How to Increase foot traffic to your coffee shop

July 22, 2017
Posted in Lifestyle
July 22, 2017 Imran Selimkhanov

In the survey that received 1,200 responses from coffee shops and customers, we found almost 70% of coffee shops spend less than $100 per month on marketing. ~

If you’ve made your way to this post, chances are you’re a coffee shop or a local eatery owner looking to increase foot traffic to your store. Don’t feel overwhelmed – it’s totally doable with tad of effort, we’ve broken down the below must have steps. You need to focus on running a stellar shop, so we’ve focused on giving you the most realistic – simply what’s proven to work – short term goals to reach which will improve foot traffic to your shop.

Before I start, I really want you to know what motivated me to sit down and spend the time writing this post. In my favorite Toronto coffee & eatery shop, as I was getting my daily Coffee + Beef Patty combo I’ve sparked a brief discussion with the owner to see what she’s been doing online to help the shop grow. Shortly into the conversation she told me this; “A representative from company xxx told us we can increase traffic to our store for about $300 !”. The seasoned marketer is already laughing at this, I was in awe that someone would outright lie to a local shop to bag such a small amount of cash in hopes of up-selling the shopkeeper later.

So, to you – the shopkeeper – below are the must have steps to getting your shop more traffic based on our experience, interviews and research.

1) Know your industry statistics – use them to improve products & services

I’m big on leveraging customer data to better optimize your business to get relevant high quality traffic to your store. If you do not yet have customer data captured, it’s OK (for now) a simple Google search will get you on your way to understanding what product & service trends you should be focusing on. Here are some bare bone stats and improvements you can make right away by just knowing the data side of things from basic online research:

  • Marketing Investment: In the survey that received 1,200 responses from coffee shops and customers, we found almost 70% of coffee shops spend less than $100 per month on marketing. ~
    • The takeaway: Yes, it really is that bad, however this should be good news for you since investing more into high quality & relevant marketing effort will significantly put you above the competition as they are not even trying to get found.
  • Where People Drink Coffee: (39%) of Canadians drink their coffee out of home. Travelling/commuting (11%), eating place (16%), at work (16%) ~ Coffee Association of Canada
    • The takeaway: outside of home coffee drinking is skyrocketing, make it as easy as possible for people to drink in-store AND take out coffee in branded cups (your store’s brand). Offer large containers of coffee for corporate meetings, get a subscription service going. Do not sell non-branded cups, simply because branded cups do you double duty by letting others know where your customers bought coffee.
  • Coffee Consumption by Age Group: Traditional coffee is most likely to be consumed by those aged 65-79 ~ Coffee Association of Canada
    • The takeaway: this is a brilliant statistic to use for Pay Per Click (PPC) campaigns on Facebook, Instagram and Google Ads. Knowing this you can easily start by segmenting (optimize later of-course) Ad distribution to the specific customer group.
  • Coffee Consumption by Type: Specialty coffee beverages and frozen blended coffee consumption are strongest among those aged 18-49 ~ Coffee Association of Canada.
    • The takeaway: once again, use this statistic for PPC Ad targeting. Also increase the visibility / offerings of specialty drinks along with frozen coffee variety to the younger customers.
  • Out-of-home Coffee Sales: Growth of sales for out-of-home coffee in the past five years based on has significantly increased, see the below three categories:
    • Specialty Hot Coffee: + 4%
      • The takeaway:  you MUST have specialty coffee offerings.
    • Iced Specialty Coffee: + 10%
      • The takeaway: Summertime? and you don’t have frozen coffee beverages? – you’re missing out on sales.
    • Traditional Hot Brewed Coffee: -1%
      • The takeaway: important to have, although due to the downtrend you should be focusing on having a variety of specialty and frozen beverages.

Anyway, you get the point, before taking on a task of improving sales, the first thing you should do is research trends within your industry, I guarantee you that you’ll either find affirmations “perfect, we’re already doing that !” or new discoveries “I had no clue specialty beverages are on demand, we need to increase our variety/start offering them”. Acting upond data (something we do daily at Productive Shop is your key to success.

