Editor’s note: COVID-19 has dramatically changed the retail landscape. Traditional selling tactics may work not as well as before, so we’ve added new recommendations to help increase your retail sales in today’s new normal.
If you’ve landed on this post, chances are you’re looking to increase sales in your store. Maybe you’re experiencing a sales slump. Or perhaps things are going great and you want to keep the momentum.
Whatever the case, we know how important sales are to brick-and-mortar retailers, so we recently turned to the LinkedIn community and asked various retail pros to weigh in with their top retail sales tips.
We compiled some of the best answers in this post, along with additional commentary, tips, and examples.
How to increase retail sales
We’ve packed a lot of retail sales pointers in this article, so to make things easier, here’s a rundown of what we’ll cover. Feel free to jump straight to a section that’s relevant to you!
- Make customers feel safe in your store
- Ensure that your store shows up in online search results
- Display your local inventory in Google Search and Maps
- Implement click-and-collect
- Consider mobile ordering
- Hire and develop employees who can provide exceptional customer experiences
- Be smart about your sales targets
- Promote corporate social responsibility
- Have strong in-store visuals
- Update your visual elements regularly
- Eliminate the wait
- Ensure that your products are on-point
- Have a simple loyalty program
- Communicate, communicate, communicate
- Tell an authentic story that resonates
- Be customer-centric
- Promote upgrades add-on sales
- Use product returns to your advantage
- Recognize that retail success doesn’t just come down to just one thing
- Automate your retail sales
1. Make customers feel safe in your store
In the age of COVID-19, one of the best things you can do to drive traffic and sales is to instill confidence in your customers. Because of the pandemic, many of your customers are worried about their health and safety.
To win them over, start by clearly communicating your health and safety measures. Explain all that you’re doing to keep people safe in your location, then use multiple channels to get the word out.
Target is one example of a store that covers all of its channel when communicating COVID-19 updates. The retailer keeps shoppers posted by delivering health and safety info via:
- its website
- email marketing
- social media
- its mobile app
And see to it that your in-store employees are actively implementing those measures. The last thing you want is for shoppers to call you out for now walking the talk. Hire the right people, and make sure you have a strong communication and training procedure in place so that employees know exactly what to do in-store.
Are you a Vend customer? Click below to learn how to set sales targets for your team members.
2. Ensure that your store shows up in online search results
Now more than ever, consumers are turning to Google to find stores and products. Make sure that you’re showing up whenever they conduct a search relevant to your business. If you sell baby clothes, for example, then you want nearby customers to find your business whenever they run a search for “baby clothing store near me.”
You can do this by setting up business listings on Google, Yelp, Facebook, and other platforms. When creating your profile, add in as many details as possible. These include:
- Name, address and phone number (Important: Ensure that these details are identical to what’s listed on your site and any other listings.)
- Accurate business hours
- Lots of reviews
- Lots of visual content including recent photos, and if possible, a virtual tour of your store.
It takes a bit of extra time, but doing this will make your listing more attractive and, as a result, drive more traffic to your location and website.
Consider the example below. Which listing do you think gets more traffic: the one on the left, which contains detailed info, reviews, and lots of photos? Or the plain listing on the right? As far as appearances go, we’re willing to bet that the company on the left gets more business.
3. Display your local inventory in Google Search and Maps
Take your Google listing to the next level by displaying your inventory in Google Search and Maps.
Leverage a solution like Pointy, which allows you to display your in-store products on Google without manually re-entering your inventory data.
If you’re using Vend, for example you can connect Vend and Pointy, and your inventory data will automatically be displayed on your Business Profile on Google Search and Maps when consumers search for your business name or, potentially, for a product that you have in stock.
We can see this in action in Maxwell’s of Chelmsford, a retailer in Massachusetts that sells lawn and garden supplies, animal feed, and pet food.
Maxwell’s of Chelmsford has been using Pointy for two years, though they’ve gotten more value out of it when COVID-19 hit. Because of the pandemic, many more shoppers are browsing retail inventories online before making it to the store. Thanks to Pointy, Maxwell’s products are visible to shoppers in the area.
During the pandemic, Maxwell’s Pointy page was getting so much traffic that Lisa linked it to her current store website. Maxwell’s doesn’t have an ecommerce site, but thanks to Pointy, customers can still explore the store’s products online.Shortcode
4. Implement click-and-collect
Click-and-collect has been around for a while now, but COVID-19 has accelerated its adoption.
