How to make your ice cream shop stand out. No matter what type of ice cream you are making you want your ice cream shop to stand out. You want people to stop and notice your ice cream shop as soon as they walk past. How your ice cream store looks can be one of the most important ways of attracting people to your business. It is the most basic form of marketing. So, if you are finding yourself asking any of the following questions then this post is for you:
- How Do I Succeed in An Ice Cream Business?
- How Can I Improve My Ice Cream Business?
- How Do You Attract Customers to An Ice Cream Business?
- How Do You Upsell Ice Cream?
In this post, I will go through 13 tips you can implement for attracting customers to your ice cream shop.
13 Tips for Attracting Customers to Your Ice Cream Shop Are
- Strong Ice Cream USP
- Hire Well
- Beautiful Store Front
- Correct Flavor Profiles
- Daily Special Flavors
- Weekly Newsletter
- Take-Home Pints
- Digital Menu Board
- Neon Sign
Below, I go through in detail all of the 13 tips.
Tip 1 – Ice Cream Concept with a Strong USP
“Unique Selling Point” or “USP” is one of those business phrases which is thrown around a lot. But it really is one of the most important ones to ensure your ice cream business is a success. When we talk about “USP” what we are really saying is “are customers going to understand quickly and easily what you do and why?”.
For example, take Baskin Robbins – they are known for always having 31 flavors of ice cream. You go to a Baskin, and you know you get a big selection. They even have the number “31” in their logo. Or Ben & Jerry’s – you are getting eco-conscious and chunky ice cream. If you want chunks, Ben & Jerry’s is your go-to option.
To have a successful ice cream shop you must have amazing ice cream with a clear concept. Yes, you can just resell generic ice cream, but you will have a much easier job building up a successful ice cream shop if you sell high-quality ice cream with a clear USP.
As the saying goes you can’t chase success – you can only attract it. This also applies to ice cream shops – create incredible ice cream and the customers will come. Pick a clear USP and stick to it.
Examples of USPs
- Plant-Based Ice Cream
- Chunky Ice Cream
- Lots of Flavors
- Organic Ice Cream
- Children’s Ice Cream
- Weird and Unique Flavors
- Sugar-Free Ice Cream
- Vegan Ice Cream
- Ice Cream Made with Locally sourced Ingredients
- Instagram worthy Ice Cream
Tip 2 – Hire Amazing Staff
The second most important thing to ensure success in your ice cream shop is to hire the right staff. Customer service is everything.
If you make incredible ice cream but your team’s customer service skills are lackluster, customers may or may not come back. It doesn’t matter if you make the best ice cream in the world, if your service is poor then people won’t come back.
Make incredible ice cream and have it served by staff who provide incredible customer service – you are on to a winning combination.
When I am interviewing potential team members, the most important thing I look for is whether they have a friendly disposition. Whether I think they will be good with customers. Everything else (i.e., the practical aspects of working in an ice cream shop) can be learned.
In my business, I have the saying “Make Someone’s Day Better”. I try and instill this into all my team. It guides everything we do from serving people to how we make our ice cream.
Tip 3 – Bright, Colorful, and Happy Front of House
Make sure the front of your shop is clean, colorful, happy, and fun for customers to spend time in, even if it is just for a few minutes.
If you can combine amazing ice cream with awesome customer service and a fun happy environment, then you can’t help but thrive as an ice cream business.
If your ice cream shop is several years old and sales aren’t as you would like and the front of your shop is looking a little lackluster, then splash some paint on it. It doesn’t have to cost much to brighten up the front of an ice cream shop. Remember ice cream is meant to be fun.
We even have a neon positive message as soon as you walk through the door saying to each customer “hello gorgeous“. We want our customers to smile and feel good from the moment they walk through our door.
Tip 4 – The Flavor Profiles
This probably sounds super obvious but no matter what your ice cream concept is, make sure you have the basic flavors of vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, and mint choc chip. These are the most popular flavors for a reason and every ice cream shop should offer them.
