Foot traffic is a key factor of any successful retail store. And increasing customer traffic to your physical store is a constant struggle.
The more customers visit your store, the more sales you stand to make. Plus, connecting with shoppers in-person is a unique opportunity to build rapport and earn their loyalty. But how do you get more passers-by to actually enter your store?
As we’ll dive into in this post, the first step to increasing foot traffic is to measure it. Only by counting and tracking foot traffic over time can you identify how factors like seasonality or your latest marketing activations impact store foot traffic.
Keep reading to learn how to count, track, and analyze foot traffic levels over a given time period, and discover tools you can use to get the job done without resorting to using a counter and spreadsheet.
Table of Contents
What is foot traffic in retail?
Foot traffic in retail is the number of customers who enter your store. Generally, higher foot traffic leads to higher revenue.
Foot traffic numbers can either be monitored manually using counters, or digitally using cameras and retail tracking software. There are several factors that can impact your store’s foot traffic, most notably where it's located.
Is your store in an area where your target customer lives or frequently visits? Are there other nearby businesses or restaurants that attract customers that are also part of your target market? Carefully research a store location and its neighborhood when looking for a commercial space to lease. Where you choose to set up shop can greatly impact store traffic.
💡 PRO TIP If you want to test foot traffic before committing to leasing a commercial space, consider opening a pop up shop first to test the area. To open a pop-up shop and start selling with Shopify, go to your Shopify Admin, click the plus icon next to Sales channels, and select Point of Sale.
Why track foot traffic?
Tracking foot traffic equips you with more data to inform the decisions you make as you run your store. For instance, you can determine what your store’s busiest days are based on both total sales and foot traffic and plan your staff schedule accordingly. You can also get more insight into how external factors (like seasonality or the weather) or your latest marketing activations and promotions impact foot traffic.
But perhaps most importantly, you can measure foot traffic levels next to the total number of orders you processed to see if your staff are turning opportunities into sales.
The more data you have to interpret, the better equipped you are to spot patterns, measure your store’s performance (did that promotion really help us make more sales?), and be more cost-effective with your labor planning and marketing.
Here are some additional benefits to tracking foot traffic:
Gain customer insight
By tracking foot traffic you’ll get a better understanding of who your customers are and their buying patterns.
Depending on how you track foot traffic, some of the data you can analyze includes:
- Where the majority of your customers are located. Are they local or out of towners?
- The days and hours they visit your retail store.
- How long they usually visit for, and how long it takes before they make a purchase.
- The types of products they like the most, and in what quantities they purchase.
- Your in-store conversion rate (i.e., the total number of sales in a given period divided by the total foot traffic).
Inform business decisions
Once you have more insights into customer behavior, you can use the data to inform business decisions such as:
- Staffing. You can make sure you have more associates on the sales floor during peak shopping times. And avoid over-staffing during slow periods. Doing this will help reduce unnecessary operational costs.
- Product placement and assortment. Some foot traffic tracking software, like Aislelabs, have heat-map features that help you understand how customers move around your store. This way you can optimize space and increase sales with strategic product placement. It’s also a good idea to refresh merchandise assortments regularly in high-traffic areas.
- Inventory planning. Measuring foot traffic will help you project sales and predict the amount of stock needed to avoid lost sales and stockouts. It will also help you prevent over-stocking products.
- Sales and discounting strategies. If you know the peak shopping hours or days for your retail store, you can plan flash sales or special offers during periods of high foot traffic. This way, you’ll reach more customers and ideally sell through more inventory.
- Growth opportunities. If your sales goals include opening up new stores to increase revenue, tracking foot traffic will give you a clear picture of how you can replicate your success at a second or third location. Use information you gain about your customers and their shopping behavior to inform your expansion plans.
- Marketing strategies. Let’s say you send out an email campaign for an upcoming event or sale. By tracking foot traffic on the day, you’ll be able to measure the success of your marketing efforts. And then you can use the data to improve future marketing strategies.
📚 FURTHER READING: Learn how to use point of sale (POS) data to quantify your retail store's impact on customer acquisition costs, online sales, and lifetime value.
Better understand external factors
Overall foot traffic trends in the retail industry will naturally affect your foot traffic. For example, investment banking company UBS projects that 80,000 retail stores will close by 2026 (9% of the current total). This is based on the assumption that ecommerce sales (as a percentage of total retail sales) will continue to grow at a rapid rate, from 18% to 27% in the same period.
The growth of ecommerce is partially due to factors like the pandemic, but this doesn’t mean retail is dead. It means understanding external factors that contribute to in-store foot traffic will help you succeed.
More external factors are:
- Seasonality and weather conditions
- Traffic patterns in the area, including rush hour and the distance from your store to local customers’ homes or workplace
- Local events happening in the area that bring in more foot traffic
Evaluating how these factors affect your retail foot traffic will help you plan for ebbs and flows in customer traffic.
