One of a retailer’s biggest hurdles to overcome is getting foot traffic — that is, encouraging people to visit your store, pop-up shop, or booth. And once those shoppers are there, closing the sale is just as important. But transitioning browsers into buyers isn’t always simple.
For multichannel sellers, these offline conversions are always a goal. Without strong in-person sales, it’s difficult to justify the expenses associated with having a physical storefront, be it permanent or temporary.
But the in-person shopping experience is still essential for retail success. Almost three-quarters of online shoppers still believe that the traditional in-store experience is important when making a purchase.
However, capturing those in-person sales isn’t always easy. An increase in foot traffic may not always mean an increase in offline sales. From simple visual merchandising tricks to tech-savvy approaches to physical retail, these conversion tactics can help you turn window shoppers into lifelong customers.
Understand Your Customers
Personalization has proven a valuable investment for many retailers: 65% of the global consumer base claims that personalized offers are important to their shopping experience. While a lot of personalization happens online, it’s possible to implement offline, too.
“Clothes retailers have changing rooms that are an amazing place to foster conversions,” Sean Lakind, VP of marketing and sales at Dor says. “If someone tries a piece of clothing on, ask them why they liked it or didn’t, and give them other product recommendations.”
This shows customers your investment in them, and that you’re interested in helping them find the best solution for them — not for your bottom line.
2. Mind the Weather
While seasonality always comes into play with your product cycles and marketing campaigns, being attentive to the daily weather forecast can also make an impact on offline conversions.
“When you see how the weather impacts your store, then you can be proactive,” says Lakind. “It’s not just the big things that affect foot traffic — it’s the everyday sunny, nice, rainy, breezy, cold, snowy, cloudy day — all of those things impact your customer.”
Lakind points to Timberland as a prime example of a brand that has leveraged the weather to drive offline sales. When it’s raining locally, they’ll have a special on rain jackets. Take a similar approach with your promotions (“Convertible sales go through the roof when it’s sunny,” Larkin says), and offer in-store comforts (hot chocolate when it’s snowy, cucumber water on hot and humid days, etc.).
“The weather impacts school closures and community events,” says Nicole Leinbach Reyhle, founder of Retail Minded. “That will ultimately impact your store staffing, inventory, marketing, and overall management decisions.”
Though you can’t always predict the weather, you can plan for types of weather. Reyhle suggests creating a library of content, graphics, social media posts, emails, and other marketing collateral so you’re ready to go in case there is a snow storm or heat wave — depending on where you’re located.
“You want to bridge digital and physical, so combining this digital experience of where your customers start their search to your physical store,” Reyhle says. “You’re improving the customer journey and converting what would be browsers into buyers by being proactive in your communication.”
3. Try the Mirroring Effect
Mirroring is when an individual mimics the actions, movements, and expressions as the individual with whom they are interacting. This has long been studied in psychology, but it also has implications for in-person selling—retail psychology, if you will.
In the Hoffeld Group’s whitepaper Mirror More. Sell More., mirroring is presented as a strategic approach to the art of sales. It’s suggested that sales associates mirror a customer’s posture, gestures, rate of speech, facial expressions, and diction to increase conversion rates.
Mastering mirroring may be an advanced skill, but you can still equip staff with a basic understanding so they can begin to express empathy in a way that enables them to persuade customers to convert.
FURTHER READING: For more examples of assisting customers in-store, check out these 7 examples of modern customer service.
4. Make Human Connections Through Your Staff
On the note of the mirroring effect, using your staff to make authentic, in-person connections can also drive offline conversions.
“Having someone there to have a conversation with customers is powerful,” says Lakind.
Bob Phibbs, also known as the Retail Doctor, points out that having human interaction between customers and sales staff is one major advantage brick-and-mortar stores have over ecommerce businesses.
“The first thing is to realize you have to stop everything not customer facing when a shopper walks in the door,” he says.
It all comes down to understanding who your customers are and how you can establish connections with them. For example, luxury brands may actually benefit from snobby sales associates, according to research.
Non-luxury brands may benefit from other approaches. Nostalgia causes consumers to place less value on money, meaning they’ll be willing to shell out more cash for merchandise.
Remember to give your staff the proper training to connect with customers and close the deal. “Have a regular review with your team,” Lakind suggests. “Show your employees that they’re measured effectively and transparently, giving them the opportunity to see their success and where they need to improve.”
5. Understand What’s Happening Offline
While technology can be implemented in a customer-facing way, sometimes the best tech is behind the scenes. Dor is one such technology that can help you understand foot traffic and appropriate staffing levels.
“The No. 1 thing impacting conversion rate is staffing appropriately,” Lakind says.
Lakind recommends looking at these metrics on a macro level. “Understand how many people come in versus how many sales are made on a daily view,” he says. “That way, you can see your baseline for the week.” Competing against your own metrics is one of the best ways to measure success.
Reyhle also stresses the value of this technology. “It allows you to understand foot traffic, which translates to [insights for] marketing, staffing, and in-store merchandising,” she says.
