello Kitty Café Trucks at strategic locations every Saturday during the spring. In one of the malls in Virginia Beach, the visits one Saturday increased by a massive 164.8% from the daily norm, and 38% compared to a normal Saturday (data sourced by Placer.ai).
2. Embrace Fandoms Through Social Events
Social events are a great way for retailers to connect with and engage with fan communities. Create themed social events that align with the fandoms your customers are part of. For example, you could host a cosplay contest, trivia night, or gaming tournament depending on your customers’ preferences.
Other tips for boosting attendance, reach, and community engagement:
• Collaborate with existing fan communities
• Offer exclusive merchandise, deals, or limited-edition items
• Include interactive elements
• Use social media to promote your event and generate engaging content
• Transform the venue to immerse attendees in the world of your fandom
• Invite special guests such as Q&A session or panel discussion attendees
Case Study: Barbie Parties
The Barbie movie hit cinemas with a bang in 2023, and Barbie’s marketing team at Mattel pulled out all the stops. One example was barbie-themed events in stores across the world. Brands stocked movie-themed merchandise, and businesses hosted Barbie pop-up shops and events. Wunder Garten, Washington’s beer garden, was no exception.
Adult fans flocked to the venue for a variety of free Barbie- and Ken-related parties. The proof for this strategy’s success is in the statistics. During the first week, foot traffic numbers climbed to 118% (compared to early April) and then skyrocketed to a whopping 236.7% in the second week (data from Placer.ai).
3. Enhance Store Ambiance for an Immersive Experience
The ambiance of a store is one of the most important elements for creating an unforgettable customer experience. It sets the tone and influences emotions, behavior, and perception in the physical retail environment.
Use sensory elements to create a store ambiance that evokes specific emotions and increases customer engagement. These elements include:
• Lighting and colors – consider the effects of warm colors and bright lighting vs cool colors and dimmed lighting
• Music and sound effects – for example, sounds of nature in a store that sells outdoor gear will create a sense of adventure
• Scents – think of the smell of freshly-baked bread and how that affects your desire to buy baked goods in a bakery
• Visual displays – themed and color-blocked displays are attractive to customers
If you tailor your store ambiance to match your brand identity and audience preferences, you create a welcoming environment that encourages customers to explore and stay longer.
4. Focus on Employee Engagement and Customer Service
Customer service is all about building a lasting trust relationship with the client – not focusing on a one-time purchase. A survey by Khoros showed that 83% of customers feel more loyal to brands that respond to and resolve their complaints.
Because employees are the face of the brand, customer service and employee training are essential in retail environments.
Encouraging employees to go above and beyond in customer service can increase customer loyalty and create a positive experience.
Retail owners should also ensure that staff levels are sufficient during peak hours. This will ensure customers are satisfied with the quality of the service they receive.
5. Use Digital Marketing to Boost Physical Store Visits
Digital marketing can be used to drive traffic to your store too. You can do this through:
• Social media
• Email marketing
• Mobile apps
• Online advertising
Google Ads, Facebook, TikTok, and Instagram are great ways to reach local audiences. Geotargeting and location-based services through these channels can help you get the most out of your marketing. Even if you don’t have an online store, you can still use digital marketing through local advertising and email marketing.
But what kind of content do you need? These five types are proven successful ways to build relationships and curiosity with online users:
• Targeted advertising
• Local content
• Live videos
• Interactive content
Social media is a useful tool for word-of-mouth marketing and promotions. Create content that’s relevant to your brand. Use local hashtags and remember to tag your location when you run exclusive promotions or flash sales. Working with local influencers can also help to build a community with your brand’s followers.
6. Offer Exclusive In-Store Promotions
One of the best ways to create a one-of-a-kind experience for your customers is by offering items or services that are exclusive to your store. You can’t go wrong with a limited-edition product or a service that’s available only at your location. That way, customers will keep returning for more.
To make this happen, you’ll need to figure out the following:
• What’s out there
• What your customers want
• What you’re willing to risk
You must also have an idea of what they’re looking for and be willing to try something new.
7. Host Community Events and Workshops
Community events and workshops are genius ways to boost local engagement and foot traffic. Conduct surveys and gather local feedback to find out what the community wants. Choose topics or activities that are relevant to the audience and match the retail store’s offerings. Free in-store lessons are also a great way to get feet on your floor.
Advertise the event widely and collaborate with local influencers and experts to increase credibility. Create an interactive environment or offer exclusive discounts or incentives to encourage attendance and participation.
It’s also a good idea to sponsor (or even co-sponsor) some local events, or parts of an event. A water table during a local marathon or vouchers for lucky-draw prizes at the local school’s annual fair can go a long way for brand visibility.
8. Implement a Loyalty Program
A loyalty program rewards customers for repeat business and encourages them to return. Providing a range of incentives, such freebies, special deals, or discounts, can boost sales and foot traffic.
By offering these rewards, you can build a strong customer base and increase overall customer satisfaction. A loyalty program can also create a database of your most-engaged customers. This database can be used for various purposes such as:
• Finding your top customers
• Adjusting sales and special offers
• Improving inventory management, pricing, and promotional planning
9. Leverage Analytics for Targeted Marketing
Data analytics plays an important role in the development of a marketing strategy, which is why you should measure your campaigns on a regular basis.
One of the most effective ways to track retail foot traffic is with a retail analytics platform. There are many GIS (geographic information systems) tools, such as AlphaMap, that can provide retail analytics and offer location insights for CRE. These insights include:
• Customer buying behavior
• Patterns of foot traffic
• Trends in sales
• Demographic of customers
• Customers’ geographic preferences
Use this data to determine the best store locations or to design targeted pop-ups based on customer distribution and buying patterns. By leveraging GIS analytics retailers can better allocate resources. Tailoring marketing strategies to maximize engagement and sales potential also becomes easier.
Final Thoughts on Strategies to Drive Traffic
In retail, the quest for increased foot traffic demands adaptable and varied strategies that blend digital innovation with immersive experiences. Top strategies include leveraging pop culture through pop-ups and fandoms through themed events. Other factors such as store ambiance and loyalty rewards also play a role. All of them showcase the power of experiential marketing.
Adaptability and technology are the pillars for long-term success in these strategies. In the future, virtual reality and AI might completely reshape customer engagement and foot traffic. Imagine the possibilities and challenges of integrating these innovations for a seamless shopping experience!
In all of this, analytics for targeted marketing and building strong community connections will continue to be key to increasing foot traffic.