Get your customers off the “discount drug,” boost profits and maintain margins with these creative ways to increase sales.
- Offering shopper discounts on a regular basis can negatively impact retailer profit margins, but there are many ways to offer promotions without routine price cuts.
- Align promotional ideas with your brand strategy.
- Improve and optimize existing sales promotion ideas.
- Use customer data to create more relevant, targeted, personalized messaging.
- Leverage your loyalty program to increase engagement and sales by offering exclusive benefits.
Driving revenue while protecting margins has always been the holy grail for retail marketers. We’re always looking for ideas to increase sales in retail stores (including online-only stores) without giving away the profit. Sure, discounting is a popular way to build traffic — but it’s not always the best answer to this eternal dilemma.
The impacts of COVID-19 have altered consumer shopping habits in ways no one could have imagined. And it remains to be seen if these changes in shopping habits are here to stay. So you’re not alone if you find yourself asking: How can I increase sales in my retail store?
Below we share a wide range of creative sales promotion ideas that don’t involve discounting — plus tips on how to improve retail performance.
There is a silver lining for retailers trying to get their customers off the “discount drug.” Research shows that low prices don’t always mean a stream of loyal customers. Our exclusive Retail Customer Brand Loyalty Study examines the impact of shopping personalities on customer brand loyalty. The study found that while lowest price is a factor that influences brand loyalty, receiving a good value and ease in making purchases actually have greater impact for the majority of consumers.
What are considered good sales promotion ideas?
Throwing too many offers into the retail promotions mix can hurt your profits. It can also damage your brand, adversely affect average order size and even decrease conversions outside of the sale periods by training your customers to wait for an offer before making a purchase. Rather than building the perception that they’re getting a bargain, customers may start to believe that you’re overpriced the remainder of the time.
For most of us, the solution lies in striking the right retail promotion balance. Some offers are just the price of entry: Free shipping on orders above a certain minimum and at least 10% off in exchange for a customer joining your mailing list. But if you’re approaching a weekly promotional cadence, it may be time to look for alternatives. Or, as my colleague is fond of saying, get your customers off the discount drug!
Below, we look more in-depth at some creative ways to increase retail sales.
Match Sales Promotion Ideas to Your Brand Strategy
Your brand and what you stand for can be the starting point as you brainstorm ideas for how to increase retail sales. Here are some examples:
Superior Service, à la Nordstrom
Is your brand the Nordstrom of your retail niche? Then customer service is your backbone. You’re probably already doing a lot for your customers, but take a step back and look for additional services or customer handling opportunities to increase visits or impact order size.
For example, early access to the Anniversary Sale is not only a popular perk for Nordy Club Rewards members, but also a powerhouse sales driver for the retailer. Nordstrom also offers free alterations — a service that could quickly turn an almost-bought into a purchase, return visits and referrals.
Other examples of promotions to improve retail sales performance in place of price cuts include:
- Offering concierge service
- Dedicated customer service or online chat
- Early access to new merchandise through store preview events
- Personal stylist appointments or personal shopper
- Participation in an advisory board or crowdsourcing opportunity
Convenience, à la Amazon
If convenience is the backbone of your brand strategy, look at opportunities that will make it even easier for customers to make a purchase. For example, Amazon has extended its well known customer experience to include both online and bricks-and-mortar shopping.
Eyewear retailer Warby Parker is one of many retailers leveraging augmented reality to help consumers virtually “try on” products without setting foot in a store. With a smartphone camera and the store’s mobile app, people can see how different frames will look on their face — giving them more confidence to make a purchase even if they don’t have easy access to a brick-and-mortar location.
Other convenience features that could help drive traffic and sales include:
- Easy returns (no receipt required)
- Added functionality in apps to easily locate items in store aisles (think Target and Kroger)
- Integrated prepayment and mobile payment for easy in and out (Starbucks is using it to increase visits from harried commuters)
One tool you could leverage is Google Shopping Campaigns, which makes it easy for retailers to sell products directly through the search engine results page. That’s fewer clicks for your customer — a simple convenience that can make a big sales difference in today’s fast-paced consumer world. And with more than 3.5 billion searches occurring on Google every day, you’re bound to get great exposure with this creative retail promotion.
Improve Your Existing Sales Promotion Ideas
Adding services typically takes time and effort. But there are low-hanging opportunities to improve retail sales performance. For instance, you could focus on optimizing your existing messages and ensuring that you’re leveraging both tried-and-true and innovative retail marketing solutions.
Create transactional emails.
Transactional emails are one area where a facelift can have immediate impact, since they provide a unique opportunity to target customers at the right time with the right message. In fact, transactional emails get eight times more opens and clicks than any other type of email and can generate up to six times more revenue.1
Example: Sephora does a great job of encouraging repeat visits in its shipping confirmation emails. At the bottom of the email, the brand adds a P.S. with a rotating banner of recommended products.
Focus on the customer experience.
The pandemic brought multiple changes in how and where we shop. Make sure you’re offering the variety of purchase and fulfillment opportunities your customers now expect. These can include everything from contactless payments while shopping in-store, to buy online and pick up in-store or curbside, or other delivery options.
Example: Beauty retailer Ulta lets customers choose the shopping option that’s most comfortable and convenient for them.
Celebrate a special occasion.