How to measure foot traffic
Don’t worry—you don’t need to stand at the door and manually count everyone who enters to measure foot traffic. Thankfully, there are plenty of great tools to help calculate foot traffic and collect information about the customers who visit your brick-and-mortar location(s).
This information can help you schedule the right number of sales associates for your busy and slow times, track conversion rates when used with sales data, and ensure that your store is designed in a way that facilitates customer engagement. Now, let’s take a look at a few ways to gauge the foot traffic your retail store is getting.
Traffic tracking software
Thanks to traffic tracking software, you can automate gathering in-store foot traffic intel. How advanced you go with your customer-traffic-tracking software depends on your budget.
Here are a few examples of traffic-tracking software:
Dor’s thermal-sensing people-counter is battery operated and lets you track your in-store conversion rate, optimize staff scheduling, and improve the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns. All you have to do is stick it above the entrance of your store and it anonymously counts foot traffic. No customer data is captured and setup doesn’t require IT.
The value of data allows you to measure the impact of the changes you make to your store. There are a whole bunch of different experiments and tactics that stores are using to boost their foot traffic and increase the satisfaction of customers. But there is no way to pinpoint which hypotheses and experiments are working unless you have the data that can back it up. So, where Dor comes into place is it can actually tell you what’s working and what’s not in your store.
Kepler’s Property Toolkit lets you evaluate historical foot traffic trends before you even lease a retail space. With this tool, you can forecast sales at new locations, calculate rent per passerby, and compare store traffic over time.
Sensormatic product ShopperTrak is a people-counting and conversion-tracking system. Its features include retail analytics, benchmarks to compare your in-store foot traffic to similar retailers, visitor counting, and insights into the shopper journey so you know how to improve the customer experience.
Aiselabs lets you leverage your Wi-Fi system to enable heat maps, Wi-Fi counting, and automated marketing (among many other features). Heat maps help you visualize visitor flow to optimize floor space, and Wi-Fi counting lets you track foot traffic as well as get real-time occupancy counts. This way, you can make sure you’re keeping customers and staff safe during the pandemic. You can use Aislelabs’ marketing automation tool to encourage customer reviews, create personalized campaigns, and run targeted social media ads.
If you’re looking for a fairly simple way to monitor retail foot traffic, then you can always install a surveillance camera and comb through footage to identify the busy times of day. With this solution, you can make note of the common routes that customers take through the store, and estimate the demographic of your customers. Although this is a fairly cost effective method of loosely measuring foot traffic, it still requires manual counting on your end and isn’t 100% accurate.
If you’re able to spend more, you may want to consider software that helps make use of your existing in-store cameras to detect and count customer traffic with more accuracy. Companies like WingArc have technology that runs a video analytics algorithm over the feed from your security system to measure and track in-store activity. This way, you’ll have a detailed overview of store activity, and the software also generates heat maps so you can view customer flow and low- and high-traffic areas of the store during different days and times.
While sales data gives insight into how many shoppers made a purchase, it doesn’t tell you the total number of people who visited your store. What about shoppers who browsed but didn’t buy?
Where sales data comes in handy is measuring the percentage of shoppers who convert into a sale. Cross-reference the total number of shoppers who entered your store that you measured with traffic tracking software to the total number of orders processed by your store’s POS system.
As you grow your in-store foot traffic, be sure to closely monitor your conversion rates to get a sense as to whether your store associates are effective at turning sales opportunities into actual sales.
📌 GET STARTED: To view the total number of orders processed at your store in Shopify POS, go to the Home menu, select Analytics, and click Net sales. Divide the total number of orders into the total number of customers that entered your store to find your retail store’s conversion rate.
Tally or clicker counting
The most traditional method of tracking foot traffic is tally or clicker counting. If you’re not quite ready to invest in software, you can start by keeping a tally of the number of people who enter your retail store each day. You can do this by manually jotting down the numbers in a notebook or using a tally or click counter. This method won’t give you the most accurate results, but it’s still a great place to start.
Another way to measure foot traffic and gain customer insight is through social engagement. You can encourage customers to check in at in-store demos, or hold an in-store event that requires attendees to RSVP and/or fill out a survey that provides you with invaluable data.
If your brand already has a solid online presence through your website or social media profiles, you can make your brick-and-mortar store a check-in location or require customers to provide information when they log in to the free store Wi-Fi. Apps like Foursquare are a great way for your customers to engage with your brand while providing you with consumer data.
How to increase foot traffic
You may think there are only offline strategies to increase foot traffic, but more and more retailers are blurring the lines between physical and digital shopping experiences to boost sales and foot traffic.
