Seven ways small businesses can prepare for increased foot traffic as workers return to the office

Published on May 31, 2022

Seven ways small businesses can prepare for increased foot traffic as workers return to the office

After seemingly endless months of working in home offices and bonus rooms, multiple studies are showing workers are indeed returning to the office. And that’s good news for businesses that rely on foot traffic for their livelihood. While you may be anticipating this acceleration in demand, the challenge is that the continuing trend of flexible hours and hybrid work can make it tricky to determine exactly how many employees will be back and when they’ll be out and about.

Yet despite the uncertainty, it’s the ideal time to re-introduce your business as workers trek back and cultivate new routines. Here are seven ways to attract attention and generate the foot traffic that will lead to a sales boom.

1. Find the right balance of staff

While it has been challenging to find an ample supply of workers, it can be just as delicate to know when to schedule them. After all, demand for early morning java might have slowed to a trickle on certain days with people working later hours or your boutique might be deluged with shoppers during the afternoon as workers take advantage of flexible schedules.

As you ease into your re-opening, take note of traffic patterns by time and day of the week to help inform a more efficient schedule. Another way to ensure sufficient staffing is to cross-train your workers so they can do different jobs based on traffic needs. Not only will they be prepared to provide better customer service, but they’ll likely appreciate the variety and feel more engaged as they build additional skills.

2. Refresh your store to entice passers-by

Whether you’ve been closed for a while or just have had fewer customers to serve, the back-to-work crowd deserves to be wowed by your store. Could your store use a fresh coat of paint or a deep cleaning? Should you rearrange your window display and front-of-store shelves to highlight your most enticing merchandise?

Don’t overlook health and safety protocols, which will remain top of mind for the foreseeable future. Wipe down high-touch areas like door handles and countertops frequently and offer sanitizer as guests approach. Finally, prioritize a welcoming ambience. Remind staff to greet visitors enthusiastically and express appreciation. You want them to be glad they came – and eager to return.

3. Market energetically

Flinging open your doors might not be enough to lure in the crowds. Instead, you want to take advantage of new patterns that are being established so you become part of these new routines.

Remind customers you’re open by refreshing your signage so it’s eye-catching and informative. Showcase products and services that were best sellers in the past and highlight new niches you’ve added. Use a variety of marketing tools to raise awareness, such as email, text and social media posts. Consider a discount or a special gift to encourage repeat business and referrals.

4. Offer your wares to include in companies’ return-to-work enticements

Many companies are pulling out all the stops to bring workers back, and often that includes perks, like meals or gifts. See if your product or service can align with their demographic, then include free delivery or another small bonus for a bulk buy.

While this works especially well with food or beverage purveyors, other merchandise can play a role as organizations provide “desk drops” of special gifts or raffles for workers who return to the office. If you are selected to be part of the welcoming festivities, include a flyer or other marketing material with your merchandise to introduce your store and boost recurring visits.

5. Advertise specials, but selectively

Most consumers are watching their wallets today, given the rise in the cost of everyday staples like food and gas, combined with the shock of having to once again pay parking fees or purchase work necessities like new clothing.

However, most businesses are facing similar inflationary woes so you don’t want to sacrifice profits when you need them most. The key is to use discounts strategically. For example, given ongoing supply chain hiccups, you might have depleted your stock of hot items so don’t discount those…instead create deals on inventory that might have been languishing. You also could assemble bundles of items so your customers feel like they’re getting more bang for their buck yet still avoid a cycle of discounting.

6. Join forces with other local businesses

Sometimes it takes a village to bring customers to your village. Just as many businesses band together for “Small Business Saturday” around the holidays, consider collaborating with your neighbors to spur foot traffic.

Joint marketing can help curb advertising costs and attract more attention than one store alone could. Hold a special shopping day to draw crowds and remind local shoppers you’re open for business, and cross-promote with your fellow local stores to share the wealth. 

7. Keep a positive attitude

Although the pandemic shutdown happened abruptly, unfortunately economic recovery will not happen overnight. You are liable to have good days and bad days as traffic ebbs and flows. But as workers inevitably return to their out-of-home patterns, sales are sure to steadily rise.

Don’t neglect the self-care you need to ensure you are at your best whenever you are interacting with the public. Find the champions among your staff and customers whom you can rely on for a smile and kind word and get ready to conquer the world.

As foot traffic resumes slowly but surely, the small businesses that thoughtfully prepared will be in a position to reap the profits. Now is the time to polish your store and your attitude and be ready to greet those returning customers.

Do you need more tips or advice on helping your small business thrive? Valley’s Learning Center has a wealth of resources that will help you successfully navigate today’s new reality.

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