5 Ways Retailers are Leaving Money on the Table

Shopping cart symbol inside a coffee cup by a calculator

Are you always looking for the next big trend that’ll help you increase sales? Do you think that the key to earning more revenue lies in a new strategy that you have yet to discover?

Here’s a thought: Maybe you should stop looking. While there’s nothing wrong with going “out there” for ways to increase sales and find customers, let’s not forget that you have plenty of opportunities sitting right under your nose. And you’re leaving a lot of money on the table by not seizing them.

In this post, we’ll take a look at some of the revenue opportunities that many retailers aren’t taking advantage of. Before searching far and wide for new ways to increase customers and sales, make sure you’re capitalizing on factors that are closer to home.

1. You don’t upsell or cross-sell.

You’re missing tons of chances to increase sales by not engaging with customers who are already buying from you. If you have a customer who already has products on hand, why not approach them to see if there’s anything else that they’d like to buy?

Approach them by recommending relevant products, upgrades, or any special offers you have going on.

The key is doing this in a way that doesn’t come off as pushy. Remember, people love to buy, but they hate being sold to. So as long as you approach shoppers with finesse and you’re providing value, you shouldn’t have any trouble engaging them.

Here some quick tips on carrying out sale tactics effectively:

Get a read on each customer to determine the best approach.

Do they look open to conversation or does it look like they want to be left alone? Take time to read customers. Pay attention to what they’re saying, while also looking at their non-verbal cues at the same time. Look at their stance, observe where they put their hands, and note their facial expressions. Your observations should give you cues on how to deliver your spiel.

Take time to get to know them.

Ask questions and figure out your customers’ needs. Get to know the purpose of their visit. Get insights into their lifestyle. Engage in back and forth conversation. This will enable you to suggest products in a natural, non-sleazy way.

Know your inventory.

You can’t upsell or cross-sell properly if you don’t know what you have. So make sure you always know what’s in stock. Also, familiarize yourself with the features, benefits, and stories behind your products.

Time your approach.

When you decide to upsell or cross-sell is crucial. As a reminder, here are the best and worst times to sell to shoppers.

Best times:

When you’re familiar with the customer  – Remember our tip about getting to know customers? Implement that before you decide to upsell or cross-sell. Doing so will not only make recommendations more relevant, but shoppers will be more receptive because you spent time establishing rapport.

When they’re holding a product – This gives you an excellent opportunity to suggest complimentary items.

When addressing an objection – If you have a customer who isn’t too sure about an item or who is considering a product that’s not a good fit for them, grab the opportunity to suggest alternatives.

Worst times:

When a customer has just walked into your store – Shoppers who are immediately sold to after having just walked in might feel ambushed. Not to mention, you won’t know enough about them at this point, so your product recommendations will likely be irrelevant.

When a shopper tells you they don’t want to be sold to – When a customer makes it clear that they’re not interested in other products, respect their wishes and let them be.

Recommended Reading

Looking for additional sales tactics? Download Vend’s Sales Guide to learn about the ten proven sales techniques retailers use to attract customers and increase revenue.

2. You don’t follow-up on stock-outs, abandoned carts and “close calls” with buyers.

Did someone almost make a purchase? Find ways to make that “almost sale” into a sure thing.

The first step is to determine why the customer wasn’t able to buy. Did they change their mind? Was the price too high? Or maybe it was a matter of availability. Sales often fall through when the store doesn’t have the right color or size in stock.

Whatever the case may be, these missed sales don’t have to be lost opportunities for good. Sometimes, you can bring back shoppers and convince them to complete their original purchase by addressing the sales barrier.

For instance, if the price was too high, why not circle back if you decide to put the product on sale?


Ecommerce site Tiny Prints does this. If a customer puts something in their cart but leaves without completing the sale, Tiny Prints sends an email reminding them to check out. For good measure, they even throw in a 20% off coupon.

On the other hand, if a sale falls through due to product unavailability, you can follow-up with customers once you have their merchandise in stock.


Consider what ModCloth is doing. The e-tailer sends “back in stock” emails to shoppers who tried to buy something that wasn’t in-stock at the time.

