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How do I convert online traffic to footfall?

8 minute read

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Some people think that online marketing has little effect on driving offline footfall to small businesses, but the very opposite is true, especially as customers increasingly search online before purchasing. There are plenty of things small business owners – e.g. retailers, restaurants, and pop-up food shops – can do online to encourage customers to visit them in-person.

In today’s video I answer the question how do I convert online traffic to footfall, asked by Katie at Cultivate Oxford, and I look at five things all small businesses can do. These are summarised below:

1. Include good, up-to-date store information including location, parking, disabled access, events (if relevant) and photography.

2. Offer click-and-collect services where customers can pay for products online and collect in-store.

3. Start thinking about local SEO so customers searching for your product in the right location can find your business.

4. Look into Google’s paid advertising, Google AdWords.

5. Utilise your business social media accounts to connect online and offline customers including sharing behind the scenes footage, event photography, and offers.

Video Transcript
♪ [music] ♪ Hello, and welcome to The UK Domain. Today’s question is from Katie from Cultivate Oxford who asks, “How do I convert online traffic to footfall?”.

So it’s a common misconception, I think, with lots of small business owners and particularly high street shop owners, who feel that online marketing has little impact on the amounts of offline traffic they can get to the shop. Well, the complete reverse is true. The vast majority of customers, and consumers and shoppers, they search online before they make a purchase.

So what I’ve done today, I’ve highlighted five key areas that any small business owner can look into. Most of these are very, very easy to set up. They require little technical knowledge. The only one that may require you speaking to someone who’s had experience in this area before is AdWords, but Google makes it very, very easy. But I’ll come onto that in just a bit.

So step number one and this is probably the single most important thing that you should do with your website is to include good up-to-date store information. Like I said, a vast majority of shoppers will search online to find a particular product or service local to them. When they find your website or a competitor’s website, naturally, they’re going to see who you are and what you do, but the most common bits of information they’re going to look for is, first of all, where you are.

So make sure you have a map. Now, it’s super, super easy to have an instructive map on your website, just use Google Maps, you can choose a coordinate, you can choose a pin of where your location is. That way customers can actually get driving directions to your shop. Make sure to include transports and parking information. Too many high streets either don’t allow cars or have a one way system, so it’s very, very important to ensure that people know how to get you and where they can park. Also make sure that you include information about, you know, disabled access to your shop and mobility information. This one is only relevant if this is the kind of marketing activity that you do. But a lot of businesses run events in their shop. And we’ll kind of come onto this when we talk about social media, but events are a fantastic way to get people to your shop. You’re giving people an incentive. So again, make sure you have a calendar with up-to-date information, so people can see what’s going on.

And very last of all, photography. Photography is really, really important because if you don’t include photographs of your shop, the only way people are going to kind of get that information is from whatever Google happened to randomly pick from, essentially from Street View, when they do the car that kind of goes around the towns. So up-to-date photography would show people what your shop’s about. They can also see that, you know, where it’s located, so it’s easy to spot when they go to find to you.

So this is an area which will only apply to certain types of high street business, but click and collect. So you’ll have seen this before with larger retailers, like Argos for example, where you can pay for your product online, and you reserve it and you go and collect it from the shop later. Now, a lot of small businesses are starting to do this themselves and depending on how you built your website, you may have used Shopify, or WooCommerce, or WordPress, whatever system that you’re using, most of these e-commerce platforms actually allow people to buy a product but reserve it rather than you having to, you know, post it to them. So that’s one option.

The reason this is fantastic is that you’re really giving people an incentive to go to your shop. You know, people don’t mind collecting locally, but what they do mind is inconvenience. So make it as easy for your customers as possible. Another alternative, and again, you’d have to kind of weigh up the pros and cons of this depending on what kind of shop that you’re running, is offering click and collect for other retailers. So for example, lot of newsagents will be a pick-up point for Amazon products, for example. Now you may think, “Well, why on earth would I want, you know, to kind of allow customers to pick up products from a different shop?” Well, if you’re a collection point, people are going to be walking in and out of your shop all day. Now, if you’re offering a product that’s different from the products offered by the retailer, that can be a fantastic way of actually getting people into your shop. So this is connected to the point I made at the very beginning, local SEO.

