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How small businesses can attract in-person visitors once more

Research by McKinsey revealed that customers still crave a return to out-of-home activities, but online retail will continue to be their comfort zone.

With vaccination availability increasing countrywide, owners—specifically small business owners—need to refocus their efforts on bringing shoppers back into stores. And with this being Get to Know Your Customers Day, it’s an opportune time to explore that topic.

Here are some tips other business leaders and entrepreneurs think can effectively boost in-store traffic in the coming months:

1. Focus on personalization. It no longer makes sense to target personas and demographics—it’s best to market toward people.

To do this, Inspira Marketing Chief Inspiration Officer Jeff Snyder believes companies need to personalize outreach to appeal to consumers’ desire to invest in a company’s products and its values.

“Marketing is no longer transactional; it’s relationship-building,” Snyder said. “Marketers need to demonstrate long-term value and strengthen brand loyalty. Today, consumers have unlimited choices at their fingertips, so the experience they have with your brand must be as personalized as possible.”

According to data from Forrester Research, 36% of shoppers wish brands prioritized personalization more. Focus on individual customers by initiating a two-way dialogue throughout the buyer journey. Bring this mindset into stores to get customers excited about in-person interactions.

2. Make authenticity a priority. Brands spent the past year preaching authenticity through a flood of customer emails, digital ads, and other from-a-distance tactics. In TBGA CEO Christine Alemany’s opinion, businesses need to bring that same energy to in-person interactions. According to Stackla, 86% of shoppers value authenticity in their brands of choice.

“If your business can give customers the ability to connect with your brand by being open and vulnerable—and by seeing them as people instead of dollar signs—you will provide them with something to look forward to when visiting your store in person,” Alemany said.

Ask questions and incorporate that feedback into your in-store experience. It’ll show your commitment to being a brand that values buyer preferences.

3. Align innovation with intent. Businesses get caught up in implementing solutions before finding out how they’ll benefit buyers. As customers come back to stores, try to link technology with purpose.

“It’s important for businesses to remember that, while the tools now available to consumers to navigate their shopping journey have evolved dramatically, the underlying motivations for that journey have never changed,” said DeAnn Campbell, former Harbor Retail’s VP of retail strategy and insights.

To connect innovation and intent, businesses can pair in-person with digital approaches to ramp up interactions with customers and ease the transition back into stores. Think pop-up-style events centered around lifestyle. This approach keeps some distance while bringing out-of-box, engaging interactions to stores.

4. Tap into senses and sensibilities. Customers are happy to get out from behind their screens and in front of people. To that end, Verdania Fields co-founder Pamela Moffat thinks in-person experiences that engage multiple senses will resonate.

“After a year of limited contact, a balance of safety and sensuality is needed,” Moffat said. “(That includes) using outdoor spaces where possible, continuing to require masks in stores, but also making room for celebration and excitement.”

Create an enhanced customer experience by elevating your environment with locally made decor, playing music, and using flowers for visual cheeriness. These touches can help cultivate an immersive in-store vibe.

5. Add mobile to the in-store journey. Mobile technology is a tool numerous brands leverage. About 71% of marketers call it core to their outreach efforts, meaning small businesses need it as another touchpoint to help bring customers who are unsure about in-person shopping back to stores.

“Engaging customers through either a mobile phone or television screen should be a key aspect for local businesses, even as more people start to go out more,” said Simon Bray, CEO of Streaming Television Inc.

Businesses can create excitement around their brands by creating short-form videos that spotlight their products and key features while addressing consumers’ worries and desires. Leaders should also review their mobile engagement to make sure it reflects current services while showing they’re willing and ready to reconnect with consumers.

It feels a bit foreign after more than a year of isolation and social distancing, but it’s clear we want to meet people again and have in-person experiences with the brands we love. Small businesses must take the time now to decide how they’re going to welcome consumers back into their not-so-metaphorical arms.

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This article was written by Rhett Power from Forbes and was legally licensed through the Industry Dive publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@industrydive.com.

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