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How to increase footfall with outdoor advertising

How to increase footfall with outdoor advertising

Our findings on window advertising in Win customers with window displays and How to design a window display have demonstrated that window displays are the best way to encourage approach behaviour from the store exterior. Unlike in-store visual merchandising, window merchandising is interpreted by customers more like advertisements, meaning they will use the storefront to both infer information and be motivated to explore the shop inside. This makes the future of window advertising a key concern for merchandisers.

This article explains the other aspects of a shop exterior which can also be utilised to draw in new customers, as well as answering some additional questions about window displays, including how often should you change your window displays and how to measure the success of your advertising efforts.

How to increase footfall with outdoor advertising and store exterior

Examples of outdoor advertising include pavement signs, outdoor poster holders, on-street promotions, event flags and outdoor literature holders. Pavement signs in particular can interrupt the path of the pedestrian and increase their likelihood of looking at your window displays. Bespoke printed event flags are perfect for being spotted by passing motorists at the roadside or in forecourts. If your business is set back from the high street or hard to find in some way, you must think carefully about where outdoor advertising could be placed in order to alert people to your presence. Consider carefully what message you want your signage to convey in order to attract new customers.

What to display on outdoor advertising:

  • Use your outdoor signs to reinforce any promotions or sales you have been advertising on social media. Make your advertising comprehensive, with similar messages online, in-store and outdoors.

  • Make special offers, such as new promotions or discounts, particularly prominent, as these will attract bargain hunters and potentially “convince” other passersby who may previously have been on the fence about whether to enter.

  • Humour always works well, and is one of the best ways to connect with new customers, since jokes, rhymes and funny images will cause passersby to smile and feel positively towards your business. This can result in approach behaviour and relaxed spending. Using humour increases your odds of getting free advertising, as an innovative or hilarious message is more memorable and can prompt people to post photos of it on social media.
  • Social and seasonal factors affect what customers might feel a need for at any given moment. For example, if it is a rainy weekend and you sell a special type of umbrella, then it is the perfect weekend to advertise this on your outdoor advertising. The same can be said for warm clothes in winter and cool clothes or fans in summer. By doing this, you will connect with passing customers on a level which appeals to their basic needs and may even alert them to something they didn’t realise they needed.

  • Choose your pavement signs carefully - if you are in an open area and are liable to extreme weather conditions, you may wish to select a heavy duty weather resistant pavement sign with a weighted base to prevent tipping.
  • Outdoor signs to increase footfall

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    How often should you change your window display?

    • Most sources will recommend that window dressings should be changed at least once per key season, however, changing them too often can be costly and confusing.

    • There are some low or no-cost ways to refresh displays in between major dressings, such as rearranging some of the key items. This can be done as regularly as every week, or every day.

    • Repositioning a single prop or adding new accessories to a mannequin is enough to freshen up the display a little so as not to bore everyday viewers.

    So they're in-store, now what?

    It would be too easy for merchandisers to spend all their time, effort and budget on outdoor advertising, and end up neglecting their in-store point of sale. Making the in-store experience match the expectations that have been built from the external signage should be a high priority. This includes the shop theme and atmosphere.

    If specific products or offers have been advertised outside, you must make sure that these items or services are easy to find upon entering the store. Also, consider cleverly routing the customer pathway in the store to ensure that they pass more enticing merchandising displays and add-on items on their way to the checkout.

    Measuring the success of outdoor advertising

    One challenge that retailers are faced with is how to measure the success of window advertising and other outdoor promotions. There are various methods for inferring this information, including traffic counters for footfall monitoring (both manual and infra-red), can use video cameras, eye-tracking software & consumer feedback.

    Edwards and Shackley’s UK study on the impact of window displays in Boots the Chemists attempted to measure display success by both tracking sales figures and surveying pedestrians who viewed the window display [1]. They recorded both qualitative and quantitative data by both using a market research company and conducting 250 interviews, showing that there are multiple empirical methods to assess a display’s effectiveness in retail. Incidentally, their research found that sales were positively increased in stores that utilised window displays.