My ice cream shop launched with a very focused niche concept (see point 1 above). BUT the only classic flavor we ever had on the menu from when we launched was chocolate – all the other flavors were much more unique.
Having only chocolate was a mistake. Why? We notice that our sales were much slower for the first couple of years and every day the best-selling flavor was chocolate. The unusual flavors were more hit or miss.
We were so resistant to adding classic flavors on the menu as we thought they were too basic – we even had a sign up in our store at one point saying: “we are not vanilla“. More fool us.
A few years in, sales were still lackluster and one of the things that helped us to more than double our sales was adding the classic flavors on our menu (made in line with our niche concept).
Other “Classic” Flavors
The other thing to really help increase sales was adding American classic flavors to the menu such as peanut butter, cookies n cream, butter pecan, cookie dough, pumpkin spice, etc. (all made in line with our niche concept). One flavor I had on the menu initially was apple & blackberry – a very traditional UK flavor. It hardly sold at all.
Flavor Lessons I Learned
The main lesson I learned about menu creation is the following: make sure you have the classic flavors with a selection of rotating more unique flavors. Have the following breakdown of flavors in your ice cream shop:
- The classics – vanilla, chocolate, mint choc chip, and strawberry.
- Locational relevant flavors (e.g. if your shop is based in the US – peanut butter, cookies, and cream, etc.).
- Unique flavors (it is a great idea to have unique flavors on the menu – just not at the expense of classic flavors). Have these types of flavors rotate on a weekly basis.
Tip 5 – Daily and Weekly Special Flavors
I am going to let you into a little insider secret that I haven’t seen a huge number of ice cream shops doing but can have a huge impact on your sales.
I mentioned above that one of the things that really helped our ice cream shop to take off was changing up our flavor profiles. The other thing was introducing daily and weekend “special flavors”.
This is essentially where we have a special flavor for every day of the week (e.g. a special flavor that is only on the menu on a Monday, etc.) as well as weekend specials. We make sure the weekend specials are “super special” – they are always more indulgent flavors and always contain mix-ins.
Yes, they are more expensive to make than our regular flavors, but our customers love them and always look forward to the weekend special every weekend. Just to clarify the weekday flavor is the same every week but the weekend special is a new weekend special every week. This daily and weekend special rotation works amazingly for several reasons:
- It creates scarcity – which means many customers rush to our store on certain days to stock up on their favorite flavor whilst it is available. This results in increased sales.
- It helps operations – It allows us to offer many flavors whilst only having a certain number in the freezer and on the menu at any one time. Our ice cream shop is super small so we wouldn’t be able to store all our flavors at once (nor keep up with making them) if they were all on the menu at once.
- It allows us to offer more expensive flavors at the weekends which results in great sales – but without having to have these expensive flavors on the menu all week round.
What do “other” ice cream shops normally do?
What most “other” ice cream shops do is introduce a selection of new flavors each month. They keep these flavors for the month and heavily promote these. The flavors then change every month. This strategy usually works for the first week or so as people get excited to try the new flavor. However, this excitement usually wanes after the first week.
Instead, by having a selection of weekly specials which people are biting at the bits for, creates a weekly demand. Why? Because people know they can only get that flavor on a Tuesday. This strategy turned our slowest days of the week – Tuesday to Thursdays into busy days of the week.
The key with the strategy is that you must only make these flavors available on that day and that day only. You know it is working when people ask for your “Tuesday special” on other days of the week.
Tip 6 – Weekly Newsletter
The next item on my “improve an ice cream shop” list is to send out a weekly newsletter at the same time on the same day every week.
We have been doing this for the past two years.
Ours goes out every Saturday morning at the same time every week. It currently goes to over 2,000 people and has an open rate of over 50% (anything above 20% is considered good).
