Small retailers may eye e-commerce,but brick-and-mortar retail locations still bring in the bulk of the revenue.
Online shopping may have boomed in recent years, but according to the United States Census Bureau, fewer than 6 percent of purchases were made online in 2013. Brick-and-mortar locations are still king, so small business owners need to make sure their storefrontsstand out for all the right reasons, says Danaria Farris McCoy.
As general manager of Freedom Crossing at Fort Bliss in Texas—the first privately operated open-air shopping center on a U.S. military base—and marketing director for ServiceStar Development Company in Greenwood Village, Colo., McCoy has seen many successful and unsuccessful storefronts, ranging from local retailers to restaurants. Here, she offers advice to small business owners on how to attract customers with their storefronts.
Do your research.
It’s easy to get caught up in ideas on paper or online, but how much time have you actually spent observing your business? McCoy recommends standing outside your store for a day and watching your potential customers. Take notes on if they notice your signage and where their eyes go when passing by or looking at your store. Once they walk inside the store, note the areas they check out first. Then, do the same at the locations of your two biggest competitors and create a spreadsheet of the differences. This will show you what good ideas you can implement in your own business.
Keep it legal.
Before you splurge on any new storefront materials, complete the due diligence with your landlord and/or the city to find out if what you propose is permissible. “The best way to eliminate confusion,” says McCoy, “is to show a detailed plan and ask for feedback.” If you own your building, show the plans to your city’s planning, zoning, building and code enforcement department. If you lease your business location, check with both your landlord and lease agreement and the city for applicable guidelines.
Remember, less is more.
“The old adage couldn’t be more applicable to a storefront,” McCoy says. “Competing for attention does not mean filling up every inch of glass. The simplest designs almost always get the most effective attention.” In most cases, passersby should be able to clearly see into your store.
As you design or modify your storefront, McCoy recommends keeping the acronym SLICK in mind. Signage, lighting, imagery, and color should be welcoming and reflect your brand. Also, your storefront should always be well-kempt—the K in SLICK. “The cleanliness of your storefront speaks directly to the quality of your business,” McCoy says.
According to the Mobile Future Institute, cell phone penetration in the United States is 106 percent, which means there are more phones than people—many of whom use their phones to research your business. “Your storefront now extends far beyond your front door,” McCoy says. She recommends that business owners regularly check Yelp reviews, Google Maps and directory information to ensure that details such as store hours are accurate.
Also, consider using your storefront to promote your Facebook page or website, either with signage or new augmented reality technologies such as Layar. This technology allows small business owners to blur real storefronts with computer-generated images. The results can be rather surprising for shoppers.