There are advantages to having shop-fronts or buildings but not always. I have written about how buildings can be a liability for community groups. Many of us have experienced arriving at a cold, dark community centre, sitting on uncomfortable chairs and wishing it was over and we were in the pub.
Well-run, comfortable centres can be an asset but it is hard work.
Shop-fronts can be an asset for businesses, especially those that specialise in products that can be carried away. However, there are issues such as costs, security, theft, safety that need to be addressed. However, my interest here is how shop-fronts and buildings can work as marketing tools.
The key to any successful on-street business is footfall. If plenty of people pass by, it is the equivalent of traffic for a website. The way you lay out your shop, present your goods, resembles conversion.
Increasing footfall is something you can do with others. Sales are mostly your responsibility. So, how do you increase footfall and sales?
Collaboration with other traders or organisations can help you increase footfall near your shop-front or community centre. Community centres can collaborate with local traders to bring people into the area. If it is clear about what it is offering, then it has a role to play in supporting local economic activity.
So, here are a few things to consider doing together. Some of these activities may be possible alone, but usually they work better where there is collaboration.
- Shared website promoting the local area.
- Campaign for local amenities, eg public toilets
- Support other businesses so they can collaborate. This might involve encouraging businesses likely to draw new people into the area.
- Events such as an occasional street market. If there is a community centre in the area, events there may draw in new people.
- Invest in local economic development initiatives, eg an app that helps people find local businesses that sell what they are looking for. This will work better if all the local businesses and organisations can join in.
- Support initiatives such as local currencies.
Whilst nearby shops might direct customers to your shop, the sales you make are largely your responsibility. Here are a few things to consider:
- Window dressing may be an important way to draw people into your shop. Perhaps if you are a grocer most people will know what to expect but otherwise show them what you sell. Special offers may entice people over the threshold and then they will see what else is on offer.
- Think about how you build relationships with local customers. If you know what they like, they are likely to come back. This sort of service can be radically different to the impersonal supermarket experience. A fifteen minute conversation may mean a customer comes back for years, especially if you remember their preferences.
- Ask customers to sign up to your email list. This might be a collective list for traders in your area or your own. This will allow you to tell customers of special offers.
- Consider a blog! This might not work for everyone but if you can find an angle, combined with an email list, you can publish valuable information. For example, a food shop could publish recipes and stock the ingredients, a fashion shop could write about style, a jewellers could write about provenance and craft. Remember lots of people are interested in how to make things and what goes on behind the scenes.
Note how you can introduce online approaches to support your in-store activities. This is an effective way of using a website or social media, in support of what you are doing on the ground.
How have you promoted your business using a shop-front or building?