2) Know Your goals to achieve after taking action on this post’s advice 

Now, let’s get rolling on improving your traffic, to do that, let’s set our goals (what are you trying to achieve with the below activities). In order to get a positive result at anything, you must set goals that are simple, measurable, attainable, realistic, and with a time frame in mind. So, let’s keep the below high level goals in mind which will be reached once you complete our advice. All of the below you can do within 6 months.

  1. Increase Online Reviews on Google
  2. Increase Online Reviews on Yelp
  3. Increase Social Media Mentions
  4. Increase Instagram Posts
  5. Increase Groupon Sales & Reviews
  6. Increase Cash Register Sales B2C (ultimate goal)
  7. Increase Business Sales (B2B) (ultimate goal)

3) Have an attractive store front & the right location

Not much marketing effort can help you if you are scaring your customers away or having a bland looking shop. After a conversation with some awesome shops on King Street, here’s a dead easy way to keep it nice and clean & approachable:

  1. Have clean windows with minimum signage (you want people seeing what’s inside)
  2. Your shop’s name should be prominent and visible, so it’s easily spotted by the passerby
    1. Highlight the special of the day or your specialty drink/food
  3. Make it obvious its a coffee shop/a type of eatery
  4. Create a transition zone – a zone of entry which allows the client to acclimatize versus walking in and hitting the counter / tables / chairs / bar etc right away. A contrasting carpet can do the job well.
  5. Get non-commercial music track rolling all day long: Bossa Nova, CoffeShop tune playlists or anything alike is currently popular – it sets an awesome mood, oh and by the way louder and up-beat music have been found to increase purchases for retail stores – no reason why you can sell custom swag. like branded cups and teaspoons.
  6. Know you location context – I will give you a perfect example of Distillery District. A tourist place with large volumes of human traffic, however will I be buying my morning coffee everyday? probably not. Because people go to Distillery District to drink beer or any other sort of alcohol. First, customers need convenience – a place closer to our work. Thus a great example will be “Starbucks”, “Tim Horton’s” or “Aroma”. Second, a good location is necessarily  in a visible location, metro station, gas station, shopping malls, schools, business centers. Third, do not neglect your neighborhood fact. Be aware that in high school not everyone will be able to pay $5 for a cup of coffee yet, in case it’s you biggest part of customers likewise if you’re near a fitness center you should adapt to offer “healthier alternatives” and “good for soul” food – point is, stay neighborhood relevant and know who you’re selling to.

4) Couponery (a term we invented): anything to do with discounted deals & bundles

Consumers purchase more often when they think they are getting a discount or some sort of tangible incentive, use this to your advantage and create discounts, combos/bundles and other easily understood offerings.

  1. Discounts for Social Posts: Ask customers to show you that they have tagged / mentioned you on a social platform in return for a discount on coffee or specialty drinks
  2. Free Sample Trays: Free tiny samples are the perfect way to seduce shoppers to eat more / come back later
  3. Offer Free WiFi: everyone is glued to the net, so let them use it at your shop. The catch? none really but the welcome page after they sign in should ask the customer to leave a review. This is also awesome for word of mouth marketing as the more people come to work at your shop, the more likely they are to let others know to swing by and visit them.

5) Offer a twist you’d be known for (mandatory) 

Slap an orange slice on that cappuccino cup dusted with chocolate flakes – let’s call it “Orange Mist”. You get the point, it isn’t hard to get creative and man does this pay off, if you are able to create that one specialty drink that everyone talks about, people will travel just to try it at your shop. A great example will be EL Catrine (in Toronto) , a Mexican theme inspired place famous for their MAYAN Margarita.

Another twist which will boost traffic to your store will be a unique experience. Thus, Starbucks came up with “Starbucks moment’s of connection” – writing on a cup. First it helps baristas learn names of their regular customer, in other words – personalization trick. Second “Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” – D. Carnegie. Third, customers will never miss their personal cup of morning coffee at your place.