Collecting data and merging it with other data points can help you understand where your customers convert and why, and apply those lessons to offline selling tactics. “The path to purchase is no longer linear, and those data points are no longer in one spot,” Reyhle says.
6. Use Self-Checkout
One customer-facing technology that retailers can experiment with is self-checkout. While we’ve seen self-checkout in grocery stores and big-box retailers like Target and Walmart, there are other forms of self-checkout. One such example is mobile self-checkout.
Mobile checkout essentially allows shoppers to pay for in-store purchases on their own smartphone rather than waiting in lines for a traditional checkout experience. Multiple retailers are implementing and testing this transaction method, including WalMart and supermarket chain Waitrose.
If you have a tech-savvy target audience, mobile self-checkout could be worth testing to see if it increases offline conversions. 90% of shoppers use their smartphone in-store, so reaching for a mobile device while shopping is a habit that many have already adopted.
However, be sure that this kind of technology doesn’t create a barrier to purchase. Too much friction can lead to frustration and lost sales.
7. Proximity Marketing
In-store shoppers armed with smartphones open another opportunity for a tech-forward approach to increasing offline conversions. Proximity marketing uses one or a combination of Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and beacon technology to send messages to in-store shoppers on their devices.
It’s proven to be effective: almost three-quarters of shoppers would be more likely to purchase from you after receiving messaging from you via beacon technology. “Location-based marketing ultimately captures a buyer was previously just a browser,” Reyhle says.
8. Test, Learn, Implement, Repeat
One major benefit of technology and data is the ability to test and measure results comparatively. “You’ll be able to use your data and proven insight to understand what’s going to sell through and where your merchandise hot spots are,” Reyhle says. “This is going to come from experience, data, and controlled strategies.”
Whether it’s staff, product displays, store layout, or something else entirely, even the simplest technology in your point-of-sale system provides offline data that you can use to alter the in-person shopping experience.
“Introduce new avenues of merchandising, displays, signage, in-store marketing, special events, and other customer engagement tactics,” Reyhle suggests. “Introduce one test every month to learn more about your customers and improve your future selling.”
9. Create an Immersive In-Store Experience
“Immersive” has been a buzzword around in the retail industry for a while, but for good reason. Today’s customers demand more than great pricing, and in-store shopping must deliver more than just a transactional convenience.
“The merch can’t do it all,” Phibbs says. “People are going to brick-and-mortar looking for the one thing that online can’t give them, and that’s a feeling.”
Immersive means different things. “In-store experiences vary, but the best retailer experience gives consumers a hands-on opportunity,” Reyhle says.
These hands-on experiences with your products can drive offline sales. In fact, many consumers will pay more for your product after trying it.
Reyhle points to an example in Lonetree, CO, where local coffee shop Monk & Mongoose maintains a retail section where customers may purchase beans among other items. “They have the beans ready for you to hold and smell and touch, and they offer sampling spoons for you to pick up the ground coffee,” Reyhle describes. “That engages the customer to buy a to-go pack in addition to their cup of coffee.”
This experiential retail is one major reason why dressing rooms have been around for ages. But many apparel retailers are missing out on this opportunity. Messy fitting rooms with unreasonable item limitations are just a couple of issues retailers can examine. “You go into a fitting room filled with shipping boxes of merchandise, hangers, or old fixtures,” Phibbs says. “The store designer didn’t do that.”
Take a cue from Victoria’s Secret, he suggests. The retailer strategically places some of its top sales associates in the dressing rooms, so they can drive offline conversions in a place where many buying decisions are made.
Immersive can also mean creating an experience outside of the products. Lakind recalls a shopping experience in a boutique where he was greeted with a cupcake and mimosa. “It made me feel really welcome,” Lakind says. Because he and his wife spent so much time in the store, she ended up purchasing an item that she otherwise may not have discovered.
10. In-Store-Only Offers
Incentivizing in-store purchases is perhaps one of the oldest tricks in the book — but it works. “People are engaged by incentives, freebies, buy-one-get-one-free, or gifts with purchase,” Reyhle says.
One study cites that consumers are likely to spend more money when offered incentives and 62% say that incentives would give them a positive perception of a brand. “Give customers a coupon code online so if they come into the store, they get an extra discount,” Lakind says, citing GameStop as an example of a retailer that has used this approach.
Leverage your customer loyalty program to further incentivize offline purchases through extra points or rewards. This helps engage customers that are already connected with your brand, making it easier to close the sale than with a new customer.
11. Host Events
In-store and other offline events are a great way to build buzz and community around your brand — and drive conversions. The types of events you can host are endless. Some can be conversion-oriented, such as your own branded “holiday” (think of Amazon’s Prime Day or Freshpair’s National Underwear Day), or a deal-driven shopping event like REI’s Garage Sale for co-op members.
Events can also be educational, such as a cooking demo that incorporates the pots and pans you sell or a workshop on how to run your first 5k if you sell running shoes. If you can incorporate your products into the demo, that can drive interest and sales. (Consider offering discounts to event attendees to further boost conversions!)