Offering this service will help drive in-store traffic and sales. Click-and-collect not only gets people through your doors, but it’s been proven to increase in-store sales as well. Research has shown about 45% of those who have opted for in-store pickup bought something else during their trip to the store.Shortcode
5. Consider mobile ordering
Mobile ordering isn’t just for restaurants. Inventory-based retailers can also offer these services — and reap the rewards.
Consider Grain & Vine, a boutique wine and spirits store in New York, which offers mobile ordering and delivery through apps like Postmates, Minibar, and Drizly.
According to owner Michael Nagdimunov, adding the delivery service increased their revenue by 25%. They’re also seeing orders ramp up over time. Nagdimunov says that over 12 months, they’ve seen orders increase from 100 per month to 600 monthly orders.
6. Hire and develop employees who can provide exceptional customer experiences
Your employees are the people who are doing the selling, so if you’re looking to increase sales, you need to invest in your staff.
“Hire smart,” advises Mike Eden, owner of The Ultra Gear Shop. “Make sure that every member of your team wants to be there and are passionate about and know their products. If they are passionate they will want the customers to have the same experience as them. If they are knowledgeable they will share their passion with confidence.”
Nick Stagge, VP of marketing at ExpertVoice, does a great job in elaborating on this best practice. According to him, in order to effectively get your staff to drive sales, you need to:
- Hire sales associates that are passionate and knowledgeable about the products you sell. This takes a large commitment to the interviewing and hiring process, but the value cannot be overstated.
- Train those associates to create great buying experiences with every customer. Most retailers train their team to close out the register, stock shelves, and keep the floor clean. It is more important they teach their team how to identify a customer’s needs and wants, match those needs to a selection of products, and show them the value in their options.
- Empower your sales associates to interact with your customers — don’t overwhelm them with housekeeping projects, let them put your customers first. Set the expectation that customers come first, always.
Additional retail staffing tips
We’ve talked about retail staffing quite a bit on the Vend blog, so rather than rehashing everything we’ve said before, we’ll end this section with a handful of pointers for you to think about:
- Reconsider the role of store associates. Instead of just thinking of them as “salespeople” elevate their role to “consultant,” “expert,” or “concierge.”
- Be grateful and appreciate your staff. As Angela McDonald, an assistant store manager at Walgreens says, you need to “treat your team members like they matter! Imagine if none of them were there and you had to do EVERYTHING yourself? Respect them. Treat them like they are important. Appreciate them and give praise.”
- Remember that customer experience is job #1, says Ken Stronach, a consultant at Great American Group. “Not cleaning, not stocking, not counting inventory. While these things may be important, the customer experience is their reason for being there.”
- Train your staff to wow shoppers within the first few seconds. “The retail floor team has 10 seconds to visually wow the shopping consumer,” shares Nathan Patterson, Director of Business Development at H. H. Brown Shoe Company. “It is also within those 10 seconds where the customer is easily marketable. The job of the employee is to create a shopping experience where the consumer becomes engaged and shortly transitions into a purchaser, not a browser. Equip your team with communication skills, industry, and product knowledge, as well as the ability to become a concierge to that consumer.”
7. Be smart about your sales targets
One of the keys to boosting your retail revenue is setting sales targets. For starters, you want to make sure that you’re establishing the right sales goals — i.e., those that are challenging but achievable.
As retail expert Kevin Graff puts it:
“Goals should be achieved at least 70% of the time. If not, they’re too high and risk de-motivating your staff,” he wrote. “By the same token, if goals are achieved 90% or more of the time they’re too low and aren’t pushing your staff.”
Once you’ve set your goals, communicate them with your team and keep them top of mind throughout the day. An excellent way to do this is to use your point of sale system’s reporting capabilities to increase the visibility of your sales targets.
In Vend, for example, the Home screen shows the targets for the user currently signed in. This can be a very useful tool for identifying top performing cashiers or sales reps, and for tracking goals for each team member.
Once the targets have been set, the user will be able to monitor their progress from the home screen. There will be a section called ‘Your Sales’, which will show a progress bar of the user’s sales target. There is also a graph which shows the user the history of sales made across the period they have specified.