6) Reviews (key to credibility & new client referrals)

  1. Ask customers to leave a review after logging into the WiFi
  2. Offer Groupon sampler packages (sample trays, combos for 2 etc…)
  3. Be Found on Yelp: mandatory, if you don’t have this yet wtf? If you do you can easily improve the amount of reviews by simply asking / provide incentive customers to get them.
  4. Google & Yelp Reviews: This will help you with Google Ranking & Search, ask all of your friends, family and then some to provide a review of the product they’ve tried in your shop, ask all of your customers to do the same.

7) Invest in online Marketing

Although having a website, online reviews and even interior decor should be guided by the marketing shop you’re working with (to ensure for stellar brand consistency) online paid marketing is a killer at finding and driving online and foot traffic to your store. The first thing people to do for pretty much anything is search Google or Google Maps for locations nearby, investing in regional paid advertising will significantly improve your rankings and top the list of your competitors.

  1. Google Ads: Hire a marketing shop to analyze what’s best for you PPC wise, is it Facebook or Google Ads?
  2. Google Maps: this is free, make sure you are found on Google Maps and there is a phone numbers along with work hours posted.
  3. Google Images: hire a photographer, or get a friend who is crafty with a camera to take some stellar shots of your restaurant and people atmosphere, post them on your Google Page and tag them to the business location so that the world can see how awesome you are.
  4. Blog To: Your marketing shop should easily be able to connect with a couple of social media and foodie celebrities that can swing by and write about your shop in local suggestive blogs – form reviews to experiences and recommendations the more unique and credible content there is online about you the faster you will be found in search, and the more people will be driven to swing by and try your specialty whatever it may be.
  5. Get an Instagram account…yesterday – Instagram is polluted with tons of Coffee images, almost as much as Yoga posing girls – and there’s always room for one more 🙂 – your shop. Post images daily of you cooking, making coffee, pastries – whatever. As long as the images are high quality having an Instagram account can and will serve as social proof for the new consumer generation. You can even run Instagram contests and ask for mentions / reviews to boost chatter of your shop online.

8) Have Stellar Pastries

Probably the most favorite things of anyone who is alive is anything sweet. Find a local bakery and make a deal with them, you can sell their products as long as you can purchase at  discounted rate from them. Cookies, Muffins and Cheesecake always save the day.

9) Have a clean washroom

I can’t stress this enough, many new customers (up to 70%) simply will never come back if you do not have a clean and comfortable washroom – to take care of business at. This isn’t an if, if your washroom needs to be cleaned stop reading and hire someone to do this, it has to be in pristine condition.

10) Have unique interior design

  1. Wallpaper is totally in – checkout EuroHome design in Vaughan, they’ve got hundreds of designs in their in store showroom at amazing prices, make your place look like a million bucks – hint: focus on 1 accent wall.
  2. Chandeliers are a thing of the now – Go to or walk in to any large home decor store and buy a couple of mock / non expensive Chandeliers – they add a touch of glam and sophistication to any environment and will make your patrons feel good (feeling good = coming back later to get the same sensation again 🙂


11) Run a radio Ad

This costs a pretty penny, and frankly you dont have to do this as long as you’re investing into online advertising, but if you have the extra cash, combining this WITH your online advertising efforts is hands down one of the most effective ways to make people aware of your shop. Your trusted marketing shop should be able to come up with a stellar quick radio Ad and book it at the perfect time when your target market is listening.

12) Make local alliances with other shops & events

  • Don’t do everything yourself, you’ll burn out – have a bakery nearby? perfect, use their awesome baked goods and vica versa. Cross promote each other.
  • Find an events venu, condo, art gallery, auto dealership – be their coffee & sweets supplier
  • Go to events: there’s always a few yearly events that you can sign up for and sponsor, if you do coffee why not pair up for winter events to drive revenue through the roof at winter parties?

Hope you enjoyed this post and have learned something new or gotten inspired to get a road-map going, give me a shout if you need an experienced Productive Shop to boost your online activity, we love our clients and are a hoot to deal with.

There’s still ample sun outside, so I’ll sign off for today and go grab myself a cup of Joe and enjoy the Toronto waterfront.

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