Have cross-selling and upselling become lost retail arts?

Photo: RetailWire
Aug 20, 2021

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from The Retail Doctor’s Blog.

Cross-selling and upselling in retail are the foundation of raising the average ticket.

Here are five tips to get you started in your store:

  • Build rapport: Cross-selling and upselling at retail too often involve a salesperson trying to sell an extended warranty at the cash register in their first conversation with the customer. The associate hates doing it, but is required. The customer hates it because they know it’s coming. It rarely works. Here’s a better way: build rapport first.
  • Know your pairings. A broad selection of complementary, additional products should be in the sales associate’s head to suggest before a shopper ever walks into the store. Examples would include shoes and handbags, ties and blazers, watches and cufflinks.
  • Make it relevant. Keep your upselling suggestions relevant to the primary product and the interests of the customer. The rapport you build with your customers before you ever get to the product will help you make recommendations that resonate and increase customer satisfaction.
  • Showcase items. Complementary items and common pairings should be prominently displayed on the sales floor. You’ll likely lose out on an upsell along the way if you have to walk across the store to find a blazer to match a tie or fetch socks for a pair of shoes.
  • Be reasonable. If a shopper buys a $500 blazer, it makes sense to suggest a $50 tie; but if a customer buys a $50 tie, don’t try to sell them a $500 blazer.

One thing to avoid is to simply ask the shopper to look at a premium item without knowing the right selling strategies. The easiest response for that customer to offer is “How much?”, quickly followed by “No.”

Both of you lose when you do this without preparing the customer. While they may save some money, customers lose out on benefits they didn’t recognize and you miss a chance to upsell. It’s likely your customer loyalty will take a hit as shoppers revert to an online retailer to make a purchase later.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Are retailers properly training sales associates to offer credible cross-selling advice and to upsell customers when appropriate? What are the keys to engaging in these selling practices genuinely and successfully?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
"In-store selling – cross-selling, up-selling, or otherwise – is a lost art. Retailers don’t know how to do it or teach it any longer. "

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10 Comments on "Have cross-selling and upselling become lost retail arts?"

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DeAnn Campbell

Growing basket size has become a lost art in every area of retail, and a big part of why profit margins are shrinking. Over half of shoppers would be happy to pay more for a product they perceive as a better fit for their needs, but find it hard to assess what is the best bang for the buck when shopping online. Brick and mortar represents the best opportunity for brands and retailers to put features and benefits in the context of shoppers needs and offer guidance from knowledgeable staff. Feeling like you bought the right product, and were guided to the right accessories to fully enjoy that product at home, have far higher satisfaction levels and lifetime customer value, as well as lower return rates. This is why stores should treat store service jobs as career roles and pay them accordingly.

Liza Amlani

Retailers are doing a decent job in training sales associates but they can always do more. Training should be continuous as customer shopping behaviors shift and their journey is more intricate with the increase in digital and social shopping.

Sales associates and brand ambassadors need to always be on top of their game and upselling and cross-selling should come naturally the more the retailer knows their customer. They should also have deep product knowledge.

The shop floor teams also need to have a trusting relationship with leadership, to always tell them how things are evolving so they can best serve their customer.

Suresh Chaganti

Cross-sell and up-sell dependent on sales associates is an uphill task, except where personalized service is expected – very high-end luxury retail, service-oriented settings… People get intimidated and want to be left alone. For clothing and apparel, I think a better place is in the trial rooms. Technology-driven solutions – virtual try-on and suggestions for a complete look in the dressing rooms probably work better. For home furnishings/decor, a very small footprint studio for customers to visualize their rooms (Bring pictures of your home and you can see for yourself how great it will look) may work better.

An expert sales associate on hand is always helpful and welcome. But more often than not, the experience is not great, particularly when customers are just browsing, and want to be left alone/self serve.

Jeff Weidauer

In-store selling – cross-selling, up-selling, or otherwise – is a lost art. Retailers don’t know how to do it or teach it any longer. And we’ve made the entire shopping trip as devoid of human contact as possible.

Peter Charness

Cross-selling and upselling today have more to do with displays, adjacencies, signage and offers than training people to do the job. With very few exceptions (and as wages go ever higher) — it’s a self-serve world out there.

Ken Morris

The market for retail workers is tight, so we need to leverage technology to assist those associates we do have to cross- and upsell. Tools like RFID, store performance management software and mobile collaboration software can change the game for those retailers willing to invest in the employees they have.

A use case for combining RFID with mobile collaboration would go like this: If items are tagged with RFID and there’s an RFID reader at POS or on the sales floor, you could, in theory, feed cross-selling and up-selling ideas related to the item(s) into an associate’s earbud.

The other factor in cross-selling and upselling is the motivation for the associate to make it happen. Store performance management software can track sales of complementary items chain-wide and capture best practice performance by store, department and associate that can be leveraged to train and improve chain-wide performance.

Ananda Chakravarty

Right now we’re seeing an uptick in AOV and store visit frequency. Both of these are typically effects of strong upsell/cross-sell programs. The causes can be different, but upsells and cross-sells are time-tested, and even if retailers aren’t formally training their teams, retail associates – especially on commission, will pick it up quickly. These practices are almost like learning to ride a bike. I doubt the art has been lost, but it might be less formally taught. Online selling has automated the upselling process with product recommendations and completely saturated the market. Associates know they need to be able to upsell and hence they do with the right incentives. Not all retail businesses are designed to push upselling as an art, however.

Brian Cluster

Cross-selling and upselling is not a completely lost art. Unfortunately, it seems like most of the focus lately has been online. In-store has to catch up because upselling and cross-selling not only benefit the bottom line for the retailer but can actually benefit the customer many times by eliminating a return trip back to the store for the associated item or preventing a return of a product that did not have all of the features that they needed.

Cross-sell and upsell opportunities are especially important for specialty retailers. In the case of office or pet retailers, there are only a few trip types that are most common and by using training and specific store-level data about those trip types store managers and associates can understand how they are doing and home in on those opportunities.

Brandon Rael

The key differentiator and value proposition of going to a physical store or showroom is providing customers a platform to engage with a product expert or brand evangelist. With customers starting their shopping journeys on the digital side, many will go to a physical store to finalize their purchase and schedule an appointment to speak to a brand ambassador.

While retailers and brands are driving towards a digital-first and self-service model, the luxury, fashion, home furnishings, and electronics sectors necessitate developing and refining a brand ambassador vs. the traditional store associate role. This paradigm shift requires additional training, change management, process reengineering, and an overall reengineering of the compensation structure for store associates.

In the past, store associates were not incentivized to serve the digital-first customer who goes to a showroom or store to finalize their purchase. This is a motivational factor to consider when companies overhaul their compensation and commission plans, to empower brand ambassadors to drive outstanding experience.

Carlos Arambula

I’ve noticed that if the employees earn commission, they are more likely to upsell and cross-sell. If the employee is only on an hourly wage, you are lucky to get a greeting or product knowledge.

Proper incentives work to motivate employees — that’s a critical variable — or the base, needed before attempting to implement any of the five tips provided to raise the average ticket. You can’t expect similar customer experience at Kohl’s and Nordstrom.

"In-store selling – cross-selling, up-selling, or otherwise – is a lost art. Retailers don’t know how to do it or teach it any longer. "

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