Company success often rises and falls on the ability to deliver same-store sales increases — witness the stock plummets this year for both Macy’s and El Pollo Loco. Consequently, multi-unit brands spend a lot of energy managing around this core metric. With competitors across the street or around the corner, large retail and restaurant chains have to battle it out across hundreds or thousands of locations on a daily basis.
Yet with each individual store occupying its own unique, local ecosystem — imagine a Wall Street Starbucks compared to one in a residential neighborhood on the Upper West Side, much less a suburban area of Des Moines, Iowa — it’s difficult to drive local success at scale with a one-size-fits-all approach.
Here’s a list of four strategies (and associated tactics) that local stores can implement to boost their overall performance.
1) Expand your definition of event-specific marketing.
Event marketing doesn’t have to be limited to major events like the Super Bowl and Black Friday. Is it prom night for the local high school? A fast-food restaurant could put out white tablecloths and host an “after-prom” dinner party to drive late-night sales. A flower shop could partner with the high school to offer discounts on large orders of boutonnieres.
Big concert, movie release, or sporting event at a venue near your coffee shop or restaurant? Drive traffic by offering a ticket stub promotion on drinks or desserts after the event.
Line around the Apple store with people waiting for a new product release? Take sidewalk orders and provide delivery so people don’t have to get out of line.
A clothing retailer could hand out coupons at the end of a local tough-mudder race to allow participants to save on new clean clothes. Another option is offering discounts on activewear prior to a 5K, marathon, or fun-run.
2) Be more like New York City umbrella vendors.
In cities like New York, vendors selling umbrellas materialize the minute rain starts falling. There’s no reason that local stores shouldn’t be just as nimble when it comes to weather events, which have a significant impact on foot traffic, regardless of sector.
Major downpour? A clothing retailer could have a flash sale offering discounts on rain boots or jackets to drive traffic on bad weather days. Any retailer that sells makeup could run a waterproof mascara promotion in its beauty department.
Other stormy weather incentives could include giveaways such as free gloves or hats with the purchase of a certain dollar amount of apparel. A quick-service restaurant could take the fun, counterintuitive step of offering free ice cream with any meal purchase on cold weather days. More intuitively, it could send a mobile or email offer to its database for a buy-one-get-one hot chocolate, coffee, soup, or similar.
At the opposite end of the temperature scale, consider battling heat spikes with discounts on iced treats. A coffee store could send out a coupon code to its mobile database offering savings on iced coffee. A movie theater could reach out to its loyalty club members reminding moviegoers of the free air conditioning it provides in every theater.
3) Know your neighborhood.
Cities aren’t monolithic. What might work in one neighborhood could be completely irrelevant in another. It’s important to first identify what makes each one of your stores different so you can target your messages and promotions appropriately. Is one location in a heavy tourist area? Near a college campus? In a business park? A suburban area? Every location will have different people and traffic patterns that could be used as marketing opportunities.
Retailers near a school could offer discounts for kids who bring in their bus passes. A food or beverage retailer in a business park could battle the late-afternoon lull with a “neighborhood happy hour” to attract office workers looking for a quick pick-me-up.
To drive clothing sales, a retail outlet in a heavy tourist neighborhood could offer discounts to shoppers who bring their passports, or provide free postcards or city guides with every purchase. The same clothing retailer in a residential neighborhood might want to create “family days” during known slow periods, offering discounts when multiple family members buy clothes.
A beauty retailer in a business district could provide 10-minute makeovers to women who are going out immediately following a day at the office. That same beauty retailer in a suburban area could provide complimentary childcare while staffers teach classes to moms who are looking for tips on how to ready quickly in the morning.
4) Build community.
Who are the people in the neighborhoods around your stores? What’s important to them? What are their interests? Knowing these details will allow you to create activations that are authentic and build deeper connections with the community.
For instance, beach-adjacent locations should participate in beach cleanup drives throughout the year. Lots of schools in the area? Make sure to support them with things like team sponsorships and product donations.
Charitable activities are great both for the community and as traffic drivers. Find a local charity that’s a good fit with your brand and host one day a month where a percentage of profits go directly to the charity.
Integrate with local passions such as the local sports team. Have employees dress in team colors on game days, promote products that are associated with the team or sport, run ticket stub promotions after games to drive traffic, or even come up with an ongoing branded promotion that gets activated anytime the team wins a home game.
Ultimately, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. But by being attuned to the unique ecosystems around each store and adding a dash of creative thinking, multi-unit brands and franchises can make deeper connections with the community, build loyalty, and drive traffic into their stores.
Andrea Shuff is co-founder and CMO of Local ID, a local intelligence platform focused on maximizing local marketing for multi-unit brands. With a diverse marketing background covering more than 15 years managing a multitude of brands, agencies, and verticals, she is passionate about helping big retailers find scalable ways to connect with local communities.