7 Ideas To Bring Customers Into Your Store in 2022

retail employee scanning product at checkout

Retail store foot traffic is rebounding, but physical retail has been forever changed. After a year of online shopping, customers are eager to return to physical stores—but their expectations will likely be altered. 

With the habit of online shopping cemented in place, customers are now going back into physical stores expecting an even more personalized and engaging experience. 

Online shopping allows retailers to offer an easy, fast, often tailor-made experience—which they’ve come to accept as the norm. The result is that physical stores can no longer offer the bare minimum to in-store shoppers.

Instead, buyers now need a compelling reason to make the trek to a brick-and-mortar store. Otherwise, those customers can get the job done online in just a few clicks.

  • The good news: Consumers are starting to go back to physical stores, and retail sales are expected to grow between 10.5% and 13.5% to an estimated total of about $4.5 trillion in 2021, according to the National Retail Federation.
  • The better news: In-store sales have not only rebounded but have exceeded pre-pandemic levels. Data from The NPD Group shows that recent physical store sales are up $400 million over two years ago.
  • The best news: We’re entering a new era for physical retail stores, and in-person shopping offers real-life touch-and-feel experiences that build deep customer relationships (and simply can’t be replicated online).

Years have passed, technology has evolved, and a pandemic happened. The fierce competition in the digital world has boosted customer acquisition costs, pushing them closer and closer to the cost of rent for a physical retail presence. As a result, we’ve witnessed more direct-to-consumer brands opening stores in 2021

This begs the question: How can retailers drive consistent walk-ins to and sales from their brick-and-mortar stores?

We asked seven local business owners to share their best tips. Here’s what they said.

1. Invest in store design

People are drawn to well-designed spaces, and as such, brick-and-mortar store owners are investing in thoughtful, memorable design when it comes to their stores. From hiring interior designers to introducing engaging visual merchandising, there are many ways to elevate the in-store experience.

When retailers achieve a strong brand image paired with impeccable design, they win. Effective store design can lead to a sales increase of up to 40%

This includes store lighting (which impacts more than just store ambiance). Lighting shapes how customers feel—consciously and subconsciously—and impacts the overall customer experience. According to one study, a fashion retailer in Germany saw its sales go up by around 12% compared to another local store after it installed a new lighting scheme.

In-store lighting can actually help create an atmosphere and guide customers through your store. This is exactly what July, a luggage and travel accessories brand, achieved using thoughtful store lighting. 

“Our thing is using design as a pull to the store. The interior architects we use to design the store create beautiful spaces that people want to be in. One of the key things is lighting design: those bright lights when you go into places just feel awkward. We like to think that we’re designing retail experiences people feel comfortable walking into. If they feel comfortable walking in, they’ll feel comfortable asking questions, and then everything else is a bonus after that.” —Athan Didaskalou, Co-Founder & Chief Strategy Officer at July

FURTHER READING: July relies on Shopify to use their physical retail stores as a research feedback loop. Check out July Luggage Flies Towards a Single View of Its Customers to learn how they do it.

2. Create community hubs

If there’s one thing the pandemic has taught us, it’s that humans are social beings. We love socializing, meeting new people, and gathering with friends and family. In other words, we need that sense of belonging—to a group, to a place, to a community. An MIT study shows that interactions with other people light up the same region of our brains as food does. 

And as we’re wired to strive to be part of something, businesses that can build a community around their brand can expect higher foot traffic. The “store as a community hub” model enables merchants to interact with their customers on a regular basis to educate, gather feedback, share experiences, host events, and launch new products. 

Increase store foot traffic with Shopify

Shopify POS comes with built-in tools to bring more online shoppers to your store. Manage your Google Merchant Center listing without leaving your point of sale, show each product’s availability across all store locations, offer in-store pickup, and more.

Athleisure brand Gym+Coffee recognized this opportunity and used its stores as hubs for community gatherings. Even though the pandemic prevented it from hosting that community-first experience for a few months, as soon as things started moving back to normal, Gym+Coffee began hosting a running group from each of its eight clubhouses in the UK and Ireland every Sunday morning.

“Our overall store strategy is to develop them as community hubs. We call our stores 'clubhouses' because we want them to be a meeting place for our community in that local area. From our clubhouses, we host panel events, yoga classes, podcast recordings, skincare masterclasses, zumba classes, spin classes, doggy day care meetups—yes, you heard right—and, of course, running groups. This does such a great job of bringing people together and also introducing a new audience to our clubhouse locations.” —Diarmuid McSweeney, Co-Founder and Chief Marketing & Community Officer at Gym+Coffee

Another brand that leverages the power of community via physical stores is Faherty. The family-owned clothing business has retail sustainability and community at the core of everything it does. As part of this, it hosts an in-store event series called Sun Sessions that brings together people through concerts, workshops, dinners, and more.

