In business, foot traffic refers to pedestrians who are exposed to a business or commercial establishment while passing by it. For small business owners— especially those in the hospitality industry— a consistent amount of foot traffic can be the difference between just getting by and thriving.
Unfortunately, it’s not enough to simply stick an employee on the corner with a sale sign. Because businesses typically only get one shot at turning each pedestrian into an actual customer, it’s extremely important to make a good (and quick) first impression.
How can you make such an impression in just seconds? The answer to this question may be easier than you think. Here are 15 sure-fire ways to help increase foot traffic to your business.
1. Create a memorable sign or window display. Though it’s arguably the most obvious idea on this list, it can also be the most effective. If you go with a sign, aim for it to answer two important questions: what does your business have to offer and why should they care? If you decide to design a new window display, remember to make it as aesthetically pleasing as possible. If you aren’t overly confident in your design skills, don’t be afraid to pull people off the street and ask for their opinion.
2. Music, music, music. Music is a great way to get people’s attention. Make sure your music choice matches the theme of your business, and that it isn’t set to play too softly or too loudly (both may turn people away).
3. Chalk a pathway to your business. This may work better for certain types of businesses, such as bars, toy stores, or ‘mom and pop’ stores, but it’s also one of the more creative ideas on this list. Consider doing something completely out of the ordinary, like designing a treasure map or scavenger hunt on nearby streets that lead to your storefront. Consumers today really appreciate the ability to interact with businesses.
4. Display some merchandise outside. This gives pedestrians a glimpse of your products/services and will entice them to stop and look around. However, make sure to avoid displaying old or clearance products. The last thing you want is to give potential customers a first impression that screams ‘junk’.
5. Offer a FREE sample. Some people just don’t know what they’re missing until they try it. For this reason, offering free samples can be a great way to increase foot traffic. Small trinkets like keychains, stickers, pencils/pens, or lighters are perfect free samples because they’re cheap and used daily. Bars, restaurants, cafés, and other food industry businesses can also benefit greatly from offering free samples. People will stop to satisfy a need, but stay to satisfy a craving.
Keep in mind that this method is most effective when there are no strings attached. In other words, avoid sign-up sheets, mailing lists, or information cards unless they’re willing to provide that information on their own.
6. Put out a chalkboard sign with a joke or pun on it. Chalkboard signs are famously seen outside of restaurants and bars, but that doesn’t mean that’s all they’re good for. With the right message on it— such as industry humor— these signs can be extremely effective at getting people’s attention.
7. Put out a chalkboard sign describing a contest, game, or daily special. Of the most popular ideas for chalkboard signs are contests, game nights, theme nights, sales, and special menus. This idea is especially useful in the restaurant industry.
8. Design your storefront around a theme. Themes are great for differentiating your business from local competitors. For example, a vintage hair salon, modern tech company, or romantic restaurant would turn heads more often than a standard storefront with white walls and a block letter sign.
9. Roll out a Hollywood-style red carpet. Seems simple, but this is actually really inviting. Red carpets symbolize luxury and exclusivity, so rolling one out in front of your business will trigger a subconscious assumption that something special lies at the other end.
10. Leave your door open when the weather’s nice. Not only is an open door welcoming, it can also be a real cost-saver during nice weather. Though many businesses can benefit from this idea, I recommend that those in the food industry seriously consider it. Nothing brings in a crowd like the smell of delicious food drifting down nearby streets.
11. Decorate your storefront with real plants or flowers. This idea takes the expression “stop and smell the roses” to a whole new level. Certain plants and flowers give off pleasing aromas that attract attention— especially on windy days.
12. Put out something that moves. Attention-grabbers like airdancers, flags, wind-charms, and balloons are popular outdoor objects used to help draw attention and increase foot traffic. My personal favorite, however, has always been a simple fan with colorful streamers attached. When it’s hot out, people appreciate the opportunity to stop and enjoy the cool breeze for a few moments.
13. Provide outdoor seating. People eating outside will give other pedestrians a glimpse of what your business has to offer. And while this is undoubtably best for restaurants and cafés, outdoor seating doesn’t have to be paired with food or drinks. Home & garden stores, for example, often provide outdoor chairs or rockers for customer use.
14. Partner with other nearby businesses. The great thing about partnering with other businesses is that you’re able to mooch off of their customer list without actually stealing their sales (and vice versa). Some of the most common— and most successful— partnerships I’ve come across are clothing and jewelry stores, hair and nail salons, and bars and food trucks.
15. Get an “up ahead” sign. Putting business signs on nearby streets lets people know that you’re right around the corner. This may not seem very creative, but it is practical. Most drivers need time to decide whether or not they’re interested in stopping for something. Without one of these signs, you may be losing potential customers without even knowing it.
Have a favorite idea from this list? Let us know which one in the comments below or by reaching out on social media! As always, thanks for reading and happy marketing!
—Amanda Myers, Copywriter at BoydTech Design, Inc.