6 Effective Strategies for Driving More Traffic Into Your Retail Stores
By Tricia McKinnon and Ben Rudolph
As consumers continue to increase their expectations for the in store experience retailers are experimenting with new ways to get people in their doors and keep them there. From shifting from a pure sales culture to acting as a trusted advisor to creating the perfect instagramable store experience retailers are finding new and interesting ways to connect with customers. Who said retail is dead? Only boring experiences need not apply. Take a look at examples from retailers like Apple and Louis Vuitton to see how you can drive more traffic into your retail stores.
1. Instead of focusing on selling, teach. One of Apple’s goals has always been to enrich the lives of others. Speaking about when Apple first launched the Apple store Ron Johnson said: “when we launched retail [at Apple], I got this group together, people from a variety of walks of life.” “As an icebreaker, we said, ‘tell us about the best service experience you’ve ever had.'” “Of the 18 people, 16 said it was in a hotel. This was unexpected. But of course: the concierge desk at a hotel isn’t selling anything; it’s there to help.” “We said, ‘well, how do we create a store that has the friendliness of a Four Seasons Hotel?'” The answer: “let’s put a bar [the Genius Bar] in our stores. But instead of dispensing alcohol, we dispense advice.”
In addition to the Genius Bar “Today at Apple” provides educational programing to customers to demonstrate how to use Apple products for photography, coding, music mixing, and more. Apple’s latest Today at Apple session partners with Madonna to teach the art of music remixing. Retailers and brands have amazing opportunities to create content that their customers crave. Apple executes this better than anyone with Today at Apple, using information not for marketing purposes, but as a way to arouse curiosity, empower creativity, and draw customers in.
2. Offer in demand services. Perhaps Ulta Beauty should be called the department store for the beauty customer. In addition to selling beauty products Ulta Beauty also provides customers with many services such as in-store hair salons. These salons are a driver of foot traffic with salon customers making twice as many trips to an Ulta Beauty store as those who do not use the service. Customers can also get their brows or nails done, have a facial, have a bikini wax, get new eyelashes or have a make-up consultation all within one visit. Not only does this range of services drive traffic but it helps Ulta Beauty to take share from a range of retailers spanning from a department store’s makeup counter to drugstores.
DSW is another retailer that is also focusing on in-store services. In 2017 it added its first in-store nail salon. The retailer hopes to eventually have nail salons in more than 250 DSW shoe stores.
3. Try a new in-store selling concept. Last year Macy’s purchased Story, a popular Manhattan based store. Story sold merchandise inspired by a key theme with products and a store layout that changed every few months. One of the key reasons for acquiring Story was to breathe new life into the 160 year old department store.
Since the acquisition the original Story location has closed and in April of this year Macy’s rolled out Story shops to 36 Macy’s stores. These stores sell more than 400 products from a range of well-known brands as well as merchandise from over 70 small businesses. The shops are small, measuring only 1,500 sq. ft. The theme, colour and merchandise within the Story shops within Macy’s changes every six to eight weeks.
Speaking about the new concept, former Story CEO and Macy’s new Brand Experience Officer, Rachel Shechtman said: “retail spaces overall will continue to be more community-centric and experiential.” “With more screens and devices everywhere, any physical environment has the opportunity to create immersive engagement and give consumers an experience they can’t get sitting on their couch or in the back of a car looking at their phone.”
4. Create instagramable experiences. Zeroing in on the ongoing desire for people to document their experiences on Instagram, for two weeks ModCloth created an Instagram experience within its stores. It hired a professional photographer and gave customers the option of having a photo taken of them in an outfit styled by ModCloth. After the photos were taken customers were given the digital files as well as a print out of a photo that was taken. Photos of the customers were then displayed on digital screens in the store turning customers into clothing models. The goal of the initiative was to increase awareness of ModCloth’s new store in San Francisco as well as to create a piece of content that customers could share with friends and family. Over the two week period when the initiative ran ModCloth took more than 250 unique portraits and the initiative had nearly 5 million social media impressions.
Glossier’s New York City (NYC) flagship store which opened last fall is the definition of when Instagram meets real life. With millennial pink everywhere from the walls to couches to makeup counters the store feels more like a status symbol. The atmosphere of the store encourages customers to hangout, try on products and of course document the experience on Instagram.
The space is not optimized to have product everywhere instead it is a free-flowing space that is more about having a great experience. Products are showcased on communal tables with clear lines of sight, built to make it easy to converse with friends while trying on product. According to the New York Times, Glossier’s NYC flagship store “offers what are quickly becoming the three Cs of the digital era: community, conversation and content.”
5. Set up a popup store. For the launch of Virgil Abloh’s first collection for Louis Vuitton, Louis Vuitton opened a popup store in London last October. The 2,000 sq. ft pop up had a Wizard of Oz theme, one of Abloh’s key inspirations for the collection. Featuring a yellow brick road staircase the popup felt more like an exhibition than a store. To gain entry into the popup which sold hoodies, tailored clothing as well as must have accessories from the spring/summer 2019 menswear collection, visitors had to purchase tickets.
Louis Vuitton is the largest luxury retailer by sales and popups are a key element of its strategy. In 2018 it had 80 popups but it is increasing that number to 100 this year. Speaking about Louis Vuitton’s focus on popups, Loius Vuitton’s CFO, Jean-Jacques Guiony told analysts: “this trend in pop-up stores is extremely important, and we will continue to develop that because it enables us to be talking in a different way to our clients ... and it adds flexibility with our network.”
6. Partner with another retailer to drive traffic. This May Amazon launched a new service called Amazon Counter where customers can pick up their Amazon orders from other retailers’ bricks and mortar locations in Europe. To offer this service Amazon is partnering with clothing, footwear and home goods retailer Next in the UK and with bookstore chain Giunti as well as Fermopoint and SisalPay stores in Italy. Amazon recently launched Amazon Counter in the US at over 100 Rite Aid locations. Speaking about the initiative Patrick Supanc, World Director of Amazon Hub said Amazon Counter will "become an extensive network" with 1,500 stores participating by the end of 2019.
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