Bakers Journal

Capturing Customers

November 5, 2007
By Michelle Brisebois

Michelle Brisebois offers tips for catching the eye of new clients.

4191194Have you ever had a new customer breeze through the front door of your operation and gleefully announce, “Gee, I’ve walked past this shop for years and I didn’t know you were here?”
There’s a part of us that cringes every time we hear this declaration because it’s hard to believe that customers don’t notice us. Many walk right past us. Others come in. What’s wrong? How do we get the traffic to start noticing us?

Many businesses have done a good job of maximizing their average transaction. Little “add-ons” here and there or migrating a customer to a more premium product do work well to grow your business. Convincing your existing clientele to loosen their purse strings is a good strategy but it isn’t an unlimited well of opportunity. The up-sell must be a win/win for customer and operator. If someone wanted a simple loaf of French bread and walked off with something more elaborate, they may resent being talked into the more expensive option. Focusing on the up-sell could backfire and prompt the consumer to go elsewhere, seeking a more relaxed retail environment. It’s imperative that a business continues to attract new customers and every retailer should have a handle on their capture rate. How many people pass your bakery every day? If you’re in a mall or plaza, you can probably get this data from the property management. If you’re a stand-alone shop then you’ll want to contact city hall to see if they can guide you towards traffic statistics for your area. The science here won’t be perfect but it will be directional and therefore still valid. If you process five transactions in a day and 200 people pass by, then you’re realizing a capture rate of about 2.5 per cent. This may seem low but it really depends on how many of those passing by are viable customers. Are the consumers passing by interested in baked goods and do they have discretionary income or are they a bunch of five-year-olds on their way to school? Assuming even 50 per cent of those passing by are viable, it’s still a large pond to fish in. The key here is not to target a 10 per cent capture rate if you’re only at 2.5 per cent. The important goal is growth. Chances are there are more than 200 people passing by your operation daily. It could be thousands. If we assume a pool of 1,000 customers and you increase your capture rate from 2.5 per cent to three per cent that doesn’t seem like much, but it will equal five customers per day or 30 per week (assuming six operating days).  If we assume an average sale of seven dollars, then that 30 customers works out to over $2,000 in additional sales per week. Those customers will also tell others about you and make new customer acquisition much easier. It’s a powerful strategy. So now that you’re convinced intercepting passing traffic should be a key focus, just how do we get their attention?

Nobody intercepts passing foot traffic better than vendors at a farmer’s market. These folks really work the aisles by employing an intercept strategy much like a mid-eastern market bazaar. If you have a lot of foot traffic that passes your operation, consider opening the doors when weather permits and playing music to draw attention to your presence. Use the walkway in front of your store to display a chalkboard easel. You can switch up the message as often as you like, leveraging humour while promoting your latest special. To make the easel board truly impactful, consider hiring a chalkboard artist. These people can turn a simple promotional message into a carnival of colours that attracts the eye. Take samples of your products to the sidewalk and offer them to consumers passing by. Even if someone doesn’t taste or come in right then, you’ll now at least be on their radar and that’s a big step towards converting them to an eventual sale.  If you have a small table, then why not place it outside along with a few accessories or an eye-catching display? Even in the winter months a beautiful urn with a seasonal arrangement can provide a nice base for a promotional banner. If your traffic is driving rather than on foot then you may wish to rent a street side sign. Yes, these are often considered a bit of an eyesore but if you only put them up intermittently then each time a new message reappears it will have a fresh impact. Awnings, banners and even painting your building a bright colour will help to attract attention. The objective is to get noticed, not to blend in.


The traffic going past your operation is a valuable target because they’re in your orbit already. If someone is routinely going by your bakery then half the battle is over in terms of getting them to come to you. It’s simply a matter of putting out the welcome mat and encouraging them to come in that first time. Next time someone says, “I’ve been passing by for years and didn’t know you were here,” find out what made them come in today. Their answer just may provide the key to unlocking your front door for others.

Michelle Brisebois is a marketing professional with experience in the food, pharmaceutical and financial services industries. She specializes in helping companies grow their brands. Michelle can be reached at OnTrend Strategies by e-mail at:  briseboismichelle@

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