Retail isn’t dead but like everything else, it’s just shifting.

There are a variety of factors influencing a general decline in foot traffic in retail space, not the least of which is the state of the economy and an ongoing increase in online shopping.

That being said, have you been to a Starbucks lately that didn’t have a line for their $5 frappaccinos? Probably not. They work hard to get your feet in their doors. Their latest iteration is the mobile ordering system, where you can order from your phone before you get there and presto: your order is waiting for you at the counter when you arrive, all paid for and ready to go. Even before mobile ordering, Starbucks’ loyalty system had been running for years and it works. Even I, who is relatively immune to this kind of thing, was just a ‘tiny bit’ excited when my Starbucks Gold Card arrived in the mail, printed with my name and giving me access to special deals and promotions. I fell for it hook, line and latte.

So what are some techniques that can help you generate the kind of loyalty and foot traffic that you want?

Depending on your business, one or more of these models might be the right fit for you:

The Classics

Never thought the day would come when I would refer to email marketing as ‘classic’, but the times they are a-changin’. Create an opportunity to collect email from your customers and make sure they are in fact opting in with full consent (messing with the CASL anti-spam regulations isn’t good for business!). Now you have a way to reach out to people and remind them who you are, what you can offer them, what problems you can solve and to give them an incentive to come back.

Offer your clients coupons or other incentives to come back to the store but make sure it’s worth their while. $10 off when they spend $75 wouldn’t get me off the sofa, but 15-25% a certain selection would. In-store coupons that are worth something will bring the clients in.

If you haven’t built up an email list yet, good old fashioned flyers can still work for you but here’s a tip: have them included in a community newspaper for the geographic area that you wish to target. Even people who have told Canada Post that they don’t want junk mail will get the community newspaper, as these are exempt from the No Junk system. That and flyers from political groups but you probably don’t want to team up with them!
If you’re outside of a major center, local television stations are often looking for a feel good story; those can get you some very targeted publicity, which will likely be available via the internet, making it a shareable sound bite for your site or your—and here I come full circle—email marketing list.

The Latest and Greatest

Mobile apps and the ability to target your customer directly, with the kinds of things that they would be interested in, is the 21st century coupon. I’ll use Starbucks again here as an example because they’ve really nailed their system. Their app, which allows customers to order and pay in advance or pay from their phones, is phenomenal. I might go for a walk without my wallet. I will NEVER go out without my phone. I can still get my Mango Tea Lemonade fix, sans wallet or cards.

Starbucks has incentives for repeat visits by offering stars for every purchase, which at the rate I go, quickly add up to a free item. Free items on birthdays. Discounts that apply only to ‘members’, free WIFI and all the goodies on display to tempt you while you wait in line; it all creates a heady combination that will have many of us coming back for more.

I can hear you: “I don’t have the money that Starbucks does! How can I build a loyalty app too?” Flok has come up with a digital punch card – you remember those, right? Those cards you’d have at the coffee shop where you punch it X times and get a free one? For a fraction of the cost of a robust app, you can create loyalty rewards that will have your customers returning again and again.

A powerful app will not only enable you to collect data on your customer but if you combine it with Bluetooth enabled beacon technology, you can actually target customers who are in proximity of your store and send them an alert to an in-store sale or event, thereby dramatically increasing the walk-in traffic.
Solve it, Teach it, Give Something Away

In-store ‘events’ are the perfect way to get foot traffic AND create value for your customers. Book launches at the bookstore, tastings at the gourmet food store, five minute workshops at the flower shop. There are things that you can do at a brick-and-mortar location that just can’t be done online, at least not with the same quality of service and attention to detail.

Ultimately, that’s the real difference between online and brick-and-mortar: the experience. If your customer has an exceptional experience, they will come back for more. If you offer free gift wrapping in-store, if you have useful advice, how to classes or other ways you can teach a skill, solve a problem or give people something they want, you can get them into your store. For this, you must thoroughly understand your target audience and make sure that everything you do, from the decor and design of your space to the labels you use, speak to them.

If you communicate what you have to offer clearly and succinctly and create a call to action that will bring them in again and again? You’ve got a winning recipe to increase your foot traffic all year round.