Spring 2008
I’ll Take That, Too: Increasing Impulse Buys By Annette Elton

Cause for Conflict at Checkout?

One of the prime locations to encourage impulse buys is near the cash register. Most marketing experts recommend that you also collect customer data for use in marketing campaigns, at the cash register. Does one good cancel out the other?

Patti Harbin of In-Courage in San Antonio, TX, says the answer is definitely no. Harbin says she always collects data and always asks customers if they are on the mailing list whether they make purchases or not.

In a smart move, Harbin sells both the pens with which the customers write in the data and the books they write on, as impulse buys. Harbin says both products sell continuously.

“One of the pens that we use regularly for customers to sign the registry is a $21.95 pen. Believe it or not, we constantly sell out of this pen. This truly amazes me!” Harbin says. She calls it all a win-win situation: gathering customer data and increasing sales at the same time.

Lynn Switanowski, retail consultant for Creative Business Consulting Group in Boston, MA, agrees with Harbin. “Retailers don’t have to sacrifice one for the other,” she says. “One way to accomplish collecting customer information and encourage impulse shopping is to have stores offer an immediate discount for filling out the information,” she says. This means customers can get a discount on their original purchase as well as the impulse buy. “The discount offered with the exchange of information can actually encourage impulse shopping,” she says.

On the other hand, retailer Sylvia Killion from Sylvia’s By The Sea in Scituate, MA, worries that one mission does indeed dilute the other.

“I do think it does take away from impulse shopping if you are going to distract your customer and ask them questions while they are standing there looking around,” she says.

She instead suggests inserting response cards in customers’ shopping bags and encouraging them to return them. “Offer a discount for everyone who returns it filled out, or offer something for their participation,” Killion advises.

Add-On Sales and Impulse Buys

An add-on sale differs from an impulse purchase because it is anchored to something the customer is already going to purchase. Product knowledge and education are key ingredients to a successful add-on sale.

Train your staff to understand that securing add-on sales is part of being a salesperson, and that it is critical to enhancing the customer experience. “Training staff on what looks great with what really helps,” says Sylvia Killion, owner of Sylvia’s by the sea and The Runway at Sylvia’s in Scituate Harbor, MA. “For example, if the customer brings up an apron, staff should ask if they saw the matching mitt and potholder.”

Annette Elton

Based in Boulder, CO, Annette Elton covers business and marketing topics and has ghostwritten several books including an Amazon bestseller. She can be reached at annette@amb-creative.com.

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