How To Make Sure Your Holiday Retail Sales Are Up

By Bob Phibbs

retail holiday sales tips

I purchased a turkey mask the other day.

A silly gag item I discovered while browsing at Nordstrom in Las Vegas. Yes, that Nordstrom.

I met a wonderful young woman in their popup department who, when I spotted the turkey mask, immediately said, “Yep, it’s a turkey mask and our last one.”

During our exchange, I told her I had nephews and nieces coming for Thanksgiving, she agreed it was perfect for us. A few more laughs later and I'd purchaed a silly $30 mask for a sight gag.

Because of a pleasant exchange with her. One that showed she was human and eager to engage.

In the department, where I was actually looking for a Robert Graham shirt, I was never greeted.

I saw one I liked but didn’t buy it.

Here’s the problem right now for most all retailers: the priorities are at the bookends of the customer experience, not at the heart.


Let me explain the customer experience path…

Strangers. There is a heavy emphasis on marketing to strangers. Some highlight social media promotions that describe new products while others use events to try to draw strangers to the doors of their brick and mortar stores.  Some invest in killer websites that engage customers while others invest in fancy apps. These four things are seen as critical arrows in the quiver of a retailer ... their goal that strangers will be attracted to their brand and have to visit.

Visitors. Once the strangers arrive at the store to actually visit, they are met with, in many cases, stunningly beautiful shops in malls that are pristine and well-kept. Store fixtures, music, and even scent are all carefully metered out to create an atmosphere that encourages visitors to consider purchasing new merchandise.

Browsers. While they walk around, something on a carefully planogrammed display catches their eye. They stop to browse and hopefully pick up a piece of merchandise.  

Customers. A helpful employee approaches and adds to the spark of interest.  They encourage the customer to try on the merchandise, to picture it in their home or as an accent in their garden. This  rapport building leads the customer to say, “I’ll take it today - at full price.”

Promoters. After the purchase, the retailer finds a way to encourage the customer to promote and like their brand, and to share their experience on social media.  The goal is to get them to tell their friends about your brand and build word-of-mouth to attract more strangers to your store.

All of these steps are valid and necessary in the building of your brand and the success of your brick and mortar store.

But the most important step and, the one that is frequently missing, and for that reason most damaging at this time of year, is the one that converts browsers into customers.

It’s not your fancy location you’re overpaying rent for…

Not your latest event with a pop star…

Not your promotional flier or email campaign…

Not your excited pleas to order online pickup in store...

Not your number of “likes" on Facebook…

It’s not any of those!

So today, consider how much attention you are paying to the critical step of converting browsers to customers this holiday season. Are you serious about getting your share of retail sales or just giving lip service?

Are customers something to get through?

Are stocking shelves more important than converting customers to buyers?

Are lame greetings allowed like, "Let me know if you need any help" or "Can I help you find something?" or "Are you looking for something special?"

If so, your holiday sales numbers are cooked.

See also, 9 Common Mistakes That Can Doom Your Retail Business 

The Point

There’s no masking the truth of that young woman encouraging me to buy a silly mask...when I went online this morning, I found I could have purchased it for about half price.  

Didn’t matter.

I never would have been looking for it.

We discover things when we shop.

Especially during the holidays.

If you haven’t actively created a culture of learning how to sell, now’s the time to start because none of the rest of the steps on the customer experience path has any return on investment unless the customer says, “I’ll take it today.”

From you.

For the current price.

That's how you keep from have a turkey of a holiday season.

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