I get a lot of questions about traffic- foot traffic and web traffic- and for the most part I understand why people ask, but there’s really no one size fits all solution. That’s not to say that improving traffic is tricky or difficult- it can be as simple and as straightforward as you want to make it, but it does come with a heavy dose of brutal honesty.
When people ask me about increasing traffic I know what they’re really interested in is increasing sales. They think that increasing foot or web traffic is the solution to all their problems. If they just had a larger pool of people to sell to, they could make their numbers.The same goes with people wanting to increase their social media following. After all, if they only had a bigger following they could convert more of those followers into paying client's. Sorry, but that’s not how it works. Traffic doesn’t automatically guarantee you more sales, and slow traffic doesn’t mean you can’t be successful.
First if you’re having traffic woes you need to ask why. There are several very different reasons why your traffic isn’t growing, and before you can improve traffic you first have to fix the disconnection between your store and it’s target market. Jumping right into driving traffic without looking around your store for issues first would be like buying a new light bulb when the power is out. The light bulb isn’t going to do much if there’s no electricty.
That’s not to dismiss foot traffic issues or location issues within your store, but if you really honestly think about it. People will pretty much do ANYTHING, and go ANYWHERE if they truly love a place. We’ve seen those food trucks with lines an hour long. We’ve seen wedding shops with wait lists. Traffic is more directly impacted by what YOU are doing, or not doing than you would think.
I worked almost the entire decade I was in corporate retail in what most large companies called “a low volume shopping mall” which means that, that mall and all of the stores that were in it did a low volume of sales compared to their counterparts in different cities. What does that have to do with traffic? Well, it means on some days there were only a handful ( or less) of people who came into the store, but we were still expected to make our numbers, and more often than not, we did. We succeeded to sell with fewer customers than any other store in our district because we catered to the customer, put all of our attention on that experience, and we didn’t get down about how few people we had walking in. We just spent time with the people we had. We looked at slower traffic as a blessing instead of a curse because we had the luxury of spending time creating relationships with people and getting to know them.
In retail we reward higher volume stores, their managers and their staff for really hitting it out of the park in hundreds of thousands of dollars sold, but what is often overlooked is how hard did those stores have to TRY in order to make that money? With hundreds of people walking in each day, if not every hour it probably wasn’t hard at all to make sure everyone bought something. I would argue that it’s much more impressive and difficult for the slower stores because they have to really work and focus for every dollar.
Here comes to the brutal honesty part; if you have a current traffic issue you, you’re probably putting the blame on all the wrong things. People will shop where they feel welcome, valued, taken care of, and understood. They will shop at stores that provide an incredible product and a wide range of selections. Now, I’m not implying that you aren’t providing those things, but as you think about the experience you offer your customers and look around your store, is there anything you notice that could be hurting their impression of your business?
You might very well be providing all of that, but think about this: If you have an issue with your current customers not spending, not spending enough, not returning, referring friends/family then there’s an issue brewing that cannot be solved by an increased number of people. In fact, the problem would most likely snowball under the demands and challenges of more shoppers.
If you’re thinking to yourself “my store is incredible, I just need more people to see it and they will think it’s incredible too.” that might very well be true. But I also have to be thorough in suggesting that if your business reputation isn’t growing, then people aren’t talking enough about your business. It’s important to ask why aren’t they talking and see how we can remedy that. Is the in store experience, and the merchandise as good as you think it is?
Maybe you aren’t simply shouting loud enough.? Are you blending in, in a sea of shops that look just like you, or carry all the same kinds of products? This is where you’ll really need to put your thinking cap on to seperate yourself in terms of quality and unique product options.
Increasing traffic is a slow burn, long term strategy that doesn’t happen overnight, and honestly a lot of shops are just too impatient to stick with something until they start seeing results. Improving your business reputation and brand recognition never ends either. It’s something you’re always working on building and expanding forever, so you have to keep reinventing your strategy in order to keep your customers interested.
So where do you even begin? Well, let me break down the fundamentals of building traffic, so you can implement them and begin growing!
The next customer: It starts with each and every next customer. The VERY next one. The experience they have shopping in your store or on your website matters. If you deliver an incredibly memorable experience they’ll be thrilled, they’ll return, they’ll tell people. With each and every customer you need to be putting your best foot forward to genuinely provide a thoughtful experience that leaves them really excited and impressed.
Building a base clientele- i.e. your regulars. Repeat customers is a sign that you’re doing something right! Look at your regulars and for similarities between them. Who are they? Do you they fit a demographic? What keeps them coming back? How can you get them to tell more people about your business? How do you show your appreciation for your regulars?
INCLUSION, INCLUSION, INCLUSION: Are you inadvertantly excluding shoppers who don’t find themselves represented on your website or in your social media content? It’s very important that you not only represent shoppers of all sizes, shapes, and colors, but that you celebrate them! Your marketing (which includes your social media content) should look like the world around you!
Building a list- expanding beyond a few dozen regulars you want to build a list of shoppers that WANT to be informed about sales, discounts. giveaways, and special events. This is a great of turning the one time shopper into a regular. People are busy and need reminders. They usually need more than one. This isn’t license to harass them via email, but it is a great way to stay connected and build a relationship. Think about ways you want to improve that relationship building.
First impressions- What’s the first impression that you’re giving? When people drive by what’s your storefront shouting at them? What’s your window display telling them about your store? What’s your website telling people? What is the impression that your social media gives people? Here’s where it’s going to get difficult. Ask people for their honest opinion. Ask your shop neighbors. Ask your friends and family. You have a biased impression of your business, so this can’t all ride on your opinion alone. You can even ask me! I’ll give you my five minute honest evaluation!
Connecting- Are you connecting with people? Are you getting positive reviews and in store or online compliments? Are you you building a network of support, making new friends even? This is bigger than retail, or fashion or making sales. This is about having a message, and being part of a community! What do you want to say? What do you want to stand for? How are you connecting with people who have those same values?
Cut out the gimmicks- just be a real person, and just offer real genuine opportunities for people to get to know your business and to love it. You don’t have to be pushy or gimmicky. Giveaways, discounts and promos are great, but it’s not just tactic to trick people, and it shouldn’t be used to only serve your bottom line. If you offer these things too often, you’re simply training your customers to never shop without them, to never pay full price, and that won’t help your business grow.
Building Buzz- Getting people talking about your business means you really need a plan for marketing. Getting their attention isn’t the tricky part, it’s KEEPING their attention that requires forethought and intention. You have to come on strong with an impressive message along with a quality product. Create an experience that they want to brag about to all their friends, offer packaging and products they want to snap photos of and share online. Build an experience in store that incentivizes your people to not only come in and shop, but again, snap photos and brag about it to all their friends. Create a place where influencers and bloggers want to hang out! You shouldn’t be begging people to come in, they should be begging you to open your doors!
Join E-Boutique Mentorship! If you’re an online seller E-Boutique Mentorship starts June 9th, and there’s a great pre-sale enrollment price going on right now till next Wednesday! This group educational program is 4 weeks of lessons to help you maximize sales and build your business reputation!! Click HERE for more details!!
Remember traffic isn’t this uncontrollable thing. You can absolutely influence it daily. You have so much more control than you might think you do!