You don’t just want footfall, you want the RIGHT kind of footfall

This weekend marked the opening of Ideal Home Show 2011. One of my clients is there, exhibiting in “Ideal Shopping”. It seems that the weekend was immensely busy, but unanimously the exhibitors reported sales that were a fraction of what they were last year. The conversation I’ve just had made me think a bit more about this…

Increasing Footfall and Website traffic – but do higher visitor numbers always translate to higher turnover?

The short answer is NO. Rent-a-crowd doesn’t work. Only an increase in the right kind of visitors, to retail stores or to your ecommerce site, will increase turnover.

Throw enough of the wrong kind of visitors at your retail channels and all you’ll see is a negative impact on your conversion ratio!

This is exactly what was happening at Ideal Home Show this weekend. Let me explain.

Footfall that merely ties up your resources is of no value to you whatsoever…

In the Ideal Home Show magazine this month there was a free ticket to attend the show this weekend. That publication is distributed to about the best part of 250,000 readers. Evidently readers who may have thought twice about attending decided to take advantage of this offer. Many people who otherwise would not have attended (they were not serious buyers) decided that a free ticket made for an entertaining day out…

So, at the weekend the exhibitors, who had spent thousands (maybe in some cases tens of thousands) to have their stand, staffing and materials on display were inundated with visitors. However, sales were not forthcoming. Regulars reported sales being a fraction of last year and yet visitor numbers were up. One stall holder said they felt more like an exhibit in a theme park than a serious retail business presenting an offer to the consumer… The reason was that these visitors were NOT consumers. They were browsing and having a day out with no intent to purchase anything! They were interested passers by – the kind that gaze into your shop window but never cross the threshold into the store. Unfortunately as stand holders can’t instantly tell who is a serious buyer and who is just an observer, the staff were run off their feet and sales were not forthcoming. All round a bit of a depressing weekend!

What needs to happen during the rest of the event to turn around the weekend’s poor performance?

Well obviously stand holders need to increase sales. They are somewhat at the mercy of the visitors attracted by the organisers. That said there are no more “surprises” like 250,000 free tickets waiting to impact the exhibitors so in theory the rest of the footfall will me more akin to what they expect to see – some browsers, lots of serious shoppers!

The exhibitors need to ensure those working on the stands can quickly identify who is a serious buyer vs. who is just an interested passerby. One approach could be to consider the behaviours and questions of those who have purchased from the stand – by identifying what “signals” to watch out for the teams can ensure they approach and spend time with the right kind of visitor. Exhibitors can also think of some “qualification” questions to ask those visiting their stand – the kind that would help them to quickly determine the intent of the person browsing, without appearing rude or dismissive of course!

How can retailers ensure they get the right kind of visitors to their stores and their website to improve, not dilute, their conversion ratio?

The story from the Ideal Home Show is an illustration of how the wrong kind of visitor, be that footfall to stores or visitors to your ecommerce site, can be detrimental to your retail business. Of course retailers usually have more control over the kind of visitors they attract.

Some tips about attracting the right kind of visitors include:

  • Getting your marketing right – driving the right kind of traffic to your channels
  • Getting your pricing, promotions and positioning right for your target market
  • Presenting the ideal range to meet and predict the demands of your target market
  • Making sure the windows, fascia, branding, interior design and visual merchandising are attractive to the right kind of customer
  • Making sure you live up to your service promise and customers keep coming back!
  • And, when it comes to the internet, using search marketing effectively to “filter” potential visitors based on using the kind of language that engages the right visitors and makes you less “findable” to those who aren’t serious buyers…

Whilst the above is not an exhaustive list by any means it should serve to remind retailers that whilst high numbers of the right visitors will lead to increased sales (as long as you have availability of what they want), you may in fact be better off with fewer but higher quality visitors that produce a higher conversion rate such that you can deliver more turnover through fewer transactions. One thing is true, the wrong kind of visitors just dilute your effectiveness as a business and demoralise sales teams!

