For an increasing number of purchases, consumers don’t need to enter a physical retail store. It's why foot traffic is down: When consumers know they want to buy something, they often can do it online.
Consumers need reasons to enter stores even when they don't intend to buy. Here's what I've seen drawing traffic recently and keeping visitors inside:
1. Classes - Maybe you’ll buy some of the gadgets used with the discount Sur La Table offers on the day of the paid class, but maybe you won’t. Or maybe you take a free class at Pirch, where there's not even a sales pitch for the large appliances sold from the showroom. At Apple, you can take a class to learn how to use your products better (and, of course, how much better your products would be if you had more Apple products).
2. Food and beverage - Restaurants in department stores aren’t new. Harvey Nichols' 5th floor in London is devoted to wining and dining and Macy's Herald Square was famous for its Cellar. Now, it seems every other boutique has a coffee bar. (Among this list, my Manhattan favorites are Ralph's, TOMS, and Fair Folks & A Goat.) There's even one at Samsung 837, where the only items sold are from the coffee shop.
3. Free food and beverage - You know you can walk into Nespresso and be offered the latest blend. But more than once lately, I've seen signs outside Kit & Ace trying to lure passersby with a glass of champagne.
4. Instagrammable vignettes - Enter, pose, keep posing, post, prove you were there, try to create FOMO.
5. Product info - The team at Sonos will tell you how to improve the sound of your existing system and make-up stylists at most beauty stores can be helpful in providing tips on how to better apply products you have sitting at home.
6. Make-up application - Speaking of beauty stores, it's a poorly kept secret that one can walk into a department store and walk out with a newly made-up face (strong sales pitch for all the product used not withstanding). But Sephora now advertises free 15-minute "mini-makeovers".
9. Technology - Call me jaded, but the pattern I see is open a tech-heavy store or add some tech (smart dressing room or magic mirror, anyone?) to an existing store, do a lot of PR around it, and drive traffic (and therefore sales) based on the curiosity factor.
10. Merchandise - Yes, back to basics, but shout-out to the stores that have some authority and position themselves as a destination for people who want to see what's new at any given time. Also, stores like The Container Store keep shoppers coming in by surprising people with quirky-but-useful, inexpensive items. Anthropologie provides entertaining browsing without a lot of sales pushiness. Finally, Story doesn't sell online (!) and changes things up so often that you really need to get there (and often) to experience what they're doing.
Thumbnail image is of the Prada store in Soho.