The Small Business Owner’s Guide to Making Your Storefront Work for You

As the face of your business and the first snapshot of personality that potential customers see, the storefront of your brick-and-mortar sets the tone for every further interaction—including whether or not there will be any.

From coffee shops to consulting firms, dental offices to dance studios, every aspect of a storefront’s branding impacts how many people decide to walk through the door. As we well know, that decision has a direct impact on your startup’s bottom line.

Here are some tips for catching the eye of potential customers and convincing them to stay (and converting those passerby into sales).

Create dramatic displays that make customers want more

Your storefront should act as a snapshot of your business, so make sure each department or service is represented in your window displays or signage. Be sure to show enough of your cards to intrigue people to come in, but leave enough intrigue by keeping some of your best merchandise inside in order to make your potential customers want more.

Have a new line of children’s clothing? Instead of showcasing a dozen outfits, pick just one or two and incorporate them into an inspired setting. Display your arrangements vertically in your windows to efficiently incorporate more products. With something at eye-level for everyone who walks by, you can draw in customers from a larger audience.

Since people have only a few seconds to glance in your window as they walk by, use bold monochromatic exhibits and concise, easy-to-read signs. Keep your font size large, especially if your customer base is aging. It’s also never a bad idea to have someone who shares your target customers’ demographic quickly scan new displays and give their opinion. And be sure to represent your brand accurately: if customers feel you’ve oversold yourself, they won’t be back.

Make a statement with your storefront

A polished and handsome exterior gives the impression of success, which potential customers are naturally drawn to. If a customer is driving by, he or she only has a second or two to notice your display, read it and decide whether or not to stop in. If your exterior exudes quality, potential customers are more likely to assume your products and services have the same high quality.

How can you set your exterior apart from its neighbors and give a lasting impression? Make it pop with a contrasting facade color or paint the door a bold hue. Make sure nothing is in disrepair, and that your business’ name can be seen clearly from every direction. You may need multiple signs, but the last thing you want is for a customer to have trouble finding you and go somewhere else instead.

Related: Tips for Starting a Successful Clothing Brand

Add curbside comforts and give people a reason to stop

Do you have enough sidewalk space for a bench or table? If not, add an awning or a water bowl for dogs on hot days. These little comforts encourage people to linger, giving them the chance to look inside.

Can you prop your door open or put any retail products on display outside? By eliminating barriers between the customer and the product, you’re building their temptation to buy. And by creatively enticing them, you’re upping your brand’s “wow” factor.

Use your curb appeal as a marketing device

Exude personality with an open sign that is unique to your small business and speaks to your brand. A bicycle shop, for example, could hang a hand-painted plaque from the crossbar of a bike, while a florist could spell O-P-E-N in eye-catching faux flowers. Sandwich board signs or letters painted on the door that say “Come on in!” are great ice breakers for anyone who is on the fence about stepping inside.

Try a window box or planter with seasonal blooms to provoke a cheerful mood, and don’t forget that lights on your signs and window displays let you advertise even after your business is closed. With flowers bursting from a wheelbarrow in front of a garden center or a luxe chandelier illuminating the window of a perfume shop, fun fixtures can boost curb appeal and help to drive your brand home.

Set the tone

The right setting can enhance your business’ atmosphere and come in handy while you count cash, arrange an especially messy store reset or prepare a big reveal. Do you run a small business like a gym, where your clients don’t want passersby peeking in at them? Make sure you have blinds or window treatments in place.

Perhaps you own a coffee shop, where remote workers need to prevent glare on computer screens. Cellular shades specifically prevent glare while keeping the mood sunny. Want to minimize your less-than-ideal view? Keep your interior space bright while you block an unsightly parking lot or back alley view with the filtered light that comes through roller shades.

Ultimately, your customers’ comfort means they will spend more time, and more money, with you.

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Be true to your brand

What is your business’ tone? Is it sunny and inspiring or cozy and intimate? Since every aspect of your storefront contributes to the mood, stick with your brand as much as possible as you design it. Some people will come in just for the atmosphere, so if you can build on a reliable style, you’ll have a better chance at turning a wanderer’s stroll into sales.

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