Happy Retailing 🙂

About Clare Bailey

Clare Bailey, The Retail Champion (formerly Clare Rayner), is one of the most well-known and respected retail experts in the UK. With unrivalled knowledge in retail, high streets and consumer matters, she offers unbiased, independent content – whether engaged as a professional speaker, for broadcast media, or for a written feature. Clare is a business woman, entrepreneur and founder of several small businesses. Having been born into a family of successful business owners, it was inevitable that she’d eventually jump off the corporate treadmill and step out on her own! Today her brand portfolio includes The Retail Champion, The Retail Conference, the Future High Street Summit and the Support for Independent Retail campaign. In addition, she is co-founder of Mobaro Retail UK and a non-exec director of Beed Virtual Assistant Services. Having started her career as a fast-track store management trainee for McDonalds, she went on to work with leading retailers such as M&S, Dixons and Argos. She moved swiftly into management roles before being headhunted into senior consulting roles with global software giant SAP, and international management consulting brand, Accenture. Her corporate background in senior retail, consulting and technology roles, coupled with her experience of creating and running her own business, has enabled her to be equally capable whether consulting to global brands or micro businesses. This unique blend has not only positioned her as a leading expert in all things retail, but has enabled her to add meaningful commentary and insight to the debate around the future of the high street, and, how technology is driving fundamental change in the way consumers, and businesses, interact. Clare has become an influential voice in her field, which has resulted in her becoming a regular media contributor and sought-after conference speaker. Often seen on Good Morning Britain, BBC Breakfast, Sky News, and Chanel 5 (to name a few), Clare speaks on a myriad of retail, high street and consumer issues – but is particular adept when it comes to explaining the context behind retail trading results, newly released data, and government stats, in a palatable and informative manner. In addition to broadcast and conference speaking, Clare is the proud author of two best-selling business books published by Kogan Page - The Retail Champion: 10 Steps to Retail Success, published July 2012 and How to Sell to Retail: The Secrets of Getting Your Product to Market, published February 2013. She has provided contributions to various academic texts, including Retail Marketing Management (published by Pearson). With an engaging, conversational yet informative style, Clare writes for press and content agencies, providing features, articles, blogs and opinion pieces as well as contributions to white papers and reports. However, when the situation demands a more serious style, Clare can deliver - In 2016 she wrote an extensive report for a major insurance and risk law firm, as a retail expert witness, to support a public liability suit. She found that project particularly enjoyable as it played well to her strengths – assimilating large amounts of data and information, identifying the key points and articulating that in an understandable manner. When not on TV or speaking at conferences, Clare’s “day job” sees her supporting consumer-facing businesses through her consultancy services. When asked to describe what she most loves about retail consulting it is typically the opportunity to “dig deep”, getting “under the bonnet”, in order to leverage the business data to uncover the insights that lead to “lightbulb moments”. She also loves working on business change programmes that centre on improving the processes and systems to increase profitability by supporting more rapid, better informed decision making, improving the customer experience, or simply by become more efficient and streamlined. In this respect she considers herself a “business engineer” with a brain that works like a relational database! Due to her years of experience, her logical, objective approach, her quick, rational thinking, she is known for being able to cut through complexity, seeing right through to the crux of issues, finding creative solutions that others may have overlooked. As if all that wasn’t enough, Clare is a working mum, juggling a home life in rural Lincolnshire with her partner, their 5 kids, 4 cats, and geriatric Labrador! For all enquiries, contact Clare directly on 01727 238890 or email
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5 Responses to You don’t just want footfall, you want the RIGHT kind of footfall

  1. This is a brilliant reminder to all businesses – not just retailers – that the only thing that matters is attracting the *right* people. It can be costly both to market to and to deal with those who really are just never going to become customers. Clare, your analysis of the targetting that is required is spot on, yet so many businesses cannot even describe who their target market are. Great blog.

  2. Saiqa Aftab says:

    I worked in a construction consultancy and we project managed huge interior high street fitouts, the key point of the design was visual merchandising in the stall windows to entice the ‘right’ kind of passing trade customer and simultaneously attract the ‘buying’ customer. The client knew their market and the merchandising (be it signage, store layout and design) worked – I think the key point was they had a centre for customer feedback and took on board thoughts and suggestions as well as an in-house design team. Of course it worked to their advantage and together with their product knowledge and partners, they are about the most successful retail outlet. I agree that the right footfall is required rather than phantom superfluous numbers of footfall.

  3. ajay says:

    Quality footfalls is important & retailers have the data to bring back “quality footfalls” from their loyalty programs. I just don’t see a creative enough campaign to drive loyalty though! Loyalty is not only about points!!

    • Clare Rayner says:

      I quite agree Ajay, loyalty rarely has anything to do with points – this is something I explore in the 10-steps to retail success – step 7: customer engagement. Loyalty is about consistently delivering on promised, securing customers’ trust and earning their repeat business. Points are just a nice give-away, but a loyal customer won’t be loyal for points alone!
      Thanks for contributing.

  4. Pingback: Clare Rayner: Marketing Considerations To Increase Footfall | Modern Retail

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