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How to stand out with your shop front

With the out of home food and drink market continuing to see positive growth, how can you set yourself apart from the varied competition, leave a lasting positive impression and keep customers coming back, time and time again?

1. Give your online presence a spring clean

A great way to ensure that you’re staying ahead of the curve is to check your online presence matches up with your real world one. Think of your online presence as your virtual shop front and imagine your customers viewing your establishment for the first time on the screen of their phone, laptop or tablet. Often the same rules which apply to a physical shop front can be used in the virtual world, so the good news is you’re already well versed in the area.

The secret to success is to remember that you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

For many, online marketing might seem like a daunting exercise that requires a lot of time, expertise and investment. Often businesses will over-complicate online tactics by focusing on too many avenues. Establish which forums your customers are likely to indulge in when searching for information about your business. It’s important to view online marketing as a shop window to your business.

Your website is the face of your company online. From the visual identity through to the tone of voice, everything should mirror what customers can expect to experience physically inside your establishment.

Don’t over-complicate it – it should be easy to navigate and give an instant feel of your unique selling point to help customers make a decision on whether to engage with you. Ensure you give your customers a next step to take by including an option to ‘make an enquiry’, ‘book a table online’ or ‘sign up to the newsletter’ to make the process as smooth and easy as possible.

Simplicity is king for many reasons, inclusive of user experience. It also assists with the site maintenance and helps you to appear on search engines like Google. Make sure you’re regularly reviewing the information and imagery you’re using – keep it fresh and up-to-date. Make sure you’re using real and professionally shot images to represent your offering and keep an eye on the menus and upcoming events that you’re showcasing to ensure they are current.

Quite often, people will search for somewhere to visit while they’re on the move, so it’s important that your site is user-friendly and optimised for mobile. With this in mind, make sure people can view your site from all devices (desktop, tablet and mobile) and test any changes you’re making to the site across them too.    

 "Two seconds, I’ll Google it."

Who’s used that phrase before? Four out of five people use search engines to find local information, like business hours, addresses and reviews. Hand in hand with this, businesses with complete listings are twice as likely to be considered reputable by customers. However, just 37% of companies have a local business listing on a search engine. Signing up to Google My Business is free and the new mobile app has made it even simpler and user-friendly for you.

2. Dress to Impress

Your employees hold a pivotal role in the impression that is left with your guests. Empower them to bring to life the spirit of your business in a way that is human and authentic. You could even consider a reward scheme that celebrates staff ‘shout outs’ from customers.

Remember to also make an impression with the way in which your establishment is presented, from the décor and outside hanging baskets and furniture, to the lighting and music that you play. Take a step back from time-to-time and consider what the customer experience is likely to be with the aesthetics of your business; and don’t be afraid to ask for their viewpoint, either anecdotally in person or via your social media channels.

It’s important to move with the times, so take inspiration from the likes of Pinterest which might spark some ideas for future revamps. But don’t get carried away and lose sight of your visual identity and what aspects are important to your guests.

3. Get reviews to act as word-of-mouth, but online

Do not be afraid of reviews about your business. They are incredibly influential on your reputation and you can’t hide from them in our much more connected world of today.

Your customers will often look at online reviews before visiting your establishment so it’s important that you are thanking people for their positive reports and also being seen to listening and reacting to others who might be more constructive (and sometimes negative). Be thankful for any feedback, be genuine and be accessible - it all helps you to improve your service and offering for the future.

4. Be your best host

Hosting events can sometimes seem a little daunting, but again the key is: simplicity. For many establishments, their regulars like an element of regularity; for example, a Pie Night every Wednesday, with a different flavour every week or a mid-week football special during matches.

It is also worth promoting these events in a consistent way across both your online and offline channels to not only continue to bring in your loyal customers, but to also pull in some newbies.

You can also consider linking up with community groups to host personalised evenings for them. Customisation and flexibility in your hosting skills will take your business a long way.

5. Flourish Outside

The first physical engagement your customer will have with your business is the outside. So, don’t forget to focus on it just as much as the inside. Colourful hanging baskets, fresh paint and clean windows are all simple, yet powerful, ways to promote your business. You want your physical shop front to be Instagram-worthy!

Your outdoor area doesn’t need to be just for the summer occasion. Many successful businesses are transforming their outdoor spaces into cosy snugs during the winter months, with heaters, fires and fluffy blankets.

Treat your establishment like it’s your own home (which of course, for many operators… it is). Consistency and simplicity across all your channels is key and don’t be afraid to ask for your customers’ feedback. An open dialogue with them ensures you’re meeting their expectations and can prompt you to make valuable adaptations to drive increased footfall and sales.

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