Our weekend newsletter highlights the weekend special as well as other news. Customers look forward to receiving it to find out about the weekend special. If you use Square as your merchant processing service, then you can sign up for their newsletter function. It only costs us $45 a month for the service.
Tips for writing a great newsletter
As a general rule, there are two main mistakes people make when writing their weekly newsletter: (1) they focus too much on the business and selling; and (2) they don’t have a set structure for their newsletter.
When you write your newsletter you want to make it at the most 20% about selling your ice cream. You want to make your newsletter as fun as possible. To do this, I write about “Fun Facts” each week completely unrelated to ice cream. For example, I have written about Lego, dolphins, trees, water, trucks, etc. You want to give people a reason to want to read your newsletter other than “please visit our ice cream store”.
I then use the second part of the newsletter to let people know what that weekend’s special flavor is. Therefore, you need to have a rotating weekend special flavor. People must open the newsletter to find out what it is.
Tip 7 – Instagram
Out of all the social media platforms, I would just focus on Instagram and TikTok. Forget everything else. In fact, you can even just focus on one. I personally focus on Instagram – we have a larger following on it.
Set up an Instagram account for your ice cream shop and make sure to update it regularly with current and new flavors as well as toppings. Try to make sure your photos are as visual and “gorgeous” as possible. Have a sign up in your store encouraging customers to tag you in their photos of their ice cream.
You do not need to hire someone to do your social media – I find this makes it more impersonal. Also, focus on making video content as much as possible. It gets easier with practice.
Tip 8 – Offer Take-Home Pints of Ice Cream
My next tip for increasing sales in your ice cream shop is to offer pints of your ice cream in display freezers at the front of your store. Make sure to do the following:
- Different flavors: offer flavors in the pint freezer that you don’t currently have on the scooping menu.
- Packaging: make sure the pints are packaged in the most brightly colored pints possible to catch customers’ eyes (pints like these on Amazon work well).
- Freezer Position: Place your pint freezer as close to the point of sale as possible – in the eye line of customers. This will help encourage impulse sales. When we moved our pint freezer by a few feet closer to the point of sale our pint sales doubled.
Tip 9 – Up Sell Ice Cream
The next tip is to offer some extra upsell items on your menu. “Upsell items” are those items that people can add to their ice cream or in addition to ice cream purchases.
The following are some of the best ways to upsell ice cream:
- hand-made waffle cones
- waffle bowls
- ice cream sandwiches
- ice cream floats
- ice cream pie slices
Don’t go crazy on these items. Make sure to still stick to what you do best – ice cream!
Tip 10 – Have a Digital Menu Board
My next tip is to have a digital menu board in your store. We had multiple menu boards in our store over the years (chalk, print outboards, felt – you name it we had one at one point). However, we always felt the menu board never looked that great, it was hard to update regularly, and the concept and flavors sometimes were not that clear.
After some research, we finally decided to get a digital menu board. It was one of our best decisions. It looks professional, is easy to update, and you can change it easily. Don’t believe me then just look at some of the statistics:
- Digital signs increase customer footfall by 24% after installation (Computacenter);
- Digital Signage creates a 31.8% increase in overall sales volume (VCA);
How to Set Up a Digital Menu Board
To set up a menu board you are going to need three things: (1) a commercial TV screen and bracket; (2) some menu board hardware and software; and (3) access to some digital graphic design software (Canva and GIMP are usually enough).
For the TV screen, you are going to want a commercial screen. These can last being on for long periods of time. Also, the bigger the screen the better. We use a 65-inch Samsung screen in our ice cream shop like this one on Amazon. You can also see what brackets look like on Amazon here (you will want a bracket that can tilt).
As for the digital menu board hardware (what is used to get your menu from your laptop to the TV screen), I recommend using XOGO which you can find on Amazon here. It is what we use and works perfectly (it is also free to use, apart from the cost of the hardware).
How Much Will A Digital Menu Board Cost?
