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We chatted with Kate Nightingale, a consumer psychologist, to learn more about the subtle cues shoppers take that lead to increased spending. Read on for Kate’s expert tips and learn how to increase sales in retail.
Encouraging potential customers to venture inside your shop or eatery for a closer look is a top priority for every small business owner. Whether you use an appealing window display, a witty message on an exterior sign or the enticing smell of fresh coffee, chances are you’re already doing something to attract attention.
But once these prospective customers are inside, how do you prevent them from leaving empty-handed? Here, learn how to improve retail sales within your small business.
11 ways to boost retail sales:
- Let customers try before they buy.
- Understand customer movement.
- Create an engaging environment.
- Encourage recommendations.
- Stock up on what sells.
- Offer your expertise.
- Optimise your counter space.
- Make sure your business is easy to find online.
- Tell an authentic brand story.
- Host an event.
- Ask for feedback.
1. Let customers try before they buy.
Remember the last time you were at an ice cream shop? As we all do, you went in with the intention of just getting one scoop… until you tried a spoonful of a new limited-edition flavour. Before you knew it, one scoop led to two. Kate suggests taking this same approach to your own business — after all, letting customers try before they buy is a powerful way to upsell and get feedback on a new product.
One of her suggestions on how to drive sales in retail is to give customers a sample when they walk through your doors — you’ll immediately boost their mood and earn some generosity points. This gesture can also cause shoppers to feel like they need to return the favour, whether with a purchase or a positive review.
So, whether you’re an ice cream parlour, cosmetics shop or speciality hot sauce shop, start giving out samples! For very little investment and effort, you can gauge customer opinion, ask for their feedback and convince customers to buy the product they just tried.
2. Understand customer movement.
It’s important to understand how customers will move through your shop. If you’ve just recently opened your business, track the path customers take through your space and make adjustments as needed. The layout and distribution of products may make perfect sense to you, but you’ll only be able to tell if things are laid out effectively from seeing customers move around your shop and interact with your inventory. If they can’t find what they’re after, they can’t buy it.
Also, don’t be afraid to ask customers for practical feedback about the layout of your shop and the way items are displayed. Gathered early, this kind of feedback can help you create a relaxing and inviting space that puts customers at ease.
Make your shop’s layout even clearer with marked walkways — stick decals to the floor (IKEA, anyone?) or hang posters to provide direction.
3. Create an engaging environment.
Your shop should be a place customers feel comfortable in, whether through music, lighting, decor or even scent. Kate recommends using dim and warm-coloured light in your physical space — this can help activate shoppers’ desires and result in impulsive spending. If you have a brick-and-mortar business, Kate also suggests choosing a signature scent for your space. Using the same scent consistently throughout your shop (and even spritzed onto brochures and postcards!) can increase sales in retail by 32%. You’ll build a subconscious connection with your customer and help them better remember your business.
If you want, you can take this scent experience a step further. If you always burn the same candle scent or incense in your shop, make it available for customers to purchase…complete with branded packaging, of course! Or, work with a business that specialises in candle making or scent design to create your own signature scent.
4. Encourage recommendations.
Another way to get new customers through the door is to recruit your existing customers — offer them referral incentives when they tell their family and friends about your business. Referral programmes are becoming more and more common, and work particularly well when both your customer and the person they refer have something to gain. As a business owner, consider creating a loyalty scheme that rewards frequent purchases but also gives shoppers an incentive to refer friends and/or family members to your business. You could do this via social media or with a ‘share with a friend’ loyalty card, or a special code to use at your online shop.
5. Stock up on what sells.
You should always prioritise keeping top-selling items well-stocked — even if that means having more of one size or colour on the shelves. Let customers know that you have additional sizes and colours available in the storeroom or online with a tabletop sign.
Out of an item a shopper is looking for? Use this opportunity to collect a customer’s email address or phone number to alert them later when the item becomes available. Or, give them a discount when they pay for the item now and you can deliver it once it arrives.
6. Offer your expertise.
If you sell products like clothing and gifts that aren’t unique to your business, think of your space as a showroom. Many shoppers have become accustomed to visiting physical shops to research a product before comparing prices online. Though many may consider this an unfair advantage for online retailers, it gives you an opportunity to position yourself as a trusted expert and score in-store sales.
If you sell a niche product, then chances are the people coming to your shop have taken the time to do some research before visiting you. Nothing says ‘professional’ more than an encyclopedic knowledge of your product range and the comparable benefits of similar items…and consumers will love the fact that you have the answers to all of their questions. If you can demonstrate added value by offering expert help to people browsing in your shop, you’re much more likely to convert them to buyers — and less likely to lose them to online competition.
Create a welcoming seating area where shoppers will feel comfortable chatting with sales assistants and asking for your expertise. Kate suggests adding this kind of soft seating to help open customers up and make your business seem friendly and approachable
7. Optimise your counter area.
What would be an appropriate impulse buy at your shop? Decorated take-away cookies in a café, on-trend scarves in a boutique or optical lens cleaning products at a sunglasses shop are just a few examples. Even if only 20% of all your customers pick up an extra item at the end, it all adds to your bottom line. Consider products that complement your top-selling items and solve a problem. And most importantly, keep the price point low for these items so customers won’t think twice about adding them to their purchase.
8. Make sure your business is easy to find online.
Whether you run a brick-and-mortar business or an online shop, it’s critical that potential customers can find you online. Aside from making sure the information about your business is up to date (i.e. business hours, delivery policies and contact information), take time to make sure your website is optimised for search results. You can do this by integrating keywords into the language on your site, whether front and centre on your ‘About’ page or added to the bottom of your homepage. And aside from your own website, make sure your Google My Business page is up to date so you appear in search results.
9. Tell an authentic brand story.
As a small business owner, your brand story is what sets you apart and gives customers more insight into you and your work. And when customers know more about you and your story, they’ll feel an emotional connection to your business and be more compelled to make a purchase. Include your story on your ‘About’ page on your website, or on marketing collateral like postcards, brochures and flyers.
10. Host an event.
What better way is there to get customers through your doors (and increase sales!) than an event? Whether you hold a special sale or studio workshop, get people excited with the promise of a unique event. And make it even more irresistible with raffles, giveaways or other freebies — maybe you could reward customers with a raffle entry for each purchase they make.
Once you’ve decided on the type of event you want to host, spread the word on your social media channels. Create an event that customers can RSVP to on Facebook, share a video on TikTok to get people excited or post a reminder on Instagram. Don’t forget to snap photos during the event, too, so you can share a recap afterwards and build excitement for your next one.
Create a playlist for your event — and choose some less popular music. According to Kate’s study, playing lesser-known music can result in customers lingering longer and spending up to 20% more.
11. Ask for feedback.
A surefire way to increase sales as you plan for the future is to ask for feedback. You could use a physical comment card or send out a survey by email to collect thoughts and opinions on anything from shop design to product selection and customer experience. Beyond gaining valuable insight, you’ll show your customers that you value their opinion and want to make them happy.