Let’s just cut to the chase — if you’re a retailer, your goal is to get new customers and keep the customers you have coming back, all in the name of increased sales. Without sales, you don’t have a business. Thus, strategizing about how to maximize retail sales should be a top priority.
According to the U.S. Census, retail sales hit a record of $6 trillion in 2018, which is better than the pre-recession high of $4.4 trillion that was spent in 2007. It’s safe to say there’s no “retail apocalypse” and that good business is there for the taking.
But whether things are going great or you’re experiencing a slump, it’s important to always evaluate your current business strategy in order to make sure you’re maximizing retail sales as much as you can. Whatever your current situation may be, the tips below will help you get new customers, keep the ones you have, and increase sales.
Optimize your online presence
When looking to find stores and products, you can bet that consumers are turning to Google. So, make sure you’re showing up whenever they conduct a search relevant to your business. If you sell apparel, for example, then you want nearby customers to find your business whenever they run a search for “clothing stores near me.”
- Name, address and phone number, making sure these details are identical to what’s listed on your site and any other listings
- Accurate business hours
- Positive reviews
- Lots of visual content including recent photos and a virtual tour of your store, if possible.
You could also connect your stock catalog to Google local inventory ads, which are ad units the show up when customers search for specific products in their area — e.g., “water bottle near me.”
When a user runs this type of search, Google will serve up products that are available in-store. Local inventory ads are effective at driving in-store traffic and attracting shoppers who are ready to buy.
Master the arts of upselling and cross-selling
Upselling — offering a pricier version of the original item a shopper is looking to purchase — is a tricky art. But done right, it’s one of the most effective ways to maximize retail sales. To do this effectively, you have to make sure the customer sees the value or benefit of the purchase.
When you’re upselling, see if you can apply the “Rule of 3,” which gives the shopper three options for their purchase — the Requested, the Alternative, and the Dream. Using apparel as an example, the Requested is that starting line or price point that’s easy to wear and can be dressed up or down. The Alternative is something that still relates to the Requested piece, but is listed at a more mid-price point. The Dream is one that you know they’re going to love — but it has a much higher price point.
The key is educating the shopper. It could be that they don’t know that a premium product is available. Or, maybe they just need more evidence to understand how an upgrade is a better fit for their needs.
Now let’s talk about cross-selling. Cross-selling is when you recommend other products to complement the original purchase. The key to cross-selling success is to know your inventory inside and out.
Which items go well together? What products work best for different customers? When you know the answer to these questions, you can quickly make great product recommendations.
Timing is also important. The best time to cross-sell is when the customer has committed to buying a product, and you’ve already gotten to know them. You wouldn’t want to push add-on items when the shopper is still deciding whether or not to buy one item.
Take your time when interacting with shoppers. Most important, make sure you’re telling them about products that would genuinely add value to their original purchase.
Create an event or holiday
You don’t have to wait until November or December to maximize retail sales. People love to celebrate — and they love a good sale — so give them a reason to come and shop all year long.
“At my toy stores, I created a series of events that compelled a busy parent to come in. It could be arts & crafts, or Anna & Elsa could come visit and do a sing-a-thon.” – Aalap Shah, former toy retailer, founder of digital marketing agency 1o8
One other retailer that does a tremendous job in this area is Sephora. Sephora holds classes covering everything from makeup techniques to skincare. And they distribute product samples to customers.
Then to maximize sales after the event, Sephora sends attendees a “Beauty Recap” email. This email contains the exact products they used in class, along with links to purchase them.
The key is to provide an experience that will not only bring people through the doors, but will get them excited about being there — and spending money.
As for retailers creating their own holiday, look no further than Amazon. Amazon created Prime Day; a yearly shopping holiday when Prime members can score exclusive deals. Amazon Prime Day was first launched in July 2015 to celebrate the site’s birthday in July 1995. The day continues to be a massive success for Amazon — and that’s saying something, because the company is already massively successful.
Prime Day enables Amazon to maximize sales like no other retailer, and the holiday just keeps getting bigger. In 2023, the retail giant experienced its biggest Prime Day yet, selling at least $12.7 billion worth of products.
Your retail business may not be as huge as Amazon or Sephora, but you can still implement the concepts of holidays and events in your stores. Just remember that initiatives aren’t just about making the sale; they’re about brand awareness. If the shoppers have a good time, they’ll tell their friends and family (and hopefully social media) and remember you the next time they go shopping.
Make the shopping process easy and convenient
Once the customer has decided to buy an item, make it easy for them to take home their purchases. The last thing you want is to lose a done deal because of slow checkout or inefficient order fulfillment.
Strive to streamline the checkout process by training your cashiers well and making sure your store is adequately staffed, so there’s always someone who can work additional registers.
Jamie Hess, the CEO, and co-founder of the truck-sharing service Truxx, advises retailers to use technologies that reduce the barriers to purchase.
“Invest in self-checkout or other technology that virtually eliminates lines. Also, offer last-mile services, especially for large inventory items like grills, furniture or anything that won’t fit in a customer’s car.”
We can see this tip in action in a number of ways, including:
Sephora, for example, arms its associates with mobile POS systems so they can ring up shoppers from anywhere in the store. So, rather than falling in line, customers can complete their purchase on the spot and be on their way.
