11 Ways to Engage Your Coffee Shop Customers — Offline!

Posted by Alyssa on 2018-04-16

While marketing experts have been busy touting the importance of social media engagement, businesses have forgotten about connecting with customers in real life. In a time when everyone and their grandmother is on Facebook, being active online is not enough. Going above and beyond means creating a memorable experience once you actually have them in the building.

In this blog post, we’ll give you 11 ideas for engaging your coffee shop customers offline.

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1. Make a first impression

Customers care about your café’s atmosphere. Anthropologist Merry White explained that coffee shops are the perfect place to feel alone in a crowd. The people who visit you want a lively, inviting place that makes them feel comfortable sitting down, checking emails, or staring out the window.

Comfortable seating, coherent, on-brand design, colour selection, music, food displays—all these things are important to catching a person’s attention. Make these choices with your customers in mind so that they want to incorporate your café into their daily routine.

2. Act on customer feedback

A lot of businesses have suggestion boxes or solicit their patrons’ opinions through social media. It’s a great strategy for making people feel connected and invested in your coffee shop as one of their ‘Third Places’. Take that one step further by following through with their recommendations—or explaining why it isn’t possible.

Use a cork board to display customer comments and suggestions along with your responses on how you’ve acted on their ideas. People like businesses that listen, but they love business that hear them. Once you’ve done that, you’ve earned a customer for life.


3. Be human

There is so much emphasis on ‘being human’ online that there isn’t a lot of information on how to put a human face to a thriving business offline. It’s more than posting photos of your staff having fun on Instagram or sharing stories on Facebook. You and your personality need to be present in the café, too.

Engage in conversations with customers and help them out when they need it. Have a wall or display with information about your staff like where they’re from, their favourite drink, or the football team they follow. It helps customers connect with you and the people they see (almost) every day.

4. Educate your customers

Independent café customers are usually interested in learning more about the things they buy. Provide extra value to your shop by organizing educational workshops, displaying details about how and where your coffee and tea come from, and encouraging questions from your customers. Position yourself as an expert so people know that when they want the perfect espresso or the best brewed tea, they come to you.

5. Bring people together with events

The best coffee shops are more than a business—they become a meeting place and a social institution for locals. Hosting a special event can help you connect with customers in a more casual way while collecting media like photos, videos, and anecdotes to share on online (if you choose!). Staff are also encouraged and enlivened by events when they’re able to see that customers appreciate and are invested in the work they do on a daily basis.

coffee shop events

6. Sponsor a local school or charity

People appreciate when you support their causes and contribute to a stronger neighbourhood. Supporting the local community is more than just donating money; it has to be a long-term, sustainable relationship with a partner whose values align with yours. Organise an event that asks for canned goods for the local food bank instead of a cover charge; donate food items to a snack program at a local school.

When you contribute to building community, people treat your business the same way. In return, they help you build a business that becomes an integral piece of the local fabric.

7. Participate in local events

Local shows, festivals, and fairs are an excellent opportunity to expose your brand to potential customers while reinforcing it for the people who already know about you. If you sell own-brand products, give them away at the events and tell the people you meet about your story. People love trying new things without commitment and putting a real face and story to a business.

8. Open your doors

Although an open front door has the psychological effect of inviting people to enter, we don’t just mean in the physical sense! If you have the space, let a poetry club their readings in your café. Once a month, add to the community atmosphere of your shop with live music. If your target market is stay-at-home parents, organise a special event for Halloween or Christmas. Support local artists by offering up a wall as a gallery space or featuring their graffiti work in other spaces around the shop. Let people post flyers for local events and community activities.

Local coffee shops have opportunity to be creative, quirky, and interesting. Use that to your advantage!

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9. Create a loyalty program

Everyone wants to be the cool one who tells their friends about the cool new café they visited—why not encourage it? Whether it’s a ‘Buy 9 get the 10th free’ loyalty card or a ‘Bring a friend for a free coffee’ promotion, incorporate one into your marketing plan. Loyalty programs encourage people to keep coming back and customers appreciate being rewarded when they do.

10. Give away some swag

Some of the most effective pieces of marketing are wearable. People love pasting stickers to their laptops, having a sturdy water bottle at the gym, and wearing cute tees while doing the shopping. Selling merchandise (or giving it away as part of a customer loyalty strategy!) can help you earn new business—especially if it’s on the clever and quirky side.

If you want to measure how much of a return you’re getting, offer a discount when someone uses or wears the swag in your café.

11. Support other local cafés and shops

When people start moving towards independent cafés and coffee shops, it’s because they’re interested in better quality and stimulating the community coffee culture. Supporting other establishments shows that you’re invested in the local economy and you’ll encourage them to do the same. Everyone wins when people start seeking out local brands and experiences!

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Final Thoughts

The coffee shop is one of the last bastions of face-to-face interaction—in fact, human contact is one of the common reasons people even go to cafés. A nice Instagram account may get people into your doors, but you need to engage your customers in real life if you want them to keep coming back. Remember that you’re selling more than tea, coffee, and snacks. You’re also selling an experience, and you want to provide one that people want to repeat.

What do you do in your café to make customers feel like they’re a part of your community? Let us know in the comments below!

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