“As a family-owned and -run business, Faherty’s goal is to have the communities the brand touches become an extension of the Faherty family—from partners to customers to employees. Through a range of partnerships and events, we strive to learn, grow and continue finding new ways to do better in our communities. Sun Sessions brings together Faherty’s local communities through virtual and in-person concerts, workshops, dinners, speaker series, candid conversations, meditations, and more. By turning our stores and retail locations into welcoming spaces, we are providing our customers and communities the opportunity to share stories, uplift their voices, inspire creativity, and foster connections.” —Kerry Docherty, Co-Founder & Chief Impact Officer at Faherty

3. Offer gift customization and personalization 

As reported by the New York Post, 62% of Americans prefer gifts that come from the heart and feel more personal. Adding gift customization services in-store can be a draw for customers who want to buy something special for their loved ones. 

Sequoia Soaps is a local Quebec-based brand that does this well. Along with offering handmade soaps and skincare products, it also offers gift customization to attract more visitors in-store. In-store shoppers can build their own gift baskets and mix and match products to create the perfect personalized gift. 

“We’ve found great success with our custom gift packaging. We offer a variety of gift sets online, but in-store, we offer custom gift baskets where a customer can come in and select any combination of products. Customers love putting these together, and it adds that extra personal touch to the gift.” —Michaelee Lazore, Founder of Sequoia Soaps

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Use Shopify’s customer profiles to get a complete view of your customers. Collect contact information, see what they buy online and in-store, how many orders they’ve placed, which channels they prefer, add notes to their profile, and more.

4. Make stores a sensory experience

If your in-store experience doesn’t activate all five senses—you could be missing out. Creating a multi-sensory atmosphere elevates the buyer’s journey, ultimately resulting in increased sales.

A behavioral study from Mood Media found that when sensory marketing was applied, sales increased by 10%. Another interesting finding is that shoppers spent almost six minutes longer in-store when their senses were activated. 

Chicago French Press is a coffee destination where customers can buy freshly roasted ready-to-drink coffee. The founder, Kris Christian, says that in order to create stores that tap all of shoppers’ five senses, these are some of the questions merchants should ask themselves:

  • How will the customer be greeted?
  • Does your store feel open and inviting?
  • Does the music at your store create a positive vibe?
  • Is there a certain scent that attracts your target customer?
  • If you’re not already in the food and beverage industry, is there a special treat that customers can nibble on while shopping? (Maybe a branded mint or cookie?)
  • What incentives can you create for new customers to return as they exit? (Think samples, discounts, rewards programs, etc.)

“The most traveled-to destinations are those that the visitor never forgets. When I first opened Chicago French Press, creating a company vibe was very important, which encompassed small efforts that created a big wave with our customers: warm and inviting employees, a clean and fresh aesthetic, aromatic atmosphere, branded coffee ice cubes, and a nostalgic classic soul playlist. A memorable experience that entices every sense can forge an addictive culture that customers don’t want to miss out on.” —Kris Christian, Founder & CEO of Chicago French Press

5. Leverage one-to-one interactions

While many things have changed in the world of retail, one thing remains constant: customer experience can make or break your business.

Data shows that 93% of customers are more likely to make repeat purchases with brands that offer excellent customer service. But brick-and-mortar retailers have one significant advantage in customer service: the chance to offer one-to-one human interactions. 

Customers want undivided attention and personalized advice when shopping. The result is often on-the-spot purchasing. Nearly half of shoppers surveyed (49%) have made impulse purchases after receiving a more personalized experience. 

One example of this can be seen with Giselle Wasfie, the founder of REMIX Lifestyle, who came up with the concept of Elevated Acupuncture.

Giselle provides customers with the ultimate multi-sensory healing experience that begins the moment they walk through the REMIX doors. What’s being offered in-store is far more than acupuncture services and retail products—it’s an overall experience and one-to-one attention given to each visitor during his or her visit.

“One of the REMIX core values at our wellness studio is one-on-one attention. So we’ve made our retail shop a personalized experience that doesn’t feel overwhelming.” —Giselle Wasfie, Founder of REMIX Acupuncture and Integrative Health