8. Promote corporate social responsibility
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: doing good is good for business. Multiple studies have shown that today’s consumers are more inclined to shop at stores that are associated with a good cause.
Giving back and being more responsible with your practices doesn’t just help the world, it can also increase your sales.
So, if you’re currently not engaging in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), it’s high time to find a good cause to support.
There are numerous ways to do this, including:
- donating a portion of your sales to charity
- being more ethical with how you source or manufacture products
- supporting an initiative or community project
- investing in your workforce
- creating or participating in events that promote good causes
9. Have strong in-store visuals
Allow us to state the obvious: people won’t buy unappealing products, which is why having strong in-store visuals is key. Here’s are some general guidelines to follow:
- Make your displays multidimensional by varying their visual elements. Add height, color, or depth whenever possible.
- Have a focal point so people know which items or details to focus on. Displays that are too busy or distracting will just overwhelm your customers.
- Make them useful or interactive. Help people see your products in action. Create displays that show your products in use or allow shoppers to try them out.
- Keep things neat and tidy. An organized space doesn’t just look good, it also allows customers to find what they need faster, thus aiding the buying experience.
- Display your best products front and center. As Piero Ferrari, a customer service representative at Premise LED Inc., says, it’s ideas to “always have a display of your best products at the store entrance, regardless of price.” According to him, doing so “communicates what you are capable of and it’s a great conversation starter for the staff.”
10. Update your visual elements regularly
Having a great-looking store is just the first step. To continue driving traffic and sales, you need to keep your visuals fresh. This means updating regularly to keep up with the latest trends and seasons.
“My top tip is to be relevant,” says Karl McKeever, Founder and Managing Director at Visual Thinking. “Refresh key in-store displays regularly to reflect what’s happening seasonally and locally to connect better with shopper needs.”
In other words, don’t let seasons and events pass your store by. Put special occasions and shopping dates on your calendar, then plan for them well in advance. What will your store look like around Mother’s Day? What about the Independence Day or the holiday season?
Plan out your window display and merchandising initiatives to the tee. Having relevant signage can also help drive sales. As a holiday of shopping event is draws closer, set up big, obvious signs to remind customers to go shopping for the occasion.
Take a look at this example from a Target store in Cerritos, CA. To remind people about Easter, this Target location set up a big sign near its entrance encouraging guests to visit their Easter shop.
11. Eliminate the wait
Long wait times will send guests packing and kill sales. Research has found that “Americans will abandon a checkout line and leave a store without making a purchase after eight minutes of waiting in a checkout line. British shoppers won’t even wait around that long. They’ll walk out after just six minutes.”
Barbara Thau, a contributing writer at Forbes.com, adds that in order to increase sales, brick-and-mortar stores must “banish the wait in line, once and for all.”
How do you do that? Start by keeping your store well-staffed, particularly during busy periods. Look at your store data to figure out your peak hours, then ensure that you have enough employees and registers to handle the rush.
Always have additional registers ready-to-go. Consider using a modern POS system that you can easily power up when things get too busy. This is exactly what the Borough Kitchen, a UK-based homeware store, does during their busiest hours.
“At peak times…we can add a new till instantly by switching on another iPad. That just wouldn’t work with a traditional till system,” says founders David Caldana & Justin Kowbel.
Speaking of which, if you’re constantly dealing with long wait times, an iPad POS system could be just the thing to speed things up. Mobile POS solutions enable you to untether the checkout process, so you can ring up sales from anywhere in the store (e.g. when people are waiting in line or if someone just needs to get “in and out” quickly.)
12. Ensure that your products are on-point
A winning product assortment will help you win more sales. Stay on top of your inventory to ensure that you’re stocking the right products at the right time. Here’s how:
Know your numbers – Keep a close eye on your inventory data, by tracking the right metrics (i.e. GMROI, sell-through, inventory turnover, product performance, and lost sales). You need to have a clear idea of what’s selling, which products are making you money, and which ones are duds so you can make the right call when it comes ordering products, running promotions, and more.
Forecast demand – You can forecast demand by looking at historical data, current trends, and by factoring in a bit of your intuition. Start by looking at your product and sales reports and identify your top items and how fast they’re selling. This will give you a better idea of what items to orders, the quantities you need, and the dates that you need them by.
