13 helpful tips to boost your retail sales in quieter times

- May 5, 2022 8 MIN READ

With interest rates and inflation on the rise, retail businesses may start to see sales drop as consumers feel the pinch of financial pressure. But there are lots of ways businesses can optimise their offering and achieve more sales, even in quiet times writes Jenn Donovan, co-founder of Spend With Us, Buy from a Bush Business Marketplace.

13 top tips to get more retail sales in quieter times

When it’s quiet in your retail business, here are some ways to drive more traffic and achieve more sales. These are tips we apply to our business model at Spend With Us.

1. Titles, alt tags and product descriptions

Go back and look at your alt tags and photo titles – are they something like ‘F51E3810-0B8C’, or are your titles and alt tags more like ‘Black lounge room cushion with blue bird singing’? Which do you think is going to show up in searches, including Google?

This might be a BIG job, depending on how many photos you have on your website – but doing them little by little will make a difference to the search results of your customers and therefore, sales for you!

Same with product titles and descriptions. Make sure your product title explains clearly what it is you are selling. If it is a bath bomb, make sure to use the words ‘bath bomb’ in the title – not just ‘watermelon flavour’. If a customer is searching for a bath bomb, then that product just won’t come up in their searches.

Make sure you have your major keywords customers would use to find your products in your title, descriptions and tags.

2. Photos

Take a look at your photos and compare them to some of your competitors’ photos or others in similar industries. Do your photos represent your brand? Do they make your product desirable or competitive?

Between two similar businesses, the one investing in their brand, photography and marketing makes a massive difference in a crowded and busy marketplace.

Carpenter conducting stocktake in carpentry workshop

3. Product stocktake

Do a stocktake of your products. I know it’s not stocktake ‘season’ as such, but if you do a stocktake you can work out how much stock you have and what needs to go because it’s now ‘slow stock’.

But instead of just discounting and putting it on sale, consider these other options:

  • Move it, move it, move it! In retail there’s a rule, if something isn’t selling, move it three times. In-store, physically move it to different locations to catch the buyers’/browsers’ eye; and online is no different – move it!
  • Bundling: bundle the slow-moving stock with high-turnover stock, or one of your top ten products in store.
  • Use the stock for VIP customer shopping nights as prizes, door prizes or lucky number giveaways.
  • Use the stock to give as donations to charities, local schools or sporting groups upon request.
  • Have a ‘gift with purchase’ incentive: e.g. buy this get that for free; or spend $100 (for example) and receive a free gift.
  • Offer a multi-buy on the stock: e.g. buy two get one free.
  • Use the stock in a giveaway hamper, either at a VIP shopping night or in-store, as a way to build your database and gather customer details for marketing purposes.
  • Ask your suppliers if you can return the stock for credit. Suppliers should be willing to do this, especially if other stockists have found it to be slow-moving also.  It’s not a common solution, but certainly worth asking – you’ll never know if you never ask!
  • Discount it – but be aware of the true cost of the product vs what you are willing to sell it for. Discounting isn’t all bad; sometimes it can create much needed cash flow and bring customers into your store, which will lead to more sales. But it’s constant discounting that damages a brand and educates your customers to wait until things are on sale before they buy. So just be aware of your discount pricing strategies from a customer’s point of view.

4. Social media audit

Take time to look at your social media and do an audit on it:

  • Hashtags: Those hashtags you’re using on Instagram, are they actually working? Does your product/business actually come up in them when you click them? Do you show up in the ‘Top’, ‘Recent’ or ‘Reel’ part of a followed hashtag? If the hashtags you are using aren’t working, then it’s time to research, test and measure some new ones!
  • Social bios: Check your bios on all platforms. Do the links still work? Is the email still correct? Does your bio give the newfound prospect a reason to follow you, interact with you, care about you? Does your bio answer the question “What’s in it for me?” from the customer’s point of view?
  • Audit your posts: How often are you posting – too often/not enough? What time of day are you posting? Are you always selling, or do you never sell? How many of your posts are hitting the five marketing strategies you need for a successful social media strategy? The five strategies are: engagement, growth, sales, brand awareness, and lead generation.
  • Content: Do you have a good mix in your social media of different content, offering different tactics? Video (short and long), Reels, Instagram/Facebook Stories, Static posts, Informational, Educational, Entertaining?

Woman checking emails on laptop

5. Email your customers

When was the last time you emailed your list? Send an email campaign to your list providing value and selling some great products. Have three elements to your email:

      • A product or category of products you’d like them to buy.
      • A piece of informational/educational content.
      • Something random and yet on-brand.

