Orphaned shoppers


A few days ago, I needed to buy some printer paper on short notice. I didn’t have time to order it online or trek out to Staples, so I decided to try the little OfficeMax store that’s only a few blocks away. However, when I got there I found only a vacant storefront. In fact, the site looked so abandoned that you’d never know a store had been there at all.

With OfficeMax out of the picture, I had to start over and find an alternate source for my paper. The old storefront was a dead end, offering no guidance about where to look next. This is a shame, because the unused storefront could be a highly-targeted means of sending customers to the next best choice. In other words, the old tenant in that space could pay to put up some signage directing people to their other locations in the area. That way, customers don’t feel abandoned when they arrive at the now-defunct site.

Here’s another option to consider. The first store’s competitors could keep an eye on the store closings, and pay the landlord to put up their own ads once a space goes vacant. For example, Staples or Office Depot could rent out the old OfficeMax windows and display a sign like this: “Looking for office supplies? Visit the Staples store 2 blocks south of here.” Sure, it’s a little opportunistic, but the approach is good for shoppers and thus for the market segment overall. Even if they start at the dead-end store, people will have a simple, direct choice for how to complete their tasks. I’m surprised I don’t see more contextual ads like this, but perhaps the recent number of store closings in various sectors will provide an opportunity for companies to explore the idea.