“Deliver an experience beyond just a physical purchase, so you’re delivering an opportunity for customers to get engaged and excited,” Reyhle says. “They’ll remember that, and that’s where they’re going to ultimately spend.
FURTHER READING: To learn more about selling your products at events, read up on how to choose the right sales events for your brand.
12. Reassess Your Product Pricing Strategy
Sometimes, offline conversion rates are low because of something as simple as your pricing strategy. For one, if your online prices are always cheaper than your in-store prices, you may want to look at equalizing the two.
But maybe you don’t sell online, or your in-person pricing is competitive with what’s online. In such cases, it could be a trick picked up from the Journal of Consumer Psychology: Remove dollar signs, commas, and cents from pricing signs. This makes the number appear shorter and less expensive.
When it comes to the layout of your products, consider adding a highly priced item in the mix of some middle-of-the-road products. This may offset the pricing and make the more affordable items appear to be a great deal.
FURTHER READING: Make sure your pricing is on point with our list of 9 strategies to profitably price your products.
Designing Your Space
13. Store Layout
Your store layout essentially determines how customers will move through your physical space. In most cases, customers will turn right upon entering your shop.
Reyhle has a strategy she describes with staples — what customers expect you to sell — and statements — delightful surprises:
“Consider what your staples and statements are. If you were to go to your local grocery store, a staple would be milk, but a statement to that would be eggnog. During the holidays, eggnog is a statement to what would be merchandised by milk, which is always going to be there. Blue denim will always be a staple but white denim might be a statement during the spring.
Consider how you merchandise your store to engage your customer around those staples and statements. A staple is typically at the back of the store for a reason, because it forces the customer to walk by countless other statements in the meantime and ultimately, through a combination of intrigue and merchandising, they’re going to pick up something they never intended to buy.”
You can also use the layout of your space to appeal to impulse buyers. Place inexpensive items near the checkout area and where customers first walk in (especially on the right, considering most will head in that direction upon entering your store).
14. Visual Merchandising
Store layout and visual merchandising go hand-in-hand. Make it easy for shoppers to find exactly what they’re looking for. Reyhle suggests using signage to direct customers to where they need to go, and labeling important areas such as product category or fitting rooms.
Visual merchandising doesn’t necessarily mean untouchable. “One of the biggest problems I hear is somebody will walk into a store and say, ‘I love your store, it’s so pretty’ — like it's a museum,” Phibbs says. “The store is too pretty or doesn’t look like people shop there.”
One example he points out is how many apparel retailers drape jeans a specific way to make it appear as though other customers have been looking through. This can encourage sales.
15. Use Lighting Tricks
The lighting in your store can actually dictate the path your customers take, and it can impact offline conversions in other ways, too. From the fixtures to the hue of the lights themselves, the lighting in your space ultimately creates an experience and affects how customers feel.
“Even having natural light in your store puts people in a better mood,” Lakind points out. “Therefore, they’re more susceptible to positive influence from you, and they’re less skeptical and more easily persuaded.”
16. Take Advantage of Color Psychology
Color can be just as powerful as lighting: 85% of consumers say color is the main reason why they purchase a product. Numerous studies have been conducted about the psychological effects of color, and retailers can use this knowledge to their advantage.
Different colors evoke different emotions and expectations, and they also affect your brand identity. Read more about using color in the retail space and how you can leverage it to drive offline sales.
17. Use Scent Marketing
Again, engaging different senses in the in-person shopping experience can be a strategic way to increase conversions. Appealing to the sense of smell is a tactic that’s long been used by perfume brands, but scent marketing can be effective for other types of retailers too.
Abercrombie & Fitch is notorious for its distinct smell. When their customers are in a mall and they catch a whiff, there’s instant brand recognition. Sandwich company Jimmy John’s markets its “free smells.” Hugo Boss had a custom scent designed that they infuse into all their spaces.
18. Offer Conveniences
Boulder, Colorado-based retailer Rebecca’s Herbal Apothecary & Supply isn’t exactly a kid-friendly space — at first glance. The retailer has a hidden nook in the back of the store where its littler shoppers can escape while parents are browsing the store. In the nook, there are pillows, stuffed animals, toys, and children’s books.
Though the children’s corner isn’t exactly conversion-driven, these types of conveniences can help boost offline sales. Busy parents don’t have to worry about pending tantrums, impatient children waiting in line, or broken products due to curious minds.
Other conveniences could include free Wi-Fi, mobile device charging stations, or refreshments and snacks. Understanding your customer and knowing what will make their shopping experience more convenient will be key to creating these offerings.
Bolstering Your In-Person Conversion Strategy
Although we’ve offered you dozens of ideas here, there are a multitude of ways retailers can upgrade their offline conversions. Try a few of these preceding tactics to help you get started.
Which offline conversion tactics have you tried? What’s worked, and what hasn’t? Share your experiences in the comments below.