There are all sorts of tactics you can use to improve your stores. To please your customers, you must improve your service. On the other hand, to boost profit, you can consider raising your prices if price elasticity demand makes allowance for it. Of course, should you want to do both, you can also implement a few suggestive selling tactics.
What is suggestive selling?
Before we take a look at the tactics you can use, it’s essential first to understand what we mean when we mention suggestive selling. Or rather, what it aims to achieve.
According to Investopedia, suggestive selling is “a sales technique where the employee asks the customer if they would like to include an additional purchase or recommends a product which might suit the client”. While that definition does a good job of explaining it from a general business perspective, it doesn’t speak to its application within the retail context.
In a store, it’s not so much about an employee asking if a customer would like to include additional items as it’s about presenting your products in a way that encourages additional, unplanned purchases.
In that way, you can quite easily argue that suggestive selling is closely linked to cross merchandising. In fact, many retail experts will argue that at its heart, cross merchandising is a synonym for suggestive selling in the retail context. They’re not far off.
We’ve written extensively on the topic of cross merchandising on our blog - you can read this article on various examples that we’ve come across. You can also read this piece about the reasons why cross-merchandising is so crucial to retailers and how to unlock sales growth with merchandising.
That said, we haven’t focused on various tactics you can use to increase the basket size of your customers. And, in turn, increase your profits.
Suggestive selling tactics to use in your stores
1. Establish the correct category flow in-store
When setting up the layout of your store and organising your categories, it’s crucial that you think about your customers first. In fact, it’s worth completing an exercise in which you visualise how your shoppers view your stores.
Ask yourself these questions during such an exercise: Are your customers able to shop your stores easily? Can your customers find what they’re looking for without fuss? Are you making the shopping experience pleasant? If you find that you’re answering ‘No’ to these questions, you should consider the flow of your categories in-store.
Let us explain.
A correct category flow is a crucial element in engaging your customers as they shop. That’s because it means your customers will move through your stores to find the items they need. As they do that, they’re exposed to more of your merchandise, which leads to increased basket sizes.
For example, a customer has entered you store looking for Bread. It’s thus worth placing your Spreads category either next to the Bakery, if you have one, or nearby so that they’ll see those products on their way. Simply by catching their eye, you’ve placed the thought in their mind that they need to stock up on Peanut Butter or Marmite or whatever spread is their favourite.
Before they know it, they’ll place a jar of Peanut Butter in their basket. In doing that - placing complementary categories besides each other throughout your stores - you’re making it easier to shop your store, which means your customers will keep coming back. More importantly, it’ll entice your customers to purchase more.
If you’re interested in creating a category flow for your stores, you need to ask yourself these four questions.
2. Implement a data-driven floor plan
While a correct category flow can help to increase the basket sizes of your customers, you can’t get that right if you haven’t implemented a floor plan. More importantly, if you haven’t implemented a data-driven floor plan.
We’ve written about why data-driven floor planning makes business sense in the past if you’re interested in reading more.
Simply put, a data-driven floor plan will allow you to identify the hot and cold spots in your store. As a result, you can then place your fast selling categories in the hotspots that draw your customers into and through your stores. Your customers will also shop more of your store and thus see more of your merchandise.
That speaks to how you can increase the basket size of your customers. It also speaks to the fact that if you continue to use data-driven floor plans, you’ll encourage customers to return. You’ll even attract new customers.
3. Make use of cross-promotions
When executed properly, cross-promotions is an effective tactic that all retailers should apply. That’s because they offer shoppers solutions instead of just products and in so doing they play on your customer’s emotions to save time when making a purchase.
That said, cross-promotions also prompt your customers to think along a particular route with regards to products that are cross-promoted. For example, by promoting ice-cream cones, sprinkles and sauces besides your ice-cream category, your customers will look to add them to their basket. That’s four additional items in your basket from just one category.
Do this often enough in your store and you’ll have a customer who is walking around with much larger baskets than they had intended when they first walked into your stores.
Of course, from one angle, it could be argued that this tactic gives your customers the illusion that they are not in control of what they add to their basket. You are subtly upselling them without them realising. However, employing such a tactic is also about pleasing your customers.
For example, your customers might find Basting Sauces are frequently merchandised above coffin fridges. It’s not just to entice them to buy more but it’s also a reminder that they might have been too busy shopping and could have forgotten. That’s especially true if your customer is a mother or father and they have their five kids in tow. The last thing they’d want to do is have to traipse all the way back to the aisle that might be on the opposite side of your store.
In that way, this tactic also works as an opportunity to give your customers a shopping experience that is both convenient and pleasant.
4. Include salespeople at the end of your aisles
Many of your customers walk into your stores with a shopping list in hand or at least an idea of what they need. They’ll also likely purchase those products if you have them in stock and then walk out of your stores. It’s a quick and easy experience for them.
However, you would want to stop them from doing that. Delay them from leaving if you can. After all, if they stay in your stores for longer, they’ll spend more money. That’s where a floor salesperson can play a significant role when coupled with tactics one through three.
The reason that this tactic works so well is that it exposes your customers to products that they might not have seen. If you’ve read our article on the mystery shopping exercise we did, you’ll know that the information we received from the salesperson went a long way to helping us decide which product to buy. It even turned our attention to products we hadn’t considered.
Thus, by employing a salesperson to demonstrate a particular product, you’ve taken away a potential sales barrier. You’ve also given your customers a reason to try something new since they can taste or test without immediately buying. Providing the “proof” in the “pudding”
Since customers are generally sceptical when it comes to buying products they don’t know about, by providing a salesperson to explain how to use a product, it creates an opportunity for you to tap into unintended purchases. More than that, it creates a relaxed atmosphere and leaves your customer feeling in control and educated.
As a side note, you should ensure that any salespeople you do employ aren’t too pushy. The last thing you want is to harass your customers while they shop.