By John Matthews, founder and president of Gray Cat Enterprises Inc.
With any size retailer, getting customer trial at your store is the easy part. If the store owner throws out a compelling offer – perhaps a free deal – customers will come to your store to “check you out.” This is fairly straight forward, and most customers will be curious enough to visit. The hard part is getting them to want to come back again and again.
In-store marketing is a critical and oft-overlooked marketing strategy for any size retailer. Successful retailers make their customer feel welcome and comfortable in their store, building repeat business and developing “customer ambassadors” for your store. Not only should customers be treated as a privilege, but by gaining customer trust, they can be guided with sales suggestions about your products.
Keep in mind, that if greetings and suggestive sales are properly executed, you not only communicate the genuineness of the store but articulate the best sales opportunities. Whether you are a large or small retailer, customers need to be guided with helpful suggestions about your products. While offering “specials” or “on-sale items” is commonplace in many stores, training your employees to actively “suggestive sell” is critical and cannot be taken for granted. Employees must have a passion about the products in which they promote.
Make It Fun For The Customer: Successful retailers will make the customer feel welcome and comfortable in their store – this is perhaps the greatest competitive advantage one can create. One of the more memorable moments for a customer is how they are welcomed at your store. Being polite and courteous is sometimes overlooked in place of a canned greeting for a customer – show genuine interest in your customer and personalize the greeting by name! A customer is a privilege, not a right.
Create Employee Incentives: Having the customer trade up can be accomplished best through a definitive employee incentive – if you want to move product, you should drive employee incentives. Create a reward system for your best employees with gift cards or some other enticement for top performance. Take it a step further by getting your vendors involved in the incentive and having them provide the prizes. Remember, when it comes to your vendors, the “squeaky wheel, gets the oil.”
Mix It Up: In-store marketing should include activities that take place at a direct customer interaction point – usually at the counter. Create carefully crafted, suggestive sales programs for your employees that assist them in incrementally increasing the average purchase of every customer. Just imagine how much your average weekly sales would increase by adding an additional 50 cents — or $5 or $50 depending on your type of store — to every ticket! Put your team in the position to increase sales with easy add-on items to promote.
Merchandise! Merchandise! Special attention should be placed on properly merchandising both new and existing product lines, effectively positioning them in the customer’s mind when they place their orders. Many times, sales opportunities are missed within a store simply due to customers not being aware of certain products. For impulse items – i.e., candy or trinkets – place them right at the point of transaction. For destination items – i.e., items that required the customer to make a conscious buying trip to your store – these can be placed at your discretion throughout the store.
Track The Results: This is perhaps the most crucial step – measuring your results of suggestively selling. Whether tied to an incentive or simply part of your teams responsibility, providing ongoing feedback through communicating the results of the efforts, will provide motivation for additional sales. Recognizing the successes of suggestive sales through an employee newsletter or a wall chart (i.e., filling in a big thermometer) is a terrific way to heighten the awareness.
I am a big believer that if the customer has made the effort to enter your store, your team should be there to help connect the dots for them. Suggesting new products or specials when you greet the customer helps introduce – and broaden – the entire product line to your customer base. The average store tickets will rise and your P & L will benefit mightily from this incremental sales lift.
John Matthews is the founder and president of Gray Cat Enterprises Inc., a strategic planning and marketing services firm that specializes in helping businesses grow in the restaurant, convenience and general retail industries.