Business problem turnaround: Dealing with slowing foot traffic

August 2, 2017

A 2016 study reported that the majority of consumers prefer shopping at brick-and-mortar stores. This is music to merchants’ ears, who love bringing customers to their physical location. That’s because foot traffic is essential to a small business owner’s bottom line. When fewer people come through the doors, businesses feel the pinch—often, very quickly.

Retail traffic has declined 10.56 percent year over year from July 2016 to July 2017, according to a Cowen and Company equity research report. Here are several common reasons for slowing foot traffic and how small business owners can overcome them.

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What’s causing the traffic decline: The sales cycle is full of ups and downs, but seasonality seems to be having a bigger impact this year. The slow times feel slower than usual.

The remedy: Having detailed knowledge of how your business is performing is absolutely essential when trying to gauge if a seasonal slowdown is atypical of ones in the past. But what small business owner has time to sift through spreadsheets of sales figures or dig through old computer files looking for charts to compare? Clover Insights, a free app, does all the work, revealing important daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly sales trends. Armed with this knowledge, business owners can compare patterns from year to year and plan in advance to head off any downturns in sales.

What’s causing the traffic decline: VIP customers aren’t popping in as frequently as they used to.

The remedy: Every business is reliant on their regulars to carry them through slow times. If a merchant thinks that they’re only coming irregularly (or spending less than they typically do), Clover Insights provides buying pattern data that she needs to confirm her hunch. The app can further segment these VIPs so you have a better idea who they are (the number of times they’re now visiting, their buying habits) and can market to them more effectively. For instance, are they avoiding your “classic” products and only purchasing trendier items? Reward them with an exclusive offering during their next visit.

What’s causing the traffic decline: Mother Nature is wreaking havoc on your sales.

The remedy: Owners of car service businesses love it when it rains. In contrast, freezing temperatures may keep ice cream cold, but they also keep customers away from ice cream parlors. The free app Thrive (which works on an iPhone) gives business owners the ability to note weather events, holidays, and other things that can have a negative impact on your business, like construction, a road closure or a water main break. Knowing when adverse weather has kept customers home can help you know when to hop on social media or send an offer via email that’s immediately redeemable in an effort to draw out the crowds during a heat wave or a rainy day.

What’s causing the traffic decline: Several businesses immediately surrounding yours have changed and neighborhood dynamics are now different.

The remedy: Numerous factors, including new businesses or attractions nearby, can pull foot traffic away from your location. To get shoppers and diners dropping by your place again, you’ve got to make it a worthwhile detour. Offering everyday deals, like 30 percent off one category of item (shirts at clothing stores, annual plants at a garden center, waxing services at a salon), is a great way to attract customers. For more ideas on how to manage a challenging location, check out Business problem turnaround: Overcoming location woes (without moving).

What’s causing the traffic decline: Nearby merchants appear to be doing stellar business, while your sales continue to slide.

The remedy: As a small business owner, it’s essential to know how you stack up against the opposition. That’s because understanding how your competitors drive business can help you improve your bottom dollar. Check your sales against local businesses in Clover Insights. Are some businesses seemingly slow, but receiving a lot of take-out orders? Does one merchant have a booming online business that you weren’t aware of? Data such as knowing how much the average customer spends or when most of their sales occur can help you develop tactics of your own to fight back.

What’s causing the traffic decline: Your bestsellers are no longer the best, or perhaps aren’t even selling.

The remedy: Shopventory not only pinpoints you what your hot items are, but tracks profit margin by item as well. Know the numerical stats about your top products and strategize on how to increase their sales even more. The free version of the app also keeps detailed record of how many of your bestsellers are in stock (across multiple locations) so that you never run out, disappointing customers. Think that a new product is quickly overtaking an item that’s traditionally been hot or feel like you’ve got several duds on your shelves that are no longer moving? Confirm your suspicions with the app.

What’s causing the traffic decline: Customers aren’t motivated to visit your business.

The remedy: An incentive will give all shoppers and former regulars a time-sensitive reason to walk through your doors. Promos, a free app in the Clover App Market that is available for all models of Clover, does exactly what its name infers: It sends promos in real-time to consumers via text message, email, or the Perka app. It fully integrates with a small business’s social media channels as well, enabling an owner to post a promotion to the various platforms in just one click. To utilize the app even further, subscribe to Customer Feedback Plus and gain the ability to target former regulars and transform them into VIPs once again.

[image: Without Marketing by Tim Hodges on flickr]

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