6 Retail Strategies to Improve Sales
Retailers have been fighting an uphill battle since 2008, when the financial crisis plummeted brick-and-mortar sales to a 35-year all-time low.1 Since then, retailers have been squeezed by thinning margins, increased eCommerce competition and ballooning SG&A (selling, general and administrative expenses). Then 2020 happened—which Deloitte called the Great Acceleration for retail decline.2
In a shocking twist, 2021 showed a massive uptick in in-person shopping.3 With consumers wanting to return to real, human interaction via shopping, retail marketing strategies using a customer-centric model proved marketplace viability.
As the holiday season closes in and a fresh year descends, it’s never been more critical to employ a retail strategy that improves sales. But to borrow a line from America’s long-standing game show Survivor: How can businesses outwit, outplay and outlast the competition?
#1 Meet customers’ needs (and wants)
From customer loyalty to experience and service, customers are at the heart of every business. Businesses need to double-down on the customer-centric model. This means flipping the script of what they offer to customers and instead, thinking: what do my customers need, and what do they want?
When restaurants and event spaces were shuttering, a small Italian deli based in New Jersey pivoted to keep its customers’ current needs at the forefront. Because catering events were traditionally a large portion of revenue, the deli needed to rethink its customers’ needs and redesign the entire floor plan of the business. The deli’s interior space switched to an artisan grocery store, and its popularity grew quickly.4
While brands may not need to reinvent their entire business model, it’s the discipline of this example that matters—businesses must put customers’ wants and needs first.
As 2023 approaches, consider what customers prefer now:
- Buy online, pick up in store (BOPIS) – Business Insider predicts that BOPIS sales will increase to double-digit percentages through 2024.5 Allowing customers to shop online and review their items in-person before committing to them provides a new way to purchase items.
- Physical and digital accessibility – Consumers demand inclusivity. A simple way to align a brand with this mentality is to ensure all physical and digital assets are accessible. Online, this could mean ensuring content on the brand’s website follows WCAG web accessibility fundamentals. In-person, this could mean ensuring ramp access, wide uncluttered aisles and a welcoming space.
- Instructional videos and how-to guides – Becoming an industry leader isn’t something that just happens over time—it’s gained through providing customers with real-world, helpful information. Consider customer pain points. How can the business use its knowledge to help them further? Creating resources that show you’re ready to support will be a sticking point in customer minds for years to come.
These strategies aren’t ubiquitous or required across retailers. But the sentiment behind them strings together one commonality: putting the customer at the center of a business’ focus will ensure they’re being heard and recognized. This is how brands translate marketing to sales.
#2 Bridge the mental gap between brick-and-mortar and digital
As a nod to one of the strategies listed above, BOPIS is a perfect example of the new world of retail shoppers. Customers purchase their items online and then review those items in-person. This simple acronym bridges the mental gap that retailers need to embody.
Digital isn’t an accompaniment to a brick-and-mortar sales strategy. Brick-and-mortar isn’t an offshoot of a successful eCommerce brand.
They’re two halves of a cohesive retail business.
To bridge these two, businesses should consider where digital storefront and brick-and-mortar experiences diverge. Take a company running a promotion, for example. Without a coordinated effort across all physical and online channels, both employees and customers could be left unaware of sale specifics. In a survey of over 1,200 American and British consumers, it revealed that:
- Over 86% of customers feel frustrated when they discover that they missed out on a deal or promotion.
- One in three customers expresses annoyance at retailers who don’t make them aware of the promotion.
To avoid damaging the relationship with their customer base, brands should think about creating a united digital-physical storefront. There shouldn’t be any confusion about a promotion when the initial rollout connects across all channels.
For more ways to conceptualize this retail marketing strategy:
- When an in-person shopper completes their purchase, have them sign up for an online membership with access to special deals.
- Use SMS messaging to provide their receipt; this can later be used to provide promotional resources.
- Audit in-person and online collections to guarantee all pricing and customizable options are the same.
#3 Train employees on customer service best practices
Every retailer should understand the importance of customer experience and service. There’s no need to go Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross on employees—coffee isn’t just for closers. Instead, improving sales starts with simple customer service best practices:6
- 93% of customers say that a good customer service experience makes them more likely to purchase again.
- After just one negative customer service experience, it can take up to twelve positive interactions for brands to rebuild customer trust.
- 79% of consumers say that customer experience is just as important as the brand products for sale.