    Interactive window displays: the storefronts of the future

    Blonde woman reaching out to interactive touchscreen

    As the body of research on effective merchandising techniques grows and the popularity of e-commerce is booming, academics and businesses alike are starting to look to the future of window dressing for brick-and-mortar retail companies. Recent research into the persuasive qualities of digital signage claims that using digital window displays correctly can result in increased impulse purchases and repeat visit intentions [2].

    Looking forward, interactivity seems to be a key concern, with many companies investigating the possibility for technology to help create interactive window displays. Interactivity is strongly persuasive in merchandising, and digital technology is now reaching new heights of capability. One example that is gaining traction is the use of digital window displays that the customer can interact with from the street.

    Examples of interactive window displays

    Interactive elements could include projecting an image of the passerby into the window, so customers can make a stronger emotional connection by seeing themselves surrounded by the products or design elements. An example of this technology in action is Samsung’s Virtual Fitting Rooms, which uses 3D cameras to map a floating image to a customer’s body in their ‘smart mirror’. This is a contemporary answer to the more traditional method of mannequin-based displays, and is similar to the technique of placing mirrors around a shop so that customers can literally see themselves surrounded by the product(s).

    Another increasingly popular way of using interactive window displays is the use of gesture-controlled technology, which can track and respond to customer movements. This method was used to create an interactive window display at Macy’s during Black Friday to advertise Jay Z’s fragrance ‘Gold’. The window display used Microsoft Kinect to capture images of passersby in 3D and turned them ‘into liquid gold’.

    Gesture controlled technology used in interactive window displays

    This caused people to stop and interact with the display, and move around to see their movements simulated on screen. This same method is being used by many companies to ‘gameify’ their interactive retail displays, encouraging maximum engagement.

    Another possibility for larger shops, such as department stores with multiple windows, is the use of multiple, connected digital screens. These can be linked up to function as one long screen, with advertisements that can ‘follow’ pedestrians using sensors.

    This approach gives marketers a longer amount of time to display their ads and the possibility of creating a ‘story’ (Bauer, p. 504). Storytelling is an integral part of branding, and any way to enhance this is likely to be beneficial for brand awareness.

    It is also possible for window display technology to analyse demographic information about passersby, which could allow for more targeted advertising. For example, displays could interpret the age and gender of the passerby, and advertise accordingly (Bauer, p. 505). Similarly, this technology can also be used to collect data; however this raises ethical issues and requires further study.

    How do you attract customers to your store? A summary:

    • In Win customers with window displays we found that window advertising is the primary way in which a store is able to communicate with potential customers outside. Therefore, window displays are a crucial factor when considering how to increase footfall. They are also a great way to promote a particular product line or new service and boost sales.
    • We also demonstrated that there are countless ways to dress a window, but that all must be done with a number of factors in mind. Ensure you consider various factors when planning your outdoor advertising strategy, including product and industry type, market trends, size of window, company budget, average patron demographic and both seasonal and economic factors.
    • While windows are a key priority, this article has outlined the ways in which other methods of outdoor advertising are a fantastic way to interrupt the customer path. Outdoor signs and promotions are a great opportunity to encourage higher footfall by offering something desirable, such as a free sample, a discount, or an informational brochure they can take away with them.
    • You should update your window displays fully at least once per key season, but revive them regularly by moving around props or adding new items
    • You can gauge the success of your window advertising, pavement signs and outdoor promotions with various methods for measuring footfall, including the use of traffic counters, customer feedback and visual observation.
    • Invest in digital displays for your window advertising. The use of digital screens for window displays and other outdoor advertising has drastically increased over the past decade, due to their superior ability to engage customers, and uses are quickly becoming increasingly innovative.

    Outdoor advertising products

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    Kira Swales

    Kira Swales is a copywriter for UK POS. With over six years’ experience in e-commerce and copywriting, as well as seven years in the retail sector, Kira loves to take a deep dive into topics in order to provide readers with the latest research in point of sale and merchandising. Read more of her in-depth guides on POS in our Knowledge Hub.


    1. Edwards and Shackley, ‘Measuring the Effectiveness of Retail Window Display as an Element of the Marketing Mix’, International Journal of Advertising, Vol. 11 (1992), pp. 193-202.

    2. Bauer et al., ‘Research Directions for Digital Signage Systems in Retail’, Procedia Computer Science, Vol 141 (2018), pp. 503-506.