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The Best Ways To Drive Retail Foot Traffic Using Digital Marketing

Updated: Mar 17, 2021

Increasing in-store foot traffic is a challenge nearly every retailer faces. This can be made even more difficult in highly competitive markets or when your location is off the beaten path.

Traditional ads in newspapers, on billboards, or in coupon magazines have been a mainstay with local retailers. The problem is that they use a spray and pray approach. Only a small percentage of people who see those ads will actually be interested and only a percentage of those users will ever come into your store. This results in a lot of wasted time and money.

Local digital ads, on the other hand, have the unique ability to reach just the right people, in just the right place, at just the right time. Most importantly, digital ads can be tracked and measured so you know exactly how many people that saw your ads came into your store.

Here are the five local digital ad campaign tactics that we've found to provide the greatest results and minimize wasted spend.

1. Competitive Geo-Fencing Ads

What better way to find new customers than to reach individuals who shop at your competitor's locations. For example, a new coffee shop could reach people who commonly visit other locally-owned coffee shops as well as Starbucks and Caribou Coffee.

There are some amazing platforms such as Reveal Mobile and Demand Local that use geolocation tracking tools to identify each person who has visited your competitor's specific locations. You're then able to use these audiences on a number of different platforms to serve ads such as Facebook and LinkedIn or a handful of DSPs.

The options for this type of geo-fencing are endless. You can collect an audience of any location you can think of that would be interested in coming to your retail location. We've done this in the past to help a dog groomer reach shoppers at big-box pet food stores and dog parks, a health food store target people visiting nearby gyms, and even help a campus restaurant reach people who had attended the big game at a nearby stadium.

Not only can you reach these people with extremely relevant ads, but you can also track exactly how many people who saw your ads then came into your store by setting your location as a "conversion". Yes, you can actually measure the impact of these ads. Combine these tactics with an in-store promotion code or offer and you can even tie this foot traffic to sales and measure your true return on investment.

2. Past Shopper Retargeting Ads

One of the most cost-effective tactics is to turn one-time customers into frequent shoppers. Using the same geo-location tactics we can build an audience of your own shoppers and encourage them to shop again by showing them new products, seasonal offers, or loyalty promotions.

Shopper Retargeting Movie Theater Ad

This is a highly effective tactic for movie theaters, concert venues, and other locations that rely on frequent and repeated foot traffic.

Time and time again we've found that it's far easier and cheaper to get past customers to shop again than it is to attract new customers. This is especially true if you're located in a highly competitive market and already have a relatively healthy volume of regular traffic through your doors.

3. Vehicle Navigation Ads

Platforms such as Waze have turned into powerful advertising tools that display digital "billboards" to users.

Waze will display a Takeover ad if a person is using Waze to navigate around town and they happen to stop at a red light or at any point during their trip for greater than three seconds. This can be a great way to reach on-the-go travelers stuck in traffic with highly relevant messages. The call-to-action options send them to your website, prompts them to redeem an in-store offer, or even give them the option to reroute to your location.

Waze Banner Ad

Google Maps and Waze also offer Promoted Pins that show branded icons at a retailer's locations. This is a more subtle way to drive in-store foot traffic. This option is best for retailers that already have broad awareness in their markets.

We've used vehicle navigation ads in the past to help a burger shop promote their daily specials to frequent fast foodies, a drive-thru coffee stand attract rush hour traffic, and send people in to visit a local gym which was offering free enrollment for a month.

4. Search Ads on Maps

There is almost no better time to show an ad than when a user searches within Google Maps for a specific category or type of store, such as a gas station or coffee shop. The user is telling you in that moment what they're looking for and you have a perfect opportunity to drive them to your store.

Waze Search Ad

Google Maps, Waze, and other platforms allow you to buy ads based on what users are searching for. Most of the time you're only allowed to show ads for a category or type store and not a specific brand name. You can't, for example, specifically choose to show an ad when a user searches for your competitor.

