Last month, the United States Department of Commerce announced that retail sales, for December 2018, dropped 1.2 percent. This represents the largest decrease in nearly 10 years, and has retailers thinking about how to buck the trend.
Among other factors in retail today, such as economic uncertainty and reduced mall foot-traffic among others, I’m also willing to bet at least one reason behind these low numbers is that retailers are missing opportunities to increase basket size. The nature of retail today means that not focusing on basket size is one of the worst mistakes you could make. Increasing sales is obviously a matter of engaging and enticing your customer to spend more within your stores — but how? Here are three strategies retailers can leverage to increase average basket size, drawn from our experience helping retailers improve sales with our award-winning prescriptive analytics solution:
Optimize placement of “like” items on the floor
Have you heard the story of the retailer who increased sales by placing beer and diaper displays closer to each other on the floor? Unfortunately that’s just a myth, but it’s still a great example of a very effective tactic to encourage impulse buys — and by extension, increasing your average basket size. By analyzing your sales data with prescriptive analytics, you can identify exactly which items tend to sell well together, and direct the relevant employee to place them closer together. Examples might include bananas and broccoli, dining room chairs and high-end cookware, or playing cards and cocktail mixers.
As an added bonus, this approach can alert you when like items that you might expect to sell well together actually aren’t. For example, we recently presented our prescriptive analytics solution to a retailer who frequently put colas on sale to encourage the purchase of potato chips. We found that potato chip sales actually decreased during cola promotions at multiple stores. A prescriptive action went out to these stores’ managers, directing them to retrain sales associates on upselling tactics.
At another customer, our solution identified several SKUs that sold well together when purchased online, but rarely sold together in stores, as a matter of fact, one of them turned out to be a “cement” product, a product that doesn’t move. It turned out that in stores, these SKUs were in very different places on the sales floor. The retailer’s store-level merchandisers received prescriptive actions telling them to place these items closer together to encourage upselling and impulse buys. This tactic worked, and the retailer continues to see sales increase in stores.
Increase cross-training activities
The sales process doesn’t end when the customer joins the checkout line. The register is a great place to increase a customer’s basket size by having cashiers suggest additional products. But you can’t expect all your cashiers to know how to upsell — some are inevitably better than others. That’s where cross-training comes into play. Prescriptive analytics can analyze transactional data (in stores and online) to determine which of your cashiers are skilled at upselling, and which need more training. From there, it sends a prescriptive action to the relevant store managers, instructing them how to schedule associates so the skilled upsellers frequently ring alongside those who are less adept. This strategy can work in any department throughout the store.
At one of our customers, our prescriptive analytics solution alerted them that several stores, and their cashiers, had a high rate of single-item transactions. This indicated the associates were not upselling or cross-selling their customers to expand their baskets. Profitect’s Sales module sent an opportunity to these stores, notifying their Store Operations Managers to adjust employee schedules to pair the associates with lower numbers, with those who had a higher average number of items per basket. This prescriptive peer-peer training quickly resulted in a 6.9 percent lift in sales for the retailer.
Retail promotions have traditionally been all about offering everyone the same sales. This certainly helps appeal to a broad range of shoppers, but this “blanket marketing” approach risks alienating customers who need specific products or prices. With the rise of big data and analytical solutions like prescriptive analytics, retailers can leverage customer data to offer better-targeted promotions. You can use prescriptive analytics to sort customers into “clusters” based on shopping frequency, favorite products, typical spend, etc. You can then offer each cluster customized promotions that the data shows they likely need. This approach not only increases basket size through promotional awareness, but it also creates a better customer experience. Numerous Profitect customers have seen both results upon honing their promotions with prescriptive analytics: more average items per basket and an increase in customer satisfaction from online reviews (also a prescriptive analytics capability).
In a hypercompetitive retail market, failing to increase basket size is one of the biggest mistakes a retailer can make. To learn additional mistakes you should avoid in order to protect profits and margin, download our ebook, “Five Common Mistakes Retailers Make that Cost Them Sales.”