If customer service infrastructure isn’t up to snuff, sales will suffer. This means brands must invest time and resources into proper staff training. Best of all, a welcoming customer environment is not limited to only in-person brand experiences…
#4 Amp up social strategy
Social media is an extension of a brand’s relationship with its customer base.
TikTok, Facebook, or even Instagram marketing prove beneficial for businesses, but only when the strategy is executed efficiently. Think of a brand’s social channels as a clear, glass pane allowing customers to window-shop. A friendly wave and a “Can I help you with anything?” goes a long way to invite customers into a space and start a dialogue.
When mapping out social media engagement strategy, it’s crucial to determine:
- If brands are using a social media platform to research products that meet their needs or to purchase those products by way of socials (e.g., by using an influencer’s discount code). This will affect the type of content brands should post.
- Where the brand customers are getting intel about products, news, tutorials and insights. While some might assume that the brand’s target market is going to turn to Google for their every query, nearly 40% of Gen Z consumers, for instance, are starting their searches on TikTok and Instagram instead.7
- What kinds of content users are looking for when they browse a brand’s socials—are they just looking for discount codes, or do they want infographics, creative inspiration or testimonials from other clients?
Businesses can use this information to develop the social media presence that will help draw clients to the brand’s pages—and convince them to make a purchase. Understanding the habits of existing customers and potential ones can also help businesses create an effective marketing campaign that bridges the gap between social media and a physical retail store.
#5 Invest in the community
To become a community staple, brands need to give back as much as their community puts in. And there are many ways to invest in one’s neighborhood.
By researching events in their area, specifically farmer’s markets, craft fairs or local maker meetups, brands can find perfect ways to engage with new customers and meet other business owners. As conversations spark, businesses might discover new partnership opportunities and cross-pollination between strategies. As an example, a local restaurant may partner with a bakery for a “dinner and dessert night.”
#6 Increase (and tout) ease of use
Utility should be a top priority for brands in 2022 and beyond, says Simon Hathaway of the Forbes Business Council.8 While this motto extends to products and services, brands should also consider how their digital and physical storefronts provide utility. In other words, brands should make it easy to shop at stores.
- For brick-and-mortars, this could be redesigning the layout of the store and providing self-checkout aisles. This would allow more employees to walk the store and help customers (hint: providing that great customer service), rather than manning the register.
- For the eCommerce side, this means making the product discovery process and the checkout process seamless. Navigable search bars will ensure customers can find what they’re looking for quickly. And allowing for multiple payment options ensures all customers can actually buy the item.
To put it simply—the easier a brand is to access, the more likely potential customers will become current customers.
Evolve your retail brand into its full potential with Power Digital
By placing the customer in the crosshairs of their retail strategy, businesses can ensure that they’re listening to customers’ needs and then delivering on that promise—both in-person and online. Yet building this cohesive strategy and then executing it across all channels takes a village.
When you’re ready to join the ranks of high-octane brands like Zola, Bed Bath & Beyond, Dropbox and Casper, then meet the growth marketing team that can shout your brand far and wide.
- Marketplace. Divided Decade: How the financial crisis changed retail. https://www.marketplace.org/2018/12/20/what-we-learned-retail/
- Deloitte. The retail evolution’s great acceleration. https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/pages/consumer-business/articles/retail-recession.html
- New York Times. A Comeback for Physical Stores. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/23/technology/physical-stores-ecommerce.html
- TIME. The Pandemic Forced Thousands of Businesses to Close—But New Ones Are Launching at Breakneck Speed. https://time.com/6082576/pandemic-new-businesses/
- Business Insider. Click and Collect Industry Trends. https://www.businessinsider.com/click-and-collect-industry-trends
- Zippia. 30 Crucial Customer Service Statistics to Pay Attention to : How Businesses Succeeded. https://www.zippia.com/advice/customer-service-statistics/
- Business Insider. Nearly Half of Gen Z Is Using TikTok and Instagram for Search Instead of Google, According to Google’s Own Data. https://www.businessinsider.com/nearly-half-genz-use-tiktok-instagram-over-google-search-2022-7
- Forbes. The Digital brick-And-Mortar: Navigating our New Retail Reality. https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesbusinesscouncil/2022/07/20/the-digital-brick-and-mortar-navigating-our-new-retail-reality/?sh=659395152ba3
- Forbes. To Deepen Customer Engagement, Start with Value. https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesbusinessdevelopmentcouncil/2022/03/30/to-deepen-customer-engagement-start-with-value/?sh=3a7e299759a4