Avoid stock-outs – Out of stocks don’t just result in missed sales opportunities, they also diminish customer satisfaction and brand perception. Stock-outs also send people straight to your competitors.
Here’s how you can avoid and address stockouts in your store:
- Have an inventory management system with stock level alerts, accurate reporting, and effective product ordering features.
- If necessary, tweak your stock ordering process so orders arrive promptly.
- Cultivate strong relationships with your suppliers and communicate with them often.
- Always have enough working capital so you’ll never be short of funds when it’s time to order products.
13. Have a simple loyalty program
“Do implement a loyalty program that’s customized to your audience that can track and incentivize customer lifetime value and higher ROI from your top 20% of customers,” advises Michael Spencer, a content manager and futurist.
If you haven’t done so yet, establish a program that rewards your best customers. It doesn’t have to be too complicated. Bells and whistles like tiers, points, and stars cab come later. If you’re starting out, kick off your loyalty program efforts with a simple “dollars for purchases” format.
Consider the case of Christmas Elves, a store that uses Vend’s native loyalty features. Christmas Elves run an easy-to-understand loyalty program that lets customers earn Christmas dollars that they can use towards their next purchase. According to business owner Jacon McIntyre, this program has helped them with their customer service and retention.
Customers won’t have to track their loyalty through physical cards. They simply have to be in the Christmas Elves’ system to be able to manage and redeem their rewards.
Jason says, “When we ring up a sale and the customer is in our system, we say ‘Oh okay, you have $23 in loyalty. Do you want to use it now or later?’ That information obviously makes our customers feel good. Most of them of them use it straightaway, while some like to collect loyalty for bigger purchases. But the fact that it’s so easy with Vend is such a blessing.”
14. Communicate, communicate, communicate
There’s no shortage of platforms on which you can communicate with your customers. As Vikas Gupta of Global Cloud Xchange puts it, you can convert walk-ins into regular customers by using “any economic or free communication tools like SMS (A2P), Whatsapp, FB page to share your everyday specials” or simply keep in touch with your customers.
Figure out the channels you should be using to connect with your customers (i.e. text, email, social, all of the above) then utilize them to stay top of mind.
Here’s an example from Snowflakes, a desserts shop in Cerritos, CA, which regularly communicates with customers via SMS:
On the email side of things, check out this message from Total Wine & More. When Los Angeles was experiencing a heatwave in July of 2018, the folks at Total Wine cleverly sent an email with the very relevant subject line that started with “Beat the heat.”
Try to apply that same level of creativity and relevance in your messaging. Communicate with your customers often, and ensure that your messages are on point.
15. Tell and authentic story that resonates
Authenticity sells. Consumers love it when brands “get real” or show their vulnerable side because it makes the business more relatable.
So, if you have a good and authentic story to tell, by all means, do it.
“My best tip is to share YOUR story,” says Sonja Thompkins, a business coach for brick and mortar boutiques. “One of the most authentic ways to instantly build the “know, like, trust” factor is to let customers know why you decided to create the business you have. The key is to share the areas of your why that would resonate with your target customer.”
She continues, “Training your staff so that they know and can articulate the “story”, and by having a well-designed mission statement hanging in a prominent location where customers can easily view & read it. That kind of vulnerability makes their choice to shop with you personal. And people love to buy from other people, not businesses!”
16. Be customer-centric
“Customer-centricity” is one of those buzzwords that everyone throws around, but all it really means is truly understanding your customers, and making them the center of your ideas and initiatives.
Consider this: whenever he holds a meeting, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos makes it a point to have an has an empty in the room to represent the customer, so they never lose sight of the people that they’re selling to.
Aim for that level of customer-centricity in your business.
“Stop obsessing over price and even the product…obsess over the customer,” advises Fabien Tiburce, CEO of retail compliance software Compliantia. “Make them feel wonderful when they step into your stores. They will be back.”
How can you be more customer-centric? Start by actually talking to your shoppers, says Clara Mota, an independent consultant and brand manager. “If brick and mortar stores want to maintain their relevance and boost sales, the should be customer-centric, interview people on the street about their products and shop using the 5 Whys technique. They will quickly find out the deeper needs, and what the should do to capture more customers.”
It’s also important to “understand your customers beyond how they engage with your business,” says Mark Bowen, a business development manager at ASD Bank. “Your own store will only feature as a very small part of your customers’ lives so get busy knowing their deeper behavior, likes and dislikes and what they value most.”