Here are a few ways to increase foot traffic using online and offline tactics:
Leverage online presence
These days, most retailers opt for an omnichannel approach and also set up an ecommerce website to supplement their brick-and-mortar store(s). But creating an online store is just the tip of the iceberg. Here are more ways to make the most of your online presence to increase foot traffic:
- Invest in local SEO. Building a local SEO strategy will help local shoppers find your retail store in search results. Seventy-eight percent of location-based mobile searches result in an offline purchase. So once prospective customers find your business online, you’re more likely to experience an increase in foot traffic.
- Optimize local search listings. Online business listings such as Google My Business, Yelp, and Apple Maps also help improve organic search results for retailers. Local search listings tend to be free and let you display store information, including a link to your website, store hours, contact details, a map, reviews, and photos of your products. This way, shoppers can easily find your store and plan a visit.
- Improve social engagement. Creating a strong social media presence will help build brand awareness, trust, and community for your business. By improving engagement, you’ll interact with more potential customers, as well as existing customers, and the more connected your local audience feels to your business, the more likely they are to shop in-store. You can also promote special offers on social media to drive foot traffic to your brick-and-mortar store. For example, a one-day sale that’s in-store only.
Host in-store events
An effective way to shore up foot traffic in the short term is through special events. Hold in-store events to introduce new products and demos, as well as celebrate anniversaries, holidays, or customer loyalty to bring customers in for a day. It can also increase engagement with your customer base, as it gives you the chance to interact with them face to face in a social setting.
You can also host events with other local businesses to increase your reach and bring customers in-store. Let’s say you invite three to five other brands that target a similar audience to participate in a pop-up shop at your store. Those businesses will also promote the event via social media, email marketing, and word of mouth, which will result in increased foot traffic at your store.
Lastly, special one-day promotions and door-buster sales are other ways to use in-store events to increase foot traffic during slow periods or when you need to liquidate inventory. Even if customers don’t make it out to your event, any marketing ventures for it will also be beneficial for brand awareness.
Improve store layout and design
The layout and design of your retail store—the way you set up fixtures, product displays, and merchandise—is an important factor in the volume of foot traffic you see.
There are many different retail store layouts to consider, including grid, free-flow, and loop layout, to name a few. And developing a retail merchandising strategy in tandem with your plans for store design will help you make the most of floor space to improve traffic flow. It will also help you implement cross-merchandising strategies to increase cross-selling and upselling opportunities, and plan new product drops. When done right, it can ultimately lead to higher sales.
Another key component of retail merchandising is visual merchandising. This is how you display items around the store, including product displays, mannequins, and window displays. For example, placing bestselling products at the front of the store can help lure in passersby who see it from the street, and investing in window displays is a surefire way to turn heads and drive foot traffic.
Here are some additional tips for store layout and design:
- Consider seasons, special occasions, and holidays when creating your merchandising plan and window display design.
- Use innovative displays to make the in-store experience compelling, engaging, and unique.
- Focus on themes or group products by brand so it’s easy for shoppers to understand.
- Constantly refresh product displays and fixtures, either with new products or by shifting merchandise to attract customers back into your store more often.
Opening a retail store in a high-traffic shopping area means you’ll be one of many retail stores in a popular location. To stay competitive it’s important to differentiate your product assortment from other local shops. Just because you’re in a high foot traffic area it doesn’t mean you’re set. You’ll need to find ways to win over foot traffic and make enough sales to justify the higher rent you’re likely paying to set up shop in a high traffic zone.
And while you’re looking for a commercial space, take note of the types of retailers that are already in the area. If you sell activewear and there’s already a boutique that sells fitness clothing, it could be an indication that you will reach your target audience. But if your products are too similar, you run the risk of losing business to the store that already has a loyal customer base.
Mix up signage
From sidewalk signs to instagrammable artwork, creative and sometimes humorous signage can help draw in more foot traffic. And if customers take photos and share them on social media, it’s win-win. You’ll have enticed them to come in, and received more online exposure for your retail store.
Offer in-store pickup
Modern order fulfillment options such as buy online, pickup in-store (BOPIS) and curbside pickup let you create a seamless online to offline shopping experience that also boosts customer satisfaction. But these omnichannel shopping options, specifically BOPIS, can also increase foot traffic and sales.
In fact, in a study by the International Council of Shopping Centers, over 50% of adult shoppers use BOPIS, and 67% of those consumers increase their order value when they know they can pick it up immediately.
But BOPIS can also increase sales in-store. When a customer comes to your store to pick up their order, they will likely take a quick look around and could wind up buying more products. Or they might remember something they wanted and pick it up in-store, also leading to more sales.
Monitoring foot traffic for your retail store
Now that you know the importance of tracking foot traffic and how to do it, it’s time to put your learnings into action. Whether you start small by reviewing surveillance recordings or dive right into using advanced tracking software, understanding what brings customers in-store and how they move through your shop will help you make the most of this crucial metric that ultimately affects the success of your retail business.
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