Sometimes more importantly, these ads allow you to protect against a competitor appearing at the top of the page when someone searches for your store by name. Even though the platforms won't allow you to bid on a brand name, if you're not advertising on the platform it may show your competitor's ads when someone searches for your name. For example, if McDonalds is bidding to show ads for people searching for coffee shops in Google Maps but Dunkin' Donuts is not then it's possible that Google will show a McDonalds ad at the top of the results even if a user searches specifically for Dunkin'. This isn't common but certainly worth considering if you're in a highly competitive market.

We've used seach ads on maps to help a local coffee chain drive foot traffic to their newly opened locations, an auto repair shop promote 24/7 towing and roadside support, and ensure that a pizza place could compete with the the household names in an extremely competitive market.

5. Google My Business Listings

Your retail location may already be listed on Google Maps but the information provided may be incorrect and incomplete unless you claim your listing. Additionally, some of the other tactics outlined here such as Google Maps ads and Google Search Location Extentions aren't possible unless you've claimed your Google My Business Listing.

Claiming your Google My Business listing is extremely simple. Search for your store by name and include the location - if your store is listed but unclaimed then you'll see a "Own this business?" link. Follow the steps to easily claim your business and start updating your listing with photos, hours, contact information, and much more.

Claim Your Google My Business Listing

If your business was claimed by someone other than yourself then you can request ownership from Google. It's a bit of a process but certainly worth it so that you can provide accurate information for people looking to visit your store.

If your business is not yet listed on Google Maps then you can head over to to start creating your listing right away.

6. Paid Search Location Extensions

Paid search ads are one the most relevant advertising options for local businesses. Your ad appears only when someone searches Google for keywords that you select. These ads are a goldmine for driving incremental foot traffic.

Once your Google My Business listing is claimed you can connect your paid search ads to your business listing and start showing location information directly on your ad. Users can click the address and immediately be given directions to your store. The store information that appears is based on the user's current location which makes integrating these extensions extremely easy for businesses with multiple locations.

Google Location Extension

This one is a no-brainer as there are no additional costs if you're already running paid search ads. We've found that adding these location extensions significantly improves the overall clickthrough rate, can lower your cost per click, and may result in increasing your impressions.

7. Weather-Triggered Ads

Current weather impacts just about everything from your mood and what food sounds good to traffic conditions and what home emergencies might pop up like a flooded basement.

Weather Triggered Ads

That's why it's so important to ensure that your ads reflect current weather wherever possible when it makes the most sense. This tactic won't be a great fit for every store but you would be surprised with the applications that we've seen perform in the past.

Most importantly, this tactic will help maximize performance, limit wasted spend and show potential customers that you have exactly what they're looking for in that moment. These little touches, even in your ads, can help make the difference.

We've used this in the past to help a hotel book travelers stuck with canceled flights at a nearby airport, a restaurant change their ads from ice cream on sunny days to meal baskets on rainy days, and increase visibility for a local plumber as frantic homeowners were searching online for someone to fix their burst pipes during a sudden cold snap.

8. Create an Information Rich Landing Page Experience

Most local digital advertising campaigns will require a landing page for users looking to learn more before they get directions and head into your store. The landing page experience you provide can mean the difference between turning someone away and gaining a loyal customer.

We've all had that unfortunate experience where you're looking up somewhere to eat, you get excited about a place, then immediately get turned off when you go to their website to look at the menu. This happens all the time for retail stores in every industry.

Every local ad campaign should be paired with a well-designed, information-rich, and user-friendly landing page. The good news is that this doesn't mean having to pay a web developer thousands of dollars to revamp your website. Tools such as Instapage, Unbounce, and Leadpages offer drag and drop editors that can be seamlessly integrated with your current website.

At a minimum, these pages should include your store location, phone number, contact information, hours, and an easy way for users to get directions. The landing page should also include helpful details if you're highlighting an offer or promotion in your ads. Restate the offer code, instructions, and expiration. The goal is to make it as easy as possible for the user to visit your store and provide them with a reason to visit right now.

