Clare Rayner: Marketing Considerations to Increase Footfall

managing customer relationships

When agreeing the topic for this month’s article I reflected on how consumer facing businesses value footfall. At the Future High Street Summit at the end of March, footfall was a hot topic. Diane Wehrle from Springboard talked through the direct correlation between increased footfall to an area and the positive economic impact because of increased spending through local businesses. However, I have to remind myself of a blog I wrote some 5 years ago “you don’t just want footfall, you want the right kind of footfall”

You see, whilst on a macro-economic scale the indicators prove that higher footfall will translate to sales, it doesn’t necessarily apply to ALL businesses in an area. Boutique retail in particular tend to focus more on quality than quantity, investing time in great service and ensuring an excellent customer experience. Being overwhelmed by too much footfall can detract from their ability to offer that personal service, which in turn can damage customer perceptions.

So, and before I even start to think about the title “marketing considerations to increase footfall”, I think we have to rewind a bit… we have to ask ourselves “whose feet do you want to fall into your shop?”

This then takes us back to step 3 of my 10-steps to retail success – ideal customer. In order to really understand how to market to them we need to know who they are, what they want. I won’t dive too deep into that now – my point is simply that you need to invest some time in planning your marketing such that it attracts the kind of people you really want to be turning into customers – you can read another blog on this.

Once clear as to who you want to attract then you can start to think of the right strategies to engage with those people. In step 7 of the 10-steps, customer engagement, I talk about a 4-part upward spiral whereby there is the initial attraction (mostly achieved through your marketing), conversion (through a great experience in store), retention (through consistently great service) and referral (through gaining the trust of customers to become brand advocates). The upward spiral happens when you get those advocates recommending your business to others, adding to the mix of methods you will be using to attract new customers. You can also read more about that here.

Given your business no doubt has its own unique personality, a very clear vision of who your ideal customer is, and hence a very specific customer engagement approach, it is almost impossible to give too much advice about marketing considerations as it would be wrong to assume 1-size fits all. However, there are some obvious ingredients that you’d be unwise to ignore – how you apply them of course will depend wholly on your unique approach.

So, here are my top tips for the most likely marketing methods a retail business should be using to drive footfall:

  • Social media – if you are not using channels such as Facebook, twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, blogging etc. then you could be missing a trick. It won’t cost you more than the time it takes to start producing content and if you’ve thought about your customer, and how to engage them, you’ll be able to figure out which social sites, and what kind of content, will pique their interest.
  • Search marketing – people search for everything and anything, and Google is the most dominant search engine in the UK. However, you don’t need a website to have a presence in search – especially in mobile search. Whilst a website IS a valuable asset, even more so if it is able to provide an ecommerce engine, it is not essential to being found. Get your business set up on google places – then you’ll appear right at the top of mobile search when people look for what you offer in your area. Throw in listings on a few local (ideally free) business / shopping directories and hey-presto, you’re findable online and you don’t have to have a website![/ap_li]
  • Find out about local publications, obviously being mindful of what your ideal customer might read – quite often they will run editorial features about local businesses, especially if you are doing something interesting (e.g. supporting a charitable cause or running a free community event). Editorial costs nothing and can be great coverage. Obviously, there is the option of advertising, but make sure you analyse the readership, distribution and costs to assess the likely potential return on investment.[/ap_li]
  • As mentioned above, one way to get attention is to run in-store events – for instance a wine tasting, a charity coffee morning, a fashion show or a school holiday colouring club – depending of course on what you sell and who you want to attract. Such activities can also help you get press coverage, and boost word of mouth and social mediacommentary about your business.
  • Another option could be to set up a collaboration with relevant 3rd parties – think about what other groups or organisations that might share a large number of your ideal customer group – are there ways you can work together with such an organisation in order to try to share customers and create mutually beneficial introductions.[/ap_li]
  • Finally, this idea is not zero cost but can be very productive – targeted leaflet drops. If you invest in designing and producing a flyer, and are specific as to which areas it is delivered to, you can draw attention to your business via the letterbox. Better still, put a special introductory offer or similar on the flyer so the customer has to bring it to the store – that way you’ll get a good measure of the effectiveness of the activity.

To sum up, there are probably 1001 marketing considerations that could have a positive impact on your footfall – I can only suggest a few – what matters is that you make sure you select the right ones for your business, you measure the effectiveness, and then you won’t just get footfall, you’ll get the right footfall!