Whenever you celebrate a milestone event or special occasion, spread the word. Is it your store’s anniversary? Throw a party! Spread the word by highlighting the event on your social media channels and inviting customers to come celebrate and shop — but provide value without discounting. For instance, serve treats or provide free gift wrapping.
Go a step further by making sure your store visuals are fresh and relevant, feature merchandise in prominent displays, and look for ways to encourage cross-sell and upsell opportunities.
Encourage retail sales with future-use incentives.
Example: Kohl’s improves its sales performance by motivating shoppers to spend a certain amount in a single purchase to receive Kohl’s Cash to use on a future shopping trip. They also limit the time frame to spend the Kohl’s Cash, which adds a sense of urgency to come back to the store.
Boost social media advertising to increase sales in retail.
Chances are good that your customers frequent one or more social channels. So why not put your ads where your customers are? Most social platforms, including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, have simple interfaces to help you build an ad campaign and create highly targeted audiences. While you’re testing out creative retail promotions, why not try a video ad, like these from Toms, Sephora, MeUndies and others.
Use Customer Data to Develop Sales Promotion Ideas
There are endless opportunities for creating sales promotion ideas that revolve around mining your customer data to create more relevant, targeted, personalized messaging. For example, you could make recommendations based on past shopping behavior and interests.
Personalized messages, in particular, can make a great impact. Personalized promotional emails have 29% higher unique open rates and 41% higher unique click-thru rates.2 You can incorporate personalization by including a first name, or by referencing the customer’s transaction or browsing history.
In addition, MailChimp research shows that segmented campaigns drive higher performance than one-size-fits-all campaigns.3
You can also leverage observational data to help determine which in-store conditions drive sales. Then renovate your displays and in-store promotion ideas accordingly.
- Example: Imagine you’re a footwear retailer. You can leverage your data to learn how many miles your customers run each week. Then, when an individual is approaching 300 to 500 miles, send an email reminder that it’s time to replace those running shoes.
- Example: When we worked with PETCO, we used data to identify when a customer was bringing home a new pet. The store could then offer a free puppy or kitten educational savings booklet, which helped us understand what type and breed of pet the customer had. We could then use that information for target messaging. We also leveraged data for trigger reminders to be sent, for example, when it was time to repurchase pet food. Read Case Study
Increase Retail Sales by Sharing Education and Value-Added Content
Instead of always promoting sales and markdowns, you can keep customers engaged, give them reasons to purchase and increase lifetime value (LTV) by providing useful, interesting or entertaining information. This could be content that focuses on what differentiates your brand from the competition, as well as information on what your customers want or need to know about your products and services.
For instance, an apparel retailer might give a sneak peek at the latest styles direct from the runways. Nearly any retailer could share tips and how-to’s related to their products or tell their brand story. The opportunities to share this type of content are more diverse than you might initially think: Emails, videos, your website and mobile app, social media, podcasts, your influencers’ blogs, educational workshops and classes, event hosting and so on.
- Example: Home Depot workshops cover a number of topics and include Do-It-Yourself, Do-It-Herself and Kids sessions.
- Example: Mr Porter has both a journal of long-form articles and shorter daily digests sharing content that’s both useful and highly relevant to its high-end menswear audience.
Leverage Your Loyalty Program to Increase Retail Sales
As you may have already noticed in the examples above, your customer loyalty program can be a great foundation for creative ways to increase retail sales without offering discounts. This is where matching the non-promotional effort to your brand can really play out.
Look for exclusive benefits you can offer your members that will not only enhance awareness, but also improve retail sales performance. And, yes, these types of perks can be quantified.
Example: Although many Amazon Prime members may initially sign up for free shipping, the additional benefits — such as access to free digital content — add value in a less tangible fashion, which helps support an impressive renewal rate despite a hefty membership fee.
Which loyalty perks do your customers really want?
Selecting loyalty benefits can make or break your program. CCG’s Statistical Loyalty Program OptimizationTM is an objective, fact-based tool that gives you the confidence that you’re using perks your customers want — bringing more revenue to your store.
How to Increase Sales in Retail Always Comes Back to the Brand
These are just a handful of ideas to increase sales in retail stores and create an environment that will keep your customers wanting to come back. As you can see, there are many short- and long-term tactics that increase sales without impacting your bottom line. And, while many incorporate your loyalty program, the most important key to remember is that the most successful retail store ideas will support, complement and integrate with your overall brand strategy.
Our retail marketing experts can help you create a plan to balance your promotional strategy and help you achieve maximum ROI. From strategy to implementation, we offer a complete roster of retail marketing services dedicated to helping you increase customer loyalty and sales. Schedule a free consultation or call us at 303.986.3000.
1 “Create Transactional Emails That Have Clients Coming Back for More,” Campaign Monitor, posted May 18, 2021, https://www.campaignmonitor.com/blog/email-marketing/transctional-emails-keep-clients/, accessed Jan. 24, 2022
2 “6 Ways to Personalize Subject Lines in Your Emails,” Amreen Bhujwala, Constant Contact, modified on Jan. 10, 2022, https://blogs.constantcontact.com/personalization-in-email-subject-lines/, accessed Jan. 21, 2022
3 “Send the Right Marketing Campaigns to the Right Audiences,” Mail Chimp, https://mailchimp.com/features/segmentation/, accessed Jan. 20, 2022