As a general rule, you will be looking at around $1,000 to $1,500 for a digital menu board setup. The biggest cost will be the cost of the commercial TV screen.
Tip 11 – Have an A-Sign Outside Store Listing Current Flavors
The next pointer for ice cream shop success is to have an A-sign outside your shop listing the flavors on the menu that day. It’s a great way of letting passers-by know what flavors are on the menu without them even coming into the shop.
You can also use the A-sign to sell your ice creams USP. Just a chalk A-Sign like this one on Amazon works well – you want something you can easily wipe and update.
Tip 12 – Neon Sign-in Window Highlighting Concept
Another tip is to have a neon sign in your window telling the world what is unique about your ice cream e.g., “organic ice cream”, “handmade ice cream”, “vegan “ice cream”, and “locally sourced” ice cream – you get the gist.
Neon signs are just a relatively inexpensive way of standing out.
Tip 13 – Re-Brand and Get Press
The final point in this ice cream success list is a bit more of a drastic way of increasing sales in your ice cream shop.
If you need to freshen up and infuse some new energy and color into the front of your store (point 3 above), it may be a good idea to tie it in with a re-launch party. You can decide on a special day (preferable Saturday) for the relaunch party. During the relaunch, you will debut your fabulous new looking freshen up shop to the world.
Make sure to have some kind of special offer that day (maybe $1 scoops) and have some fabulous new flavors. In the months leading up to it reach out to local papers and journalists to get some press and exposure for the relaunch.
You may or may not want to tie it in with a name change (I would only really recommend this though if your current name doesn’t work – name changes can be expensive).
How To Make Your Ice Cream Shop Stand Out – The Final Lick
How to make your ice cream shop stand out. Ice cream is like any other type of retail business – you want your ice cream store to stand out as much as possible so it can attract as many people as possible. However, unlike other businesses, ice cream shops have some unique ways that they can stand out. These are only limited by your creativity and your USP. Remember whatever you decide to do you want it to reflect your USP.
You also don’t have to do everything at once. Once a year, I make at least one change to my ice cream store. This could be the installation of a neon, digital signage or installing pint freezers. It is all a process of continuously improving. As the Japanese say – “Kaizen”.
Time To Learn Some More
Want to learn more on your path to ice cream entrepreneur success. Then check out some of my other articles.
What Are the Challenges In An Ice Cream Business
How Do I Start My Own Ice Cream Business
Ice Cream Shop Profits – How To Run A Profitable Ice Cream Shop
How Much Does It Cost To Start An Ice Cream Truck
How Much Does It Cost To Start An Ice Cream Shop
Ice Cream Shop Accounting – Everything You Need To Know
Can I Make Ice Cream At Home And Sell It
What Are the Different Types of Frozen Desserts?
Is Vegan Ice Cream Profitable
What Equipment Do I Need For My Ice Cream Truck
How To Pick A Generator For Your Ice Cream Truck
How Profitable Is An Ice Cream Truck?
Everything You Need To Know About Working In An Ice Cream Shop
Everything You Need to Know About Writing an Ice Cream Business Plan
Everything You Need To Know About Rolled Ice Cream
Everything You Need To Know About Soft Serve Ice Cream
Vegan “Ice Cream”
Everything You Need To Know About Batch Freezers
What Equipment Do You Need For An Ice Cream Shop
What Supplies Do You Need For An Ice Cream Shop
What Is The Best Location For An Ice Cream Shop
How To Open An Ice Cream Shop
How To Start An Ice Cream Truck
Do Ice Cream Shops Make Money in the Winter
How Do You Become An Ice Cream Distributor
Everything You Need To Know About Ice Cream Delivery Apps
Everything You Need To Know About Gluten-Free Ice Cream and Toppings
What is the Mark-Up on Ice Cream?
What Scoopers Do Ice Cream Shops Use?
What Are the Best Toppings and Sauces for Ice Cream?