People are searching online for your product and local SEO is essential to make sure that you are showing ahead of your competitors. At a very basic level, make sure that the information that you include on your website and elsewhere, like social media, for example, is up-to-date. Make sure that the opening hours are correct. Make sure that you’ve got the most up-to-date address. Any information that you include, make sure that it’s up-to-date as possible. Google My Business and Bing Places.

So when you do a Google search and you’re looking for a local business, also you’ll get the normal, kind of, search results that you see all the time, but you’ll also see businesses placed on a map. So those are Google My Business and Google Maps listings. If you want your business to appear there, and this includes the little reviews as well next to them, you need to create an account on Google My Business. It’s free. It’s super easy to get set up and actually if any of you are listening who don’t have a website, Google My Business does actually allow you to make a really, really basic website when you set up an account. Same goes for Bing Places, it’s Bing’s version of Google My Business. It’s easy to set up. It doesn’t take a lot of time. So even if only a small percentage of your customers are using Bing, it’s still kind of worthwhile doing.

This is probably, apart from having up-to-date information, the most important thing that you can do for local SEO because Google needs to get its information from somewhere. So having a Google My Business, you’re directly telling Google what your business is about, where it can be found, etc., and all that information is important to Google.

The last area is directory. So if you’ve ever read up about search engine optimisation in the past, you may have seen advice about building links from directories. Now it’s changed a little bit over time in the sense that people usually abuse this tactic for SEO in the past and just buildings from hundreds if not thousands of directories. That doesn’t work anymore. But what does work is just having a listing on a handful of good quality directories.

If you want to know what good quality directories are, do a search for local products, maybe do a search in Google for the product..a product that you offer. You will find that some of those listings will be directories. The most obvious one is Yell. That usually appears in the top 10 for, you know, local products and local services. So create an account in these directories. Some of them might ask you to pay, the vast majority do let you have a free listing.

AdWords, so AdWords is Google’s paid advertising. If you do a Google search, usually the top three, top two results are adverts. Now, you may wonder, “Well, if you’re doing this really well, local SEO, why would you do AdWords?” Well, first of all, SEO can be a lengthy process and you may do lots of very good work and maybe not see the results for a few months, for example. You may be operating in a really, really competitive space. So you may work really, really hard on this and still struggle to kind of get there at the top, or maybe you do rank in the top 10 but you’re not first.

And the way it kind of works is that the higher you rank, the more clicks you get. So AdWords is a way that you can pay Google to appear at the top. Now I won’t be able to go into the details of how to get-go on AdWords for the first time. But Google do offer…they certainly used to offer a free £50 voucher if you want to get started the first time and kind of for small businesses or high street shops, they offer AdWords Express, which is a quick and easy way of getting your advert up there.

So what this will allow you to do is, you can advertise your product and service, you can give store information, you can put a phone number, you can highlight offers that are going on at the moment. So AdWords for relatively little cost can get you to the top of Google quickly.

Again, the, kind of, fifth most important thing is social media. So I mentioned this back when we were talking about events. Social media is a fantastic way of bridging the offline and the online worlds of whatever your business is doing. You know, you can show behind the scenes footage of your shop and that may be a new product comes in and you do a video illustrating that product, maybe do a Facebook Live video or something like that. If you’re doing an event, you can show photos from that event.

Use social media as a way of being a bit of a portal between online customers and offline customers. And offers, kind of, never fail, I think, in terms of shops and, you know, high street retailers. Facebook, in fact, have a brand new type of advertising where you can advertise offers to local customers. So someone will be using Facebook and they’ll see an offer for a local business nearby, they click on that ad they get a voucher. To use that voucher they’ve got to go to your shop. So social media can be a fantastic way of getting people from online to go offline.

And a thing I should point with social media as well as Google My Business is that get people to review your shop wherever you can. People on Facebook will also review your shop. People on Google will review your shop. All of those things really, really help your visibility. So it might be the case that if you’ve got a particular happy customer, you could ask them, you know, “Would you mind leaving me a review on Facebook?” if you need some more of those. Or, “Would you mind leaving me a review on Google?” All of these things will help you rank higher.

So they are my five tips for converting online traffic to footfall. And if you’ve got a question that you’d like to ask, you can use the #asktheukdomain. Ask it on Twitter, ask it on Facebook, ask it on YouTube. We’ll pick it up and turn your question into a video. Thanks. ♪ [music] ♪

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Peter is the Head of Content at Nominet. He's passionate about helping small businesses make the most of being online, especially through the use of content marketing.

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