For example, say you sell Kitchenware products. Your email might be about the range of different wooden spoons you sell. Your informational/educational part might be why you need more than one wooden spoon in your kitchen – e.g. what they all do that’s different. And your third piece of random information might be “Did you know if you dip your wooden spoon into boiling hot water and smell it – if it smells off, it’s time for a new wooden spoon”!

Clearly, you can see the non-sales pitch just given in one email.

6. No email list? Start one today!

If you don’t have an email list, then start today and promote it everywhere! Have a ‘sign up to my list’ section on your website; post about it often in your different social media mediums – stories, posts, videos, etc; have it as a call to action in your email signature.

Give your audience and community a reason to sign up; either by way of a discount for their first order, or via a lead magnet – a piece of content that they are willing to exchange an email address for. As an example, I have a 108 Social Media Content Creation Ideas eBook for free download.

7. Create a loyalty program

Give people a reason to come back again and again to you. There’s a reason why the big guys in retail have loyalty programs – they create loyalty and a reason for customers to come back again.

Use your email list to extend the loyalty program. An email list is one of the most powerful marketing tools you have in your marketing arsenal – so make sure you are using it!

8. Paid marketing

You’ve heard the saying, ‘you’ve got to spend money to make money’? So out of ALL the marketing you do, how much paid marketing have you done this year?

Sales are quiet and competition is fierce, so what are you doing differently? What are you investing in with your marketing? You can’t just use free marketing tools forever and expect sales. You do need to invest money into getting sales too.

Try running a ‘traffic’ objective Facebook and/or Instagram ad to the page on your website that’s got your best selling product(s) on it. Try a budget of $10 a day for 14 days and see what return you get.

Woman creating social media video

9. Video, video, video!

If you want to beat the algorithm, then get into video – live video especially! Make a deal to go live every day on your best performing social media platform to highlight one or two of your products, talk about yourself and why you do what you do, or interview a customer on their favourite products.

Want more sales? Do more videos!

10. Collaboration

Find other business owners who have the same target audience as you, but aren’t your competition, and collaborate on some marketing. Share audiences, email lists, social platforms, maybe even do a collab giveaway together and promote each other.

If you want to get in front of new buyers, then this could be one of the best ways you can.

11. Check your data

Take time to get to know your numbers:

  • What’s your average customer spend?
  • What are your top ten selling products?
  • What are your top ten selling products with the biggest margins?
  • What are the best selling products you have with little to no margin for profit?
  • How often does a customer come back to you in a calendar year to purchase?
  • What is your cost of sales?

For example, let’s just say that your average customer spend is $125 and a customer typically comes and spends with you four times a year – which makes them a $500 customer. What would happen if you could get that customer and say, 500 others like them, to come back and spend just one more time each year? If you had 500 customers, that’s an additional $62,500 on your bottom line.

That makes you think of your marketing differently, doesn’t it? Instead of always chasing the new customer, you need to be marketing and nurturing your existing customers to come back to you again and again. You can do this via targeting and re-targeting digital ads, email marketing, SMS marketing and loads of other more personal ways.

Again, audit your marketing – how much of it is focused on getting new customers, versus nurturing the ones you already have?

Online eCommerce store optimised for all devices - laptop, tablet, smartphone

12. Process testing

Be your own customer, or get your mum to do it! Get someone to go through the whole checkout and sales process in your business – from a social post or email, to your website, to the cart and checkout. Get them to tell you what they loved or found awkward or difficult, and make some changes.

Have them look at the descriptions and use the search functions to see if they are relatable/working also.

13. Reach-out strategy

Stop expecting people or buyers to find you! Have a reach-out strategy where you spend time on platforms engaging with others, commenting, sharing, liking other people’s posts (especially those in your target audience), and spread your business name around like it’s bread crumbs for Hansel and Gretel.

Also, don’t underestimate the value of local or great Facebook groups. Often they have certain days where you can promote your business and your products/services within the rules of the group and gain some more followers, lookers and buyers. Be respectful of someone else’s group – they are a lot of work, so make sure you stick to their rules. But they are a great way to build brand awareness and sales.

Pro tip! Go through the groups you belong to and write a list of the particular days when you can post. Put that on your calendar, so you remember the days.

To end, and with enormous love in my heart, I say this.

If you have read this article and thought:

  1. “Mmmm, nah, not for me”, or
  2. “That’s too hard”, or
  3. “I’m too busy to try these”

Then my friend, do not expect anyone else to save you. Don’t blame algorithms, weather patterns, disasters, human behaviour or anything else for your slow sales. Because if you are not willing to do the work it takes to build a business, then as the old saying goes: ‘if nothing changes, nothing changes’.

The world needs more action-takers and if you want to build your business, then marketing is the key – no doubt about it.

Read these again, choose one or two to do each week for the next few weeks, and start making marketing a priority and putting sales and building your business first.

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