Some stores allow customers to browse their catalogs using in-store tablets. When the shopper sees a product they like, they can have the item shipped to their home. Known as endless aisles, these initiatives let you maximize sales because you can sell products that aren’t physically in your location.
The key takeaway here is to eliminate any bottlenecks in the purchase process. Whether you’re dealing with long-lines, stock-outs, or just general inefficiency, you need to identify the issues and find ways to streamline the checkout process.
As Hess puts it, you need to “make it easy for items to get to the buyer’s front door.”
Hire and develop superstar employees
Given that your employees are often the ones doing the selling, make sure you’re hiring the best people for the job. It’s essential to communicate your expectations to each and every employee so that they know their role and responsibilities.
Hire sales associates that are knowledgeable and passionate about your merchandise. Train them to create exceptional buying experiences with every customer. It’s critical that they learn to identify a customer’s needs and wants, match those needs to a selection of products, and show them the value of their options.
Your employees should serve as experts. Take a page out of the successful yoga apparel company, Lululemon. The walls of stores highlight pictures of their staff performing challenging yoga poses. Staff also attend and/or teach yoga classes. What this tells shoppers is that the staff are experts whose advice can be trusted.
Ensure you always have inventory on hand
The quickest way to lose customers is to not have the product they want to buy. This is why good inventory management is critical to maximizing sales. Arm your business with a robust inventory management system. Also, implement practices like regular stock counts to ensure inventory accuracy.
Make sure you’re tracking the right metrics — GMROI, sell-through, inventory turnover, product performance, lost sales, etc. This help you know what products are making you money and which are taking up room on your shelves.
Analyze historical data and current trends to forecast demand. Look at your product and sales reports and identify your top items and the types of customers purchasing them. This helps you figure out what items to order, the quantities you need, and the dates that you need them by — meaning you’ll always have the right products in-store to avoid stockouts.
Shah says that having the right products on the floor played a significant role in growing their sales. “My team and I found that by having the right type of merchandise on hand for particular age groups and knowing the product inside out, we were able to divert showrooming and sell the product in the moment.”
Optimize your email campaigns and get more subscribers
According to Forrester, around 17% of digital marketing spend happens in email. But, email contributes 24% of revenue, making it one of the most effective channels for making sales and generating repeat customers.
You can say things in an email you can’t fit in a social media post, and it’s a great way to actively promote your newsletter, blog, and any other promotions that bring people into your store.
Plus, email is also convenient for the customer because it can be quickly brought up via a smartphone. This is crucial if you’ve emailed a coupon or discount that the customer wants to use in-store.
In order for email to be effective, you have to do more than build up your subscriber base — you have to provide value. Some emails your subscribers will appreciate include:
- A welcome/thank you message as soon as they make a purchase.
- Exclusive promotional codes and free gifts.
- Regular newsletters announcing new discount offers, product tips, and upcoming promotions.
- Relevant content that helps them get the most out of what they recently purchased.
Understand and show appreciation for your customers
The best way to increase retail sales is to have a customer-centric approach to your business. Above everything else, your job is to provide incredible customer service and an experience they won’t soon forget.
This starts by actually talking and listening to your shoppers to understand their needs and their motivations. Showing genuine interest in why they came goes a long way towards fostering brand loyalty. And don’t forget to let them know you appreciate their business. This can be done through offers of value-added services and products, a customized loyalty program, or a simple note thanking them for their support.
You can see this in action in the following handwritten note from Courtney, a Chanel associate. In her note, Courtney not only thanked me for the purchase, but she also mentioned specific details about my trip to the store, making the note truly personal. As a customer, this gesture made me feel genuinely appreciated.
Engage with your customers
Have you ever been in an Apple store? If so, you know that the employees are anything but bystanders, and it’s easy to see why they’re the most profitable retail store per square foot. The second you walk into the store — which is always crowded, by the way — you’re greeted by an associate who is a proud ambassador of the brand, who is ready to listen for and resolve any issues or concerns and present a solution for the customer to take home today.
Given that every person who comes into your store could potentially spend money and support your business, it’s key to smile and greet them with questions about what brought them in and how you can help meet their needs. Even if they’re just browsing, each customer should be treated the same, because each shopper could turn into a loyal customer if the relationship is properly nurtured.
Make good use of signage
Never underestimate the power of great signage in retail. When used correctly, signs can attract, educate, and compel shoppers to make a purchase.
As Stan Tan from Selby’s puts it, having informational signage throughout the store aids customers in making a purchase decision.
“If the customers aren’t sure about the product, which product to choose, the reliability of the product or have any doubts, he/she is walking out the door. With informational signage, you can help customers make those decisions by providing them the information they need at the point of sale.”
Consider this example from Old Navy, which offers more information on different types of jeans and how they fit.
Pro tip: Already using in-store signage? Make sure they’re well-executed by conducting retail audits.
Ready to maximize retail sales?
As a retailer, you know that there are only so many hours in each day, and you have to make the most of your time. In other words, you can’t do it all right away. But the recommendations above are a great way to ensure you’re getting the most out of your efforts and maximizing sales. Implement a few of these tactics, evaluate the results, and then do it all over again. Applied strategically, they’re the key to a steady stream of profitable sales.
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