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Convenience retailers continually search for new and effective ways to increase sales inside their stores, increase the turns on inventory and better serve customers. From advertising with pumptoppers to mobile applications, retailers are seeking cost-effective ways to get customers into the store, increase sales with add-on products and enhance the sales experience of customers in order to build loyalty and return business.
The best opportunity retailers have to positively influence a customer's purchasing decision is when they're in the store. Until recently, the long-accepted practice to increase sales was training clerks to suggest add-on sales items to customers as they were paying for their purchases. The success of this practice was limited to the effectiveness of the individual sales clerk and the items being suggested. In even the best scenarios, efficiencies were lost because clerks were unaware of item affinities with the customer's purchases, inventory levels for promotional items, the expiration dates on perishable foods or the timing of store-prepared items, such as coffee or roller grill products.
While store clerks are able to suggest the purchase of a disposable cigarette lighter with a pack of cigarettes or a pastry with a cup of coffee, to substantially increase sales requires the sophistication of a one-on-one marketing solution at the point-of-purchase. The key to effective suggestive selling is consistency, relevance, presentation and the application of transaction-driven marketing.
The most effective suggestive-selling applications analyze transaction data in a real-time environment. They're able to delineate which items in the store have an affinity to the item being purchased and can suggest relevant add-on sales in real time by displaying them on a flat screen, with easy access and interaction by the customer.
Item affinities typically vary by store, which makes sense because the demographics of each store vary based on clientele, location, daypart and surrounding environment. For optimum efficiency, the transaction database must be adaptive; it needs to track and analyze how often suggested items were offered and accepted and then adapt that information with future suggestions.
Integrating With Promo Calendars
Incorporating planned promotions as part of the suggestive-selling process is a natural fit. Suggestive selling, based on promotions coordinated with suppliers and tied to a promotional calendar, is another aspect of the overall success of increasing sales and negotiating better margins with vendors.
One of the added benefits with having a suggestive-selling solution is it allows you to more accurately measure the success of your promotions through the analysis of the transaction data. This allows marketing teams to better negotiate with suppliers on future promotions based on past successes, and offer vendors the opportunity to have their products promoted within the store based on premium placement and special promotion at the point-of-purchase.
Enhancing the Buying Experience
An important benefit of suggestive selling is creating value and an enhanced buying experience for the customer. Certainly, convenience is the No. 1 commodity of convenience stores, but if you can create a more positive buying experience for the customer by offering one-on-one marketing of relevant add-on items, then you increase customer loyalty and their likelihood of return visits.
There is a satisfaction and recognition of value when customers think they've received some type of deal or discount. If a customer perceives value and benefit in shopping in a store that offers suggestive selling and relevant promotions, then their loyalty and business is going to return to that store.
Implementing Selling Programs
Successful selling programs share some common characteristics. For relevancy, they need to be transaction based. When using transaction-driven marketing, it is also important to identify local markets vs. corporate promotions. For effectiveness, they need to be consistent. Business rules need to be consistently applied.
To ensure continuous improvement, suggestive-selling solutions need to be adaptive. Understanding why promotions fail is as important as why they succeed. For customer acceptance, they need to be simple, visual and price sensitive. The buying process must be intuitive, visually compelling and provide value.
For more successful upselling, promotions need to be repeated. Repeating the top three promotions in multiple sequences is more effective than repeating one promotional item continuously.
The ultimate success of suggestive selling is monitoring, managing and adapting. The transactional data analytics are captured and reported. Merchandising managers need to assess how this information can be incorporated into their promotional calendars, set up their business rules and design promotions base on item affinities, day and week parts and profitability.
Marsha Mathis is a consulting partner for b2b Solutions LLC. b2b Solutions works with clients in the petroleum marketing and c-store industry worldwide in business planning, operations analysis and improvement, marketing plans, loss prevention, foodservice, human resources, training, and information systems. Mathis can be reached at [email protected]. More information on b2b Solutions can be found at www.b2bSolutionsLLC.com.
Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in this column are the author's, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Convenience Store News.