Don’t worry, storeowners, the Internet is not going to put you out of business. In fact, 90 percent of all purchases are still made at a brick-and-mortar stores. The question becomes, how can you effectively leverage digital strategies to increase foot traffic to your local business? Here are nine ideas to get you started.
Use social media to share shots of happy customers
Take shots of happy customers (with their permission) shopping and purchasing items at your store. Nothing sets the tone for your store like showing lots of happy people browsing and buying. These pictures also give people an idea of what your store is like, and the people in the photos might share them on their social network, giving you free advertising.
If you are uncomfortable taking random shots of customers, create a “customer of the day” promotion with a small giveaway to the winner and share their photo with the prize.
Targeted local advertising
There are options for advertising at the local level that allow you to target customers in your geographic area, even down to a few miles from your location. This can be a great way to point out to online searchers that there’s a local option for what they are looking for. Google and other search engines offer targeted ads by geographic area, and locally focused sites, such as LorainCounty.com, are effective for reaching a local audience.
Mobilize your social fans
If you’ve put any effort into social media to promote your store, you have a built in base of people that are fans of your store that have already formed a relationship with you. Recruit them to help publicize your events by sharing your posts about sales and special promotions to get more people through the door.
Leverage shopper data
Pay attention to any data you’ve collected about your customers and sales. What are your best sale days and what are your worst? What promotions work the best? Do your best customers follow a certain buying pattern? What products sell the best?
By combining all this data, you can make more informed decisions about inventory, sale dates and how promotions affect your overall revenue. Use your social networks and online advertising to boost your weak areas and further add to your strong ones. Watch for buying trends that allow you to be proactive in how you stock your store. Putting the data to work for you can help you drive more traffic.
Deliver meaningful content
What information are your customers looking for? How can you help them make more informed decisions or understand the trends in the industry? For instance, if you operate a clothing store, you could create content about the latest fashion trends, or an article on what colors are popular this season. Educating shoppers about choosing proper sizes or the care of special materials are other examples of how you can build relationships with customers through content. Post content to your blog and share via social media to increase exposure. The more people build a relationship with your brand, the more likely they are to buy from you.
Make product reviews readily available
Product reviews are becoming an increasingly bigger part of the buying process as consumers look to validate their decisions before making a purchase. Make these reviews easily accessible both from your website and in the store.
You can either set up your own product review section, or link to third-party review sites, such as Consumer Reports or Which. (Not everything you sell -- or in some cases anything you sell -- may be available from third-party sites, meaning you have to set up your own review system. This link provides a list of review aggregators.)
Reviews can also help you weed out inferior products from your lineup, allowing you to build an inventory of quality products that customers enjoy. Similar to content, taking this step helps build trust, which ultimately can drive more traffic.
Create a special offer for web visitors in the form of a coupon they can print at home and redeem in store. This is a great way to entice visits to your physical location while also helping you get a better feel for how your website (or Facebook page) is driving offline sales.
When someone redeems a coupon, take the opportunity to have a conversation about what they thought about your website and how it could be improved.
Encourage social media conversations
Ask people to like you on Facebook and use a hashtag specifically for your store on Twitter. Run social media promotions, such as issuing a special keyword via Facebook or Twitter that customers can redeem for a discount. Encourage them to share it with their friends.
Be sure to track redemption rates so you know how effective the campaigns are and which social channels perform best. Either run one promotion on one channel at a time, or use different keywords for each channel so you know what traffic is coming from each social network.
Check local directory listings
There are local business directories on sites like Google and LorainCounty.com that you can take advantage of, but make sure the information is accurate. Do a search for your business and see what information comes up. If something isn’t accurate, submit a correction. Otherwise, you might be missing out on potential foot traffic.
Local businesses can take advantage of all of these strategies with a minimal investment of time and money. With the vast majority of purchases still happening in stores, it behooves you to do everything you can to make sure potential customers are aware of what you offer.
Todd Shryock is the director of the content for Emerge Inc. If you have questions on how your business can benefit from these strategies, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.