Taking the steps above will help you uncover valuable intel about your customers, which in turn will allow you to develop better products, services, and experiences.
Case in point: IKEA. KEA devotes tons of time and resources studying the cultures and habits of their target markets. For instance, Fortune reports that the company once did a study of 8,292 people in eight cities to learn more about their morning routines. Doing so enabled IKEA to figure out what stresses people out when getting ready for work and what keeps them from getting out the door during the morning rush.
IKEA gained valuable insights from their study and it helped them come up with a product called the Knapper, a full-length mirror that comes with a built-in rack and hooks for hanging clothes and jewelry. The product is meant to help people get ready faster by allowing them to put together their outfits the night before.
Some of the biggest and most successful players in retail are obsessed with their customers. The question is: are you? What can you do right now to learn more about your target market? Are your customers the center of your decision-making? If not, what can you do to always have your shoppers front and center?
17. Promote upgrades add-on sales
Impulse buys, upsells, and cross-sales can really add up, so if add-on sales and upgrades aren’t a big focus for you, see if you can make them a bigger part of your sales strategy. We’ve written about these topics at length in previous posts, so if you’d like a crash course in upselling, cross-selling, and promoting impulse buys, check out the following:
- How to Encourage Impulse Buys and Unplanned Purchases in Your Retail Store
- Suggestive Selling in Retail: How to Increase Add-On Sales without Being Sleazy
- How to Upsell and Cross-Sell in Retail: 6 Pointers to Implement in your Store
And here’s an informative video featuring Jennifer and Danila, the co-owners of Convey boutique in Toronto. In it they talk about how retailers can upsell and cross-sell using the “Rule of 3.”
18. Use product returns to your advantage
Product returns can leave a bad taste in a retailer’s mouth, but if you handle them the right way, you can turn product returns into sales or opportunities.
“Treat each return like a sale. When a customer is treated with a smile, even when they are returning an item (for whatever reason) they feel valued, and it creates an emotional sense of loyalty,” says Dena Brenner, a solutions engineer at Balance Innovations.
“Sure, there are customers who take advantage, but you will build a loyal customer base who will continue to shop in your stores because they know they will be made to feel valued each time they walk in the door.”
Dena makes an excellent point. As we mentioned in one of our previous posts on the topic, on-site product returns drive people into your store. Sure, it may not be their intention to make a purchase, but if you manage to impress them, they might just decide to buy something or come back at a later time.
That’s why you need to ensure that each person who’s going through the returns process has an amazing experience. Instead of viewing and treating the task as a chore, have your associates handle returns with a smile. Make the process swift and painless.
19. Recognize that retail success doesn’t just come down to just one thing
Last but not least, remember that an increase in sales is typically a result of the combination of various retail practices done right. You can’t just take one tip and expect it to transform your business. Recognize that increasing sales requires a solid strategy and integrated approach.
As Simon Webster, a sales executive at Oudoria puts it:
We are heading into such an exciting time for independent retail. I believe there are five key pillars to successful independent retail
- Store attention
- Managing Inventory
- Passionate staff who ask the right questions and want to sell
- Genuine customer care
- Shopping experience
Get all those 5 pillars right, and you’re bound to see positive results — in sales and your business overall.
20. Automate your retail sales
Generating retail sales is challenging as it is. Don’t make it even harder by doing everything yourself. A bit of automation goes a long way, and can help keep sales coming in without you having to be actively involved.
Need ideas of what to automate? Start by getting inactive customers to shop with you again.
You can drive a whole lot of retail sales by re-engaging inactive shoppers. But rather than going through your database manually, you can use a marketing automation platform that can automatically do this for you.
A solution like Marsello can segment your customer database and identify shoppers who haven’t bought anything in a while. From there, it’s easy to create a re-engagement campaign encouraging those customers to take another look at your merchandise.
The lingerie retailer Our Bralette Club (OBC) demonstrates this tip really well. OBC uses Marsello to run automated “win-back” campaigns that go out to inactive shoppers. Best of all, the whole thing is automated, which means these messages are sent with very little effort from OBC.
Whew! We just walked you through a ton of ideas for increasing your retail sales. Our hope is that you can take a handful of these pointers and make them work in your business
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+.