When designing and optimizing just about any website, the conversion rate is one of the most important statistics to focus on. Basically, the conversion rate of a page is just the percentage of visitors to your site who complete a particular task just as signing up for your service, clicking on a story on your blog, or buying one of your products. Conversion rate optimization is the reason that the "call to action" (like that ugly orange button in the top corner of this post) is such a prominent feature of many websites (and many advice pages about optimizing websites). But what if your website is really just a way to drive people to your physical place of business. The truth is, conversion rate optimization isn't really that different in these cases, but for some reason, these types of sites tend to be really awful about it.
Every site has online goals
The first thing to note is that even if your site is primarily meant to direct traffic to your physical location, there are still plenty of ways you might want to convert visitors in the purely digital realm. If you're able to set up an online store or ordering system (for example through a service like Shopify), that should definitely be your first option. If you're not up for taking your business all the way online, however, you might encourage visitors to contact you via email or print out a coupon. All of these things are simple interactions that your site should encourage your visitors to perform, and, importantly, that you can easily track and optimize through your site's analytics.
Conversion rates in the real world
If you're really focused on getting people to your business, however, you're going to need to expand the concept of a conversion rate a little bit. Whereas traditional conversions involve getting a user to click a button or fill out a form, physical conversions require a lot more work for the visitor and are a lot harder to track. Other than that though, the principles are basically the same. To get people to sign up through a form, you need to provide motivation (i.e. convincing and easily digestible information about why they should sign up for your shiny web service) and to make the process as easy as possible (i.e. an obvious button to click, a limited number of fields to fill out, etc). So how do you adapt those same principles to in-person conversions?
Make a convincing case, but don't hide relevant info
The first part of the equation is basically identical: you need to convince your online visitor that there's a reason for them to come to your store. Much like with online conversions, pictures, descriptions, and reviews can go a long way towards making this case, but depending on what your business does, the chances are good that there's at least one more thing that really should be online, that is very often omitted: the price. If you're a store that sells lots of products, a full price list probably isn't feasible, but if you provide a single service or a small number of them, there is no excuse for leaving your prices off. I recently was checking out gyms near me, and almost none of them had any pricing information online. As a result, I ended up basically focusing on the small number of gyms that did publish there prices. I don't think the ones that published their prices were probably any cheaper than those that didn't, but I didn't want to make the effort of calling or visiting in person to find out (yet). Maybe that makes me lazy, but I guarantee you, the visitors to your website are lazy too. They're going to find out your prices eventually (or not bother looking any further), so you may as well get it out there now.
Make the trip as easy as possible
The second part of the equation (making it easy to convert), is again not that big of a departure. For a purely online experience, easing the conversion process means having a big call to action and simplifying the process as much as possible. For to-the-store conversions, you also need to make it as easy as possible for people to get there. If you want people to phone in an order, put your phone number in a prominent place that's easy to find. If people should be visiting you, do the same thing with your address and driving directions. If there's information people need before visiting, make sure it's easily accessible. It's amazing to me how many restaurants hide their phone number and address on a "contact us" page. Even menu's are often difficult to find. If I was designing the site for a restaurant (and wasn't allowed to include online ordering), I'd have some pictures of delicious looking food; an obvious link to the menu, and the phone number and address/directions front and center on every page.
All of this stuff sounds pretty obvious, I'd imagine, but spend some time looking around at the websites of local businesses. It is amazing how many local sites hide the information their customers care most about. On the flip side, if you do manage one of those sites, just a few small tweaks can put you head and shoulders above the competition in converting online visits to real life ones.