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Sunday, June 21, 2009

Tips for the Retail Startup; 7 Ways to Drive Traffic to your Store

If you own a retail store that is less than 3 years old, one of the questions you probably ask yourself is, "how can I get customers for my store?" Here are 7 Tips that you may find helpful as you seek to acquire new customers and get traffic to your store:

  1. Seek out guest speakers, business seminars or demonstrations for your store. If you own a bakery, you may want to demonstrate some form of baking or dough-related demonstration. People are generally fascinated by this. Or a used office furniture store owner could ask an interior designer to speak at his/her store. If you own a coffee or tea shop, business professionals may be drawn to your shop if you offer coffee or tea tasting and talk about your space available for events; this way, they get to see the space in its event setup mode.
  2. Hold a private sale. Customers love this and feel appreciated by it. Invite your best customers to a private sale, offer special discounts, and give them an opportunity to meet your other customers. They will appreciate the exclusivity and will appreciate you more.
  3. Have a raffle or drawing. This is a very essential tool in helping you expand your mailing list. Place a fishbowl in clear sight with the gift highlighted by it. Make sure that this is an enticing gift. Ask that people leave business cards or enter their contact information on a list that you keep private. Tell them that they will have a chance at winning this priceless gift. You will be amazed at how your database can grow by holding a drawing often.
  4. Don't forget to Mail or E-Mail. Customers and potential customers are reminded of your business and what you do when they get regular updates from you. Since mailing takes some time to build awareness, you want to do it often. Look for something exciting to mail. For instance, if you own a children's clothing store, send out postcards with cute kids dressed in your outfits. This will draw any parent's attention and they may make a mental note of your store. E-mail newsletters are another way to keep in touch with clients. Two popular forums that provide these email newsletters tools are Constant Contact and AWeber.
  5. Start a referral program. Ask your best customers to give you names and contact information of friends and colleagues who they think would be good customers. Then reward your referring customers with a discount or gift card. Send the referrals a promotional offer they can't refuse and get ready to give them the royal treatment when they enter your store with the offer. Sometimes a great way to do this is also by having stamped-ready-to-mail postcards handy so that all you would have to do is ask your customer while they're in the store, to just write the name and address of the referral on the postcard.
  6. Host parties or regular events. There's a local store close to me that I go to regularly simply because they're always hosting fun events. If you own a store, events or parties are a great way to drive traffic to your store. For instance, a shoe store may choose to have a drink-and-shop mixer. Guess what? If I were invited to this event, I will be having a girlfriend tag along. By hosting parties or events, you double the amount of guests you would have at your store and you increase your chances for potential customers.
  7. Remind customers that you exist and care about them. Keep a customer database to remind yourself of dates customers visited or events they attended. Call your customers once in a while when you haven't seen them; it creates an emotional bond in that customer's mind that is directed to your store. For instance, Lucy may want to call her customer Mary who attended her last chef demonstration to "see how you're doing since we haven't seen you at the store lately" and to remind her that the next demonstration would be in a week. Or she may send her an invitation that states, "glad you attended our last event, hope to see you at the upcoming event..." Calling customers personally or sending them non-generic mailings makes them believe that you care about them and reminds them that you still have a thriving business.

Cheryl Isaac is a business start-up strategist to service businesses going online. She contributes to Forbes here and blogs about Making Business Personal here.  


These are excellent tips, all built around the idea of translating the owner's passion and energy into each and every customer interaction in the form of compelling, memorable customer experiences.

Great information! I'm opening a store in 4 months and this information will really help me brainstorm sales strategies.


I appreciate the comments and feedback! Please pass the information along to a retail startup who could use it.

Hope to see you around!


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