Pressures Facing Independent Retailers
A look at the news headlines suggests pressure from larger retailers, cautious consumer spending and creeping overheads are weighing heavily on store owners looking to grow and succeed. Customers might not leave their homes to visit a physical store unless the company is offering them something they can’t get online. For independent retailers to thrive this year, they’ll need to be prepared for these obstacles, and find smart ways to overcome them.
A big shift is taking place in the world of retail. New digital technologies, a changing political landscape and consumer tastes are both driving and reinforcing a change in the way we buy things. Often seen as a threat, in fact opportunities are closer to hand than you might think.
That said, independent convenience stores are named so because they are convenient. 57% of people who shop at convenience stores make their way to stores on foot, and 80% of customers surveyed live less than a mile away from their nearest convenience store.
How Retail is Responding
Many high streets across the country are working towards this reinvention, making themselves 'places to be'. In order to lure would-be customers back to the streets, retailers need to be inventive and innovative in what they offer. Providing exciting and memorable in-store experiences, which go beyond their products can help.
Independent retailers have some unique attributes that make them more attractive to their local customers and local community. Benefits such as the ability to offer a more personalised service and responsive to local needs, events and charities. Consumers have also come to expect a full range of omni-channel services that large retailers now provide, which many smaller stores find hard to replicate as they focus on the day-to-day running of their businesses. Independents need to be smarter and more enterprising in the way they operate, thinking beyond the confines of their four walls.
Being smaller means these retailers actually have an advantage – they can be more nimble.
How to Get More Customers in StoreThe average convenience customer will buy 2.31 items and spend £6.38 in one visit. When trying to boost foot traffic, first and above all is else, is to understand your customer base and target market. Then the next step is to look for ways to differentiate from your competitors while remaining useful and relevant to your target customers. Not every idea will work for every store of course. And innovate - don’t be afraid to test ideas out. Trial and error is one of the best ways to learn what will be most effective.
The key is to be relevant to your customer’s lifestyle and shopping patterns. The following 12 tips will help your store increase foot traffic by catering offerings to customer demand. Time to take note of our following suggestions....
12 Top Tips to Increase Footfall in Your Retail Store
1. Stay ahead of the competition... It sounds obvious but keep an eye on local competitors, big and small. See what's working for them and look for opportunities to be different. When a popular holiday or event is round the corner, maybe come up with a few fun deals to get your customers engaged and excited!
2. Focus on local and small... Look for those ranges which are made close to your store. Promote the fact you support new start-up brands and offer something truly different. You could even stand outside or nearby and hand out flyers promoting your business or partner with local and new suppliers. With a friendly face and a warm welcoming, the direct approach will make your store known and more approachable.
3. Offer incentives... Shoppers love lotteries and contests so you should definitely take advantage of promotional events to boost awareness or what’s available in your store or new products. You can promote these events online, via email or social media, but in order to enter and win, you must come into the store.
4. Seasonal events... Yearly and seasonal events make large amounts of money every year, especially for convenience retailers. So get on board with St. Patrick's Day merchandise, EURO 2020, a few Christmas decorations and Easter products because the public love it! You can promote these events online but in order to enter and win, you must come into the store. Make product events relevant to local customers to boosting foot traffic in your store. Make a calendar of major music, culture, and sporting events near your store and maximise the ranges which will appeal during that event. Think party food - beer, crisps, BBQ food... take a look at our savoury, crunchy snacks here.
5. Power of loyalty... Customers expect to be rewarded for their loyalty. No matter the size of your store, some sort of loyalty reward program is imperative to show your customers that you value their business. Hand out loyalty cards and give every 7th coffee for free or a in store points card to encourage additional spend to receive a reward. A small price to pay for gaining a repeat footfall.
6. Get social... Creating multiple online social feeds filled with entertaining information, sending out event invites and share interesting facts, retailers can ensure that visitors to their social media are converted to fans. If a social media strategy is being done well and consistent, this can only serve to help build business and retain repeat customers. If you're new to the social media game, take a look how social media can benefit you.
7. Curbside appeal... Take a step outside your store. Really look at it from the outside as if you were a potential customer passing by. Now answer this... are the windows dirty? Is the paint on the sign peeling? Is the signage clear and appealing? First impressions count! Use the space outside your store and create a window display! Use a sandwich board to write witty and fun messages – you can highlight sales or a new product such as Grenade Reload Flapjacks. A well-maintained and external presentation of the storefront is crucial for drawing in customers. Stay on top of your maintenance tasks – cleaning windows, putting signs outside and sweeping should be done daily.
8. Engage with customers... When customers are in your store, talk to them! Engage with them. Create a more personal and interactive shopping experience so customers can gain a clear sense as to why it’s so beneficial to shop in-store rather than online. Ask them what's attracting them in store or perhaps find out what they'd like to see added to your offering. Try sampling in store of a new range or partner with a supplier to hand out tasters. In fact, research shows that 40% of consumers are more likely to buy from retailers that go the extra mile and personalise their shopping experience.
9. And make sure staff are too... If your retail store has a large window that passing shoppers can look into then make sure all your staff know that their behaviour can directly affect a customer’s decision to walk in. See, bored-looking employees are a turnoff to potential foot traffic. As managers, make sure your team are mindful of how they look and act even if there are no shoppers inside the retail store. Keep your team looking busy and welcoming so potential shoppers are more keen on walking into your store.
10. Offer additional services... Customers think that the most useful features of their local convenience store were cash machines, post offices and click and collect. Be relevant and useful to customer’s lifestyle and shopping patterns with features such as offering parcel drop or an ATM. What’s more is that these customers won’t just stop at cash.
11. Create an experience... Go the get step and be more than just a retail shop. Why not consider a pop-up cafe or seating area which could give shoppers a reason to enter your store, purchasing an impulse snack along the way, generating additional revenue.
12. Do a mini relaunch... Why not go to town and use a combination of all of the above we've discussed, to have a mini-relaunch of your business to create some hype? Go to town on a budget, make some noise on social media and you might even gain some attention from the local press!
It’s not all doom and gloom for our independent stores. Everyday we see amazing, innovative, industrious retailers making the leap towards better systems, better in-store experiences, and finding news ways to reach their ideal customers. The first step is simply to start and a good place is with these top tips on how to increase footfall in your retail store. You might also find useful how to make the most of upselling at the counter once you have customers in store.
Should the average c-store retailer feel nervous about the 'try something new' agenda? Maybe not, since there’s positive evidence that embracing the overall trend for health, and stocking the right selection, can actually improve category sales.
It's time you should consider introducing more protein snacks, vegan sweets, and alternative savoury snacks. It's not likely retailers will be able to continue to build success if they haven’t got anything new to offer customers.