Do note that such tactics aren’t just for ecommerce. Brick-and-mortar stores can implement similar actions by proactively collecting customer information in-store.

For instance, if a shopper wants to buy something that isn’t in stock, you can take down their information and get in touch when the product becomes available.

You never know, they could still be in the market for that item. And even if they already purchased it from somewhere else, you taking the initiative to notify them still makes a good impression. It keeps you top of mind and increases the likelihood that they’ll shop with you again.

3. You’re not selling on other channels.

Digital channels (i.e. ecommerce, mobile, social) are opening up opportunities for you to expand and reach more consumers. By failing to capitalize on other channels, you’re not just missing out on sales, but you’re driving customers to your competitors.

Make no mistake: your customers aren’t sticking to one channel to shop. They’re also online. And they’re likely using their mobile devices to research and buy. The only way to stay competitive is to be there for your them at multiple touch points.

How exactly can you accomplish this? That depends. If you’re only selling in-store at the moment, then start by setting up an ecommerce site (hint: make sure it’s responsive.)

If you’re already selling online and offline, then find ways to optimize the experience. You can, for example, integrate your offline and ecommerce stores, so inventory and customer data flow seamlessly between channels. You could also implement initiatives such as click-and-collect and mobile ordering.

The key is figuring out what channels your customers are using to shop, and then finding ways to include those very same channels in your strategy.

4. You don’t communicate with existing customers.

If you don’t have a customer retention strategy, you’re missing out on sales. Selling to customers you already have is just as — if not more — effective than acquiring new shoppers.

Plus, it’s a lot easier to engage existing customers than it is to establish rapport with a buyer who doesn’t know who you are. So build up your database by collecting customer information.

The best way to do this is through a loyalty program that rewards people who provide their information and who purchase on a regular basis.

And once you’ve built up your list, make sure you put it to good use. Communicate with shoppers regularly through newsletters. Tell them what’s new in your store, offer them deals, and do what you can to entice them to come back and shop.

For best results, personalize your interactions with customers. If you’re sending out emails, segment shoppers based on demographic or previous purchases so you can make tailored recommendations.

Same thing for shoppers in-store. If you have a returning customer, take a quick look at their profile and previous purchases then craft your approach from there.

Let’s say you see a familiar face walk into your shop. You pull up their information and see that they previously bought products by a particular brand. With this information on hand, you can connect with them by mentioning new arrivals from that brand or by telling an interesting story about the designer.

The ability to personalize is a powerful differentiator in retail. In a world where shoppers can get whatever they want online or at lower-priced stores, the retailers that can get personal are the ones who will win.

5. Failing to take advantage of data.

If you aren’t using data in your business, you’re missing out. Collecting and analyzing data about your customers, products, and sales will enable you to make smarter decisions.

What should you stock up on? Which customers are most profitable? Should you cut back on spending in some areas of your business?

The answers to these questions can mean the difference between smashing your revenue targets or missing them entirely. And the best way to figure all this out is to rely on data.


Fortunately, there are plenty of tools that’ll enable you to collect and use data. Many POS solutions now have reporting tools that generate sales, product, customer reports, so you always know what’s going on in your business.

If you’re looking for more sophisticated technology, you can look into in-store analytics tools such beacons, video analytics, and more.

Whatever tools you decide to use, see to it that they’re giving accurate information on the main areas of your business, including your sales, inventory, and customers.

In closing

You’re leaving a lot of money on the table by not capitalizing on opportunities you already have. So before you go “out there” to search for ways boost revenue, re-examine your business and identify areas for growth that you aren’t taking full advantage of.

Can you name other instances of retailers leaving money on the table? Let us know in the comments.

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If you enjoyed this post, you may want to check out our free ebook, Retail Survival of the Fittest

This book serves as your practical guide to modern-day retail success. Learn how to use mobile technology, big data, and other digital tools to improve your brick-and-mortar store and ensure that it is well-equipped to engage and convert today’s savvy shoppers.


About Francesca Nicasio

Francesca Nicasio is Vend's Retail Expert and Content Strategist. She writes about trends, tips, and other cool things that enable retailers to increase sales, serve customers better, and be more awesome overall. She's also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Google+.