Tempting Customers with Add-On Purchases

by Sara Naumann

Savvy retailers know the power of add-on sales. Just think about it: Candy bars, gum and magazines tempt you as you wait in line at the grocery store check-out. The sales clerk at department store asks if youd like to save 10% by opening a credit card. And McDonalds will always, always ask if you want fries.

The reason? According to retail experts, sales can be increased by 25% with positive suggestion selling and add-on sales. And who wouldnt like to increase their sales by 25%?

Whats an add-on sale? (And am I a pushy salesperson for doing it?)
Simply put, an add-on is an unplanned purchase the customer adds to the items shes buying. It might be an item related to the product shes purchasingor it could be a complete impulse buy.

And no, it doesnt make you a pushy salesperson. In fact, todays busy customer appreciates when a retailer tries to save her time, directs her toward an item she might not have noticed, or makes sure she has enough basic supplies like glue or X-acto knife blades.

What drives add-on sales?
The reality is this: Consumers take a split second to make an add-on purchase.

Whats behind the decision to buy? Emotion and the need to solve a problem. Emotion is I just love this paper. Problem-solving is "I'd better grab an extra glue stick while Im thinking of it."

How can you affect your customers decision? There are two key methods. One is with merchandising and the other is customer contact.

Consumers make the majority of their purchase decisions while standing at the displaywhether thats a rack, a shelf or a pegboard display. Wow! Makes merchandising pretty important, doesnt it?

Even more interesting numbers: A customer typically spends 5-10 seconds making low-price decisions like embellishments or paper; 30-60 seconds considering a higher-ticket item like a die-cutting machine.

Thats right: In a split second, a sale can be made...or lost. So, how can you influence her decision to buy?

Of course, having the right merchandise is the most important factor, but how you present the merchandise is also vital. Not a merchandising expert? Dont worryweve got tried-and-true tips!

Merchandise an add-on section
Just like the grocery store, you can create a section of the store devoted to add-on and impulse purchases. It might be a spinner rack on top of your counter or a 2 1/2-wide endcap. Whatever you decide, there are a few tricks to placement and product assortment.

First, what product should you place in this area? Keep it clean, keep it simple and keep it coordinated. You want to make a visual impact with your product. Our Attachments line was designed to take advantage of the impulse nature of embellishments, which is why the packaging is uniform and the graphics are designed to coordinate yet make each theme stand out, says Hot Off The Press President Paulette Jarvey. We know paper crafters generally shop by theme. As they shop, theyre thinking, hmmmIm working on a travel project, so I need some travel-themed supplies. If she sees one item, shell buy it. But if she sees five items, theres a much better chance shell buy more than one. By merchandising the themes together, the customer has her choices in front of her.

The biggest mistake a retailer can make? Mixing one or two items from ten different vendors and trying to fit them together in one space. The result is a mismatched collection of different colors, sizes and price points. Paulette cautions: All the vendors loseand so does the retailer, who wont reap the rewards of impulse and adjacency buying.

So, where in the store should you place your add-on area? Position it in a high-impulse area, near or with related product. Your best locations: Next to the register and to the immediate right of your door.

Next to the register. Position your outpost next to the register, not at the front of your register counterproducts placed in that area are too low for the customer to see unless shes standing about 6' away with an unobstructed view. Take note of where your customers stand when they line up at the register and place your outpost there. Use your grocery store as a model: The candy, gum and magazines are all placed where customers standing in line can easily see (and reach) them.

To the right of your door. Studies show that most American women will immediately turn right upon entering a store. (Test it next time you go shopping!) This is a great best place for your impulse merchandise outpost. Make sure youre taking advantage of positioning with clear signage and a handy stack of shopping baskets.

Product stock. Be sure your outpost is well-stocked but not overflowing. The product needs to make a visual statement. Replace the product when it sells out its lifespan with another add-on assortment.

The power of price points
You know it: Price ranks consistently among the biggest customer motivators and its a great tactic for inspiring add-on sales. Who doesnt want to feel like shes getting a good deal? Signing an area with retail prices grabs the customers attention. If all the items at your outpost are $2.49, be sure to post Just $2.49! next to the array of products.

Customer Contact

Want to maximize add-on sales and give a personal touch? Then train your staff to integrate add-on sales techniques into every customer contact.

Inquire. Asking the customer "Do you need anything else?" while shes making her purchase is not an effective technique. First, the timing is off: You want the customer to have her add-on purchase in her hand before she payswhich means your employee needs to be conversing with her well before the actual transaction. Second, the question is too open-ended. Youre asking her to stop, think about the question and weigh her decision, all in a split second. And because the customer has probably heard this statement many, many times, her response (No, thanks) is pretty automatic. Instead, ask specific questions related to the product she has in her hand: I see youve got the 8x8 Christmas Papers collection. Did you see the album that matches?

Present the merchandise. Say your customer responds favorably to your suggestion. When you show her the product, focus the conversation on the benefits to that customer. Impulse and add-on sales are based on emotionbecause the product is cute, or new, or solves a problem.

This requires some observation on the employees part. Does the customer want the newest product around? Then tell her, These sarabinders are brand-new! Is the customer interested in price? Say, These Almost Done Page Kits are just $7.99and look at all the papers and embellishments you get! Is she a time-strapped consumer? Then tell her, The Busy Scrappers Solution really saves you time.

Keep it simple. Impulse purchases are made without question and without reasoning. Theyre simply acted upon. The trick? Offering a menu of choices is more overwhelming than helpfulso follow the Rule of Three. When more than three items are in front of the customer, the chance of a sale is reduced. Why? Because the customer wont be able to make a decision and will freezethen walk away without buying anything.

Hand it to the customer. Studies show that the longer a customer holds a product, the more she feels ownership of it. Put the product in her hand and let her handle it.

Tempting customers with add-on purchases
Grocery stores. Department stores. McDonalds. Its true: Savvy retailers know the power of add-on sales. And because independent retailers have more flexibility in merchandising, more customer interaction and better product knowledge, its an area where they can effectively compete with the chain stores!

Ready to incorporate suggestion and add-on sales to your retail strategy? Its a powerful competitive advantageand one independent retailers can do best. Just remember: Your sales could increase by 25%!