We've used custom-built foot traffic generation landing pages to help a chain of coffee shops promote individual store offers, directions, and location information, a hotel more easily track ROI of their campaigns and create a custom experience separate from the parent company's website, and make pre-sale ticket signups a breeze for a local music venue with a big upcoming show.

9. Create and Promote Facebook Offers

Anyone with a Facebook page for their business can easily create custom offers that can be redeemed online or in-store. The in-store redemption option is great for local businesses looking to drive incremental foot traffic.

The catch is that your offer has to be worth it for the customer. Typically this works best with past customers and current Facebook followers. Start by reaching those audiences and then branch out to prospecting new customers if the offer is being well received.

The bigger challenge is getting the message out there for enough people to see. Facebook is a pay-to-play platform so most organic posts and even offers will go relatively unnoticed unless they're supported with advertising dollars.

Of course, Facebook makes this extremely easy to do on their platform with their "boost" option. Selecting the correct targeting options is the most important element here to ensure that you're showing only to those people most likely to redeem the offer and visit your store.

As a best practice, we recommend offers be something along the lines of 20% off burgers this weekend only. This has a significant enough discount, it's featuring a top-selling product and it has a clear expiration. Some might be worried about discounting a top-seller but this is a mechanism to get foot-traffic in the door as their likely to buy more than just a burger. The expiration is key to drive urgency. People need to come in this weekend or they'll miss out on the offer.

Lastly, don't provide offers too frequently. This encourages customers to wait until there is an offer to come into the store. We've found that once per month is about as frequent as most retailers will want to offer promotional pricing.

10. Build Awareness Using CTV and OTT Video Ads

Not every retail store has a steady stream of existing customers. And, new stores need a cost-effective and measurable way to get the word out. Before employing some of the other tactics on this list you'll want to build some solid awareness. It's less likely that someone is going to click a paid search ad or even a highly relevant weather-triggered ad if they've never heard of your store.

Connected TV (CTV) and over-the-top (OTT) ads are one of the fastest-growing digital marketing offerings because they create significant awareness and have a number of advantages over traditional TV commercials. These video ads appear in places like Hulu, YouTube TV, DirecTV Now on computers or smartphones and on Chromecast, Roku, and other Internet-connected streaming devices.

Unlike traditional TV commercial ad buys, CTV/OTT ads can be targeted to a specific audience, you can track conversions, and you can start or stop them whenever you would like. And, because some of these ads include a clickable call-to-action, you're actually able to measure clickthrough rate, cost per click, conversions, on-site engagement, and traffic quality.

One of the biggest advantages of CTV/OTT ads is that you can target using addressable geo-fencing as opposed to reaching everyone within a city or DMA. For example, a high-end boutique store may only want to reach individuals with disposable income and they find these people are more likely to live in homes in a specific area of town. With addressable geofencing you can pick specific houses that will receive your ads and thereby avoid wasting spend on users no likely to turn into in-store foot traffic.

Having multiple locations and wanting to control store-level offers is another use for addressable geo-fencing. You can show one ad to one neighborhood and drive them to location A and then show a different ad to another neighborhood and drive them to location B.

While it's more difficult to track in-store foot traffic driven by CTV/OTT ads there are a number of options to help tie everything together. First, you can track how many users went to your landing page and clicked to get directions. Second, you can provide a custom discount code on your landing page specific to these ads. And, lastly, if you have multiple locations you can run a segmented market test to determine if running these ads increases foot traffic over the same time period. You'll want to be careful about how you run these tests to ensure you're getting true learnings, but most platforms can help provide additional details necessary to have sound results.

There are countless ways, both organically and paid, to increase retail foot traffic to fit on one list. These are simply the top ten that we've found create the greatest lift in same-store foot traffic and sales.

Have an idea of your own or want to discuss having us work on your campaign? Let us know in the comments below or contact our team directly to get started.


Digital Marketing Agency Black Workspace

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