Headline article image 7 smart retail sales tactics that can work at Christmas and all year round

7 smart retail sales tactics that can work at Christmas and all year round

Want to maximise sales? You need to start now – with these retail sales techniques, tips and strategies

It’s that special time of the year – and a key time for retailers to engage and connect with new and potential customers. 

The Retail Doctor Bob Phibbs predicts that there’s going to be a special energy given that “2020 was essentially a missing year for us. For most people, the last holiday they would have spent together was 2019 – it’s been two years since then”.

Here’s how to employ sales tactics that will help you stand out and increase retail sales.

1. Upselling

Upselling is a retail sales strategy every business owner should consider. This retail sales promotion technique is all about generating incremental revenue by persuading a customer to purchase a more expensive comparable product. For example, in a sports shoe store, a sales assistant might persuade a customer to buy a more expensive pair of running shoes. 

“You have to make a connection before you start talking about product.”

- Bob Phibbs, The Retail Doctor

How to upsell in store 

Upselling in-store starts with a good greeting, the right approach, building customer rapport and selling from there, says Phibbs. “You have to make a connection before you start talking about product.” 

Once that bond is established with a shopper, the key is to increase trust and understand a customer’s motives. “Engage a stranger and discover the shopper,” says Phibbs. “Just because customers are looking for one thing, doesn’t mean there aren’t other things they’re interested in… the ‘curious’ is where the money is.”

The key as a retailer, he continues, is ensuring that your employee or salesperson understands your products and is trained to focus on value plays, rather than just getting caught up on price or a particular sales promotion. 

How to upsell online

One way to upsell online is to use an incentive like free shipping if consumers spend more. This is a retail sales strategy ASOS employs well. 

Sales techniques like this are used by many retailers – because it works. Customers may well spend more to avoid paying for shipping, even if it ends up costing more than the original total price. 

2. Cross-selling

Like upselling, cross-selling is all about generating incremental sales. However, unlike upselling, where customers are encouraged to buy a more expensive version of the same product, cross-selling involves inviting customers to buy related or complementary products and increase their overall spend in-store. 

For example, at a shoe store, a retail sales assistant might use a strategy of suggesting some pairs of new running socks or a visor to go with their new shoes.

“The first product you sell capitalizes on what it took to get someone there – the second item is all profit.”

- Bob Phibbs, The Retail Doctor

The way Phibbs sees it, “The first product you sell capitalises on what it took to get someone there – it covers the cost of your marketing, your labour… the second item is all profit.” 

In other words, “the first item pays the bills, the second item is the gravy.”

How to cross-sell in store

As with upselling, it’s crucial to establish a bond with customers first. After that, says Phibbs, “it’s natural to say ‘You know, it took you so long to find the right fit for you, these also come in a green and plaid’ and [the customer] says ‘Oh, great’ – and that’s the adding on.”

How to cross-sell online 

Online, the key to cross-selling is artificial intelligence (AI) – or using a computer algorithm to offer suggestions, such as:

  • “People who buy this, normally buy this”
  • “Related products you might like”
  • “Pair that skirt with this top to create this look”

Take Kóala. It’s known for its mattresses in Australia – but now it has branched into furniture. 

By using an “Every corner of your house” message, it isn’t overriding the original product it wants customers to purchase – its mattresses – it’s encouraging customers to also consider other rooms in their home. It’s cross-selling.

3. Brand story

One of the best ways to connect with customers is by giving them a story to connect with – your brand story. 

The goal of your brand story is to inspire an emotional reaction – which leads to a personal connection with customers. But your brand story isn’t just a historical overview of how you came to be where you are, it’s your brand’s:

  • Purpose and mission 
  • Values and message
  • Origin story 
  • Why you sell what you do 
  • Tone of voice

Patagonia is a great example of a brand with a clear and engaging brand story. Not only does Patagonia tell the story of how and why it was launched on its website, but its environmental values, outdoor ethos and commitment to grassroots activism are threaded throughout its stores and e-commerce store. 

Lululemon is another brand that authentically communicates its brand story and “deep love of sweat.” Rather than focusing on its historical “origin story,” Lululemon conveys its feel-good message at every touchpoint. It’s on the wall of its stores, in its inspirational imagery and on its reusable shopping bags.

While it began as a yoga brand, it has become a much-loved technical apparel brand that their customers align with for its values and purpose because they connect to the brand’s story.

How can you integrate your brand story into your store and website?

  • Don’t just think about marketing posters – consider wall decals, art, quotes and messages.

  • Take it beyond your logo and integrate your colors, fonts and the feel of your brand into your store design and layout.

Can you give them something to take away so they remember you?

4. Impulse buys

Impulse buys are separate to upselling and cross-selling; they are a more passive and random approach that involves strategically placing products in customers’ line of sight, most commonly as they’re about to buy.

Holiday season is ripe for impulse buys as shoppers look for stocking stuffers, a small gift for a colleague, cards or wrapping paper. Discounted items make great impulse buys as they’re attention-grabbing. 

The trick to encouraging impulse buys is to make it easy for shoppers to feel, touch, hold and smell products. Phibbs recommends providing a basket, since “when the hands are full, impulse items stay on the shelves.”

Beauty juggernaut Sephora makes impulse purchases a sport. Not only does the brand provide shoppers with baskets, but customers also are led between two aisles of mini goodies as they line up to make a purchase. Online it employs a similar tactic by suggesting discounted items as you check out. 

Similarly, there’s a reason GAP’s checkout counters are located in the middle of the store – surrounded by products.

However, the key with impulse buying is ensuring it doesn’t override the customer’s main purchase – impulse buys are extras, not the main event.


Clienteling is a key way for retailers to connect with their customers and make them feel valued. 

It’s about using customer information, preferences and behavior to create an intimate, elevated experience for every customer.  

Luxury brands and department stores are adept at clienteling; many offer services such as personal styling, in-store tailoring or monogramming, while others offer house calls or hold exclusive in-store events to show VIP customers new season collections.

However, since the pandemic, many mass labels have begun to offer clienteling services that are more traditionally associated with luxury brands. For example, Anthropologie was one of many stores that began offering online virtual appointments during the pandemic.

6. Personalization

Personalization isn’t just adding someone’s name to your eDM; it’s about using sophisticated customer-relationship management tools like Klaviyo or Emarsys to track customer behavior and deliver a personalized experience. 

Brands like Ulta and Adidas do this well through their strategic membership programs. They track what customers are purchasing and what products they favor so they can target the right promotions to the right customers. And, most importantly, they reward their customers accordingly – with things they know they love. 

Learn more