Top Five Easy (and Cheap) Ways to Increase Sales

Gift shop customers enter a store with thoughts of making someone else happy, and proprietors want to satisfy their clients. When expectations are met, buyer loyalty brings repeat business and word-of-mouth referrals. A 2011 American Express Global Survey revealed that 70% of American consumers were willing to spend 13% more with companies providing excellent customer service. Front-line employees are key to business success and increased sales.

Hiring associates with winning personalities, a work ethic and a genuine interest in people lays a foundation for growing revenue. Time is the only investment needed to research, develop and implement a reliable application and interview procedure. Hiring the right employee is a crucial topic, with industry publications recommending a variety of tips from attaching a job description to the application to top performing employees conducting interviews of the candidates.

Training employees need not be expensive, although professional learning and development experts abound and are eager to develop customized solutions. Some employers will provide incentives to existing employees to coach new hires, a definite hands-on approach. In a March, 2013, Forbes Magazine article describing the best sales associates for retail, remarks from Stanley Marcus of Neiman-Marcus are noteworthy. He believed in educating versus training, with a fundamental qualifier for employment being a genuine interest in people. Building skills of salespeople is a necessity for bettering customer service.

A memorable retail customer experience begins with the first interaction, where the shopper's needs to feel welcome and important must be met. Engaging the buyer in such a way requires soft-skills or people skills, which are not easily taught in a structured setting. A positive attitude is an indispensable employee attribute, reflected in patience, empathy, and confidence, among other qualities. Doug Rose, a marketing and programming executive for the home shopping kingpin, QVC, refers to this art of connection and engagement as storytelling. He believes customers want to learn about other people and their experiences, and that QVC is a champion in communicating that information.

To this point, we see that customer service is cardinal to increased sales, and employees are primary to customer service. Developing a good hiring process and educating new employees will work only when the prospective new hire has a sincere interest in other people. These four ways to increase sales are easy and cheap once their power and promise are recognized. The fifth step must be taken by the employer, as confirmed by James McGrew, the former Human Resources director and legal counsel for a group of restaurants owned by the popular chef, Emeril Lagasse. He strongly believes that the employer's interest in the lives of each associate, knowing their names and their family circumstances, along with soliciting ideas, fuels an employee's desire to make a difference and form a connection with the company. If a customer feels lost in a maze before she even leaves the decompression zone, her anxiety will rise and sales will plummet. Make sure that all displays near the front of the store are visually appealing and guide the eye through the store. Large displays can overpower the customer and should be moved away from the entrance.

Online merchants, with Amazon at the top of the list, are giving every brick-and-mortar retailer a run for her money. Although more and more consumers use a computer and mobile app to shop, 78% of shoppers using a smartphone for local searches purchased a product offline, according to a December, 2013, comScore study. The need to actually handle a product remains, and customer service once again can make or break a sale.