What Drives Customer Traffic to Your Store?

The other day, I was sitting amongst a group of grizzled retail veterans discussing the fact that driving customer traffic today in no way resembles what drove your customer traffic say, 3 years ago. Although we agreed on the problem, we couldn’t agree on any one solution to get the flow of traffic back in the black.

As recently as 3 years ago radio advertising that broke through the white noise usually meant that an audience of customers heard your message and were soon coming to your store (physical or internet based), ready to do business. In the last 3 years, that reality has changed dramatically. This change, of course, is the result of all of the media options available to us. My kids have iPods, my friends have satellite radio in their cars and my wife loves her Jason Mraz CD. These are just a few of the reasons why today, driving customer traffic is a lot like attracting sharks and getting them to bite (no offense to our target audiences). Here is what I mean by that…

John’s “Shark Theory”

Not long ago I was watching a “Shark Week” program on Discovery Channel. On this particular program the scientists were trying to get sharks to feed. Seems like an easy task, but there’s more to these creatures than simple, mindless consuming… much like there’s more to this economy’s human consumers.

The scientists wanted to test different stimulus, long thought to provoke a feeding frenzy in sharks. The experiment consisted of 4 steps of stimuli (5 steps of stimuli if you consider the other sharks in the water as a source of stimulus) progressively added to the test…

1. Sounds like a fish: a rubber fish cut out on the end of a stick being splashed about in the ocean, inside of a funnel in order to obstruct the shark’s vision = mild curiosity, but no attack.

2. Looks like a fish: this time, no funnel to obstruct the shark’s vision = still, no attack.

3. Smells like a fish: Blood was added to the mix = closer inspections, but no nibbles.

4. Feels like a fish: Finally, an electrical current simulating the electrical field generated by a real fish in distress = more interest and an occasional bump of the cut out fish.

Maybe #5: Other sharks, seemingly interested in all of the commotion and stimulus = finally, sharks begin to try to feed on a rubber cut out.

So, what happened?

Although the sharks were curious about what was going on and investigated the situation, the scientists discovered that the sharks were not prone to attacks when only one, two or even three of the stimuli were presented (seems you can lead a fish to food, but you can’t make it eat). In fact, one scientist went so far as to say that the limited motivation they provided wasn’t enough to break through all of the “white noise” in the shark’s environment (things that make you go “hmmm”).

The “Aha” moment

Over the years, this particular group of execs had had tons of success driving traffic by placing innovative ads on popular radio stations. However, recently the amount of foot traffic to their stores, as well as their brand recognition had dropped dramatically. No longer could they use one channel for driving traffic. Now, they had to go everywhere past and future customers might be and blend a variety of media to stimulate interest.

For you to improve your level of customer traffic, you need to find out where the customers are and then apply a multiple vehicle media strategy to get to them. You can’t just rely on one format, and you can’t rely on the same media you’ve been using for years. Today’s customer spends their time in different places than in the past… you’ve got to stimulate the shark to eat.

Once you’ve succeeded in increasing your customer traffic, you have to make sure you have the right people in place to represent and deliver your brand’s promise, but that’s for another blog.

Please let me know yuor thoughts on this edition and the types of topics you’d like to see in the future. Oh yes, and don’t forget to visit and recommend www.cordovaconsultants.com.

– Your Partner in running your “Store as a Sales Machine,” John Cordova