Suggestive Selling In The C-Store: Top 10 Tips

Odysii Ltd.

Using digital signage to upsell customers can increase profitability

C-stores were among the first retail spaces to begin implementing the art of suggestive selling. This practice often involves the cashier asking customers whether they want to buy a lighter along with their cigarettes or upgrade their drinks to a larger size. However, sophisticated point-of-sale display technologies have taken suggestive selling to a whole new level. These new technologies allow c-store operators to add the element of Internet-like targeting to the suggestive-selling concept.

Digital signage with purchase recommendations can result in sales uplifts from 15 percent to 150 percent, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration. But c-stores using regular digital signage implementations that run loops of “canned content” may find it hard to maintain significant results. Targeted suggestive selling that customize promotions based on dynamic factors, such as weather, time of day, season, price and items previously ordered, can increase sales even further. Tailoring promotions for each customer interaction greatly increases the chance that recommendations will be accepted, and also provides “soft” benefits including improved bounce back and a greater overall customer experience.

Based on real-world implementations with some of the leading brands in the c-store industry — 7-Eleven and Texaco, among others — here is a top 10 list of suggestive selling techniques to communicate timely, customer-relevant upsell opportunities:

1. Complementary. Suggestions should be relevant to the transaction — no one wants to buy beer with bottled water. Nearly 27 percent of successful upsell offers are side orders, but you should think twice before suggesting a certain non-complementary item. Make sure the offer matches customers’ tastes and likes.

2. Adaptive. Suggestive selling is an art form like any other, and even sophisticated systems need fine tuning. Promotions need to be analyzed to learn what works and what doesn’t, and lessons need to be implemented as fast as possible to ensure they work better in the future. If you have a solution that offers automatic adaption and self-tweaking, you are in a much better position to adapt quickly.

3. Visual. In today’s attention-deficit society, promotions need to be presented in a visually compelling manner to capture and hold a customer’s attention.

4. Consistency. To successfully implement suggestive selling, you need to have clear guidelines that are followed consistently with all customers. Rules can include not only what, but when to make a product recommendation. Automated systems can help take out the guesswork.

5. Local and global. Promotions should further corporate goals, and at the same time, reflect local habits and preferences. Every global convenience store chain has specific products that it wants to promote, but certain neighborhoods may be a more appropriate cultural fit for certain types of upsell items (e.g. gourmet coffees).

6. Timely. As with most good things in life, timing is everything. Present food promotions prematurely, and they will not register on customers’ culinary radar, while promotions that appear later than they should tend to be ignored.

7. Price sensitive. Typically, when people receive recommendations to purchase additional items, they expect to invest an amount that is significantly less than what they have previously ordered. Research shows 48 percent of successful upsell offers cost less than 18 percent of the original price amount, and 33 percent of them are 15 percent or less than the cost of the original item.

8. Availability. Targeting promotions on the basis of product availability provides more inventory control. You can heavily promote well-stocked items or promote similar products of an item that is running low.

9. Seasonal. Promotions that match the time of year or upcoming holidays are typically well received. Content should be modified to promote menu items and products that are traditionally purchased during specific times of the year.

10. Limited in number. No one likes to feel bombarded with promotions and chances, but experience shows that repetition of relevant targeted offers really works. Your best shot at implementing successful upsell offers is by displaying the top three most relevant offers in multiple sequences vs. showing the same one over and over.

Elad Halperin manages Odysii’s worldwide marketing efforts. Since joining the company in 2006, Halperin has been instrumental is the company’s growth and global distribution, reaching into more more than 25 countries. Odysii is a leading developer of software for targeted suggestive selling in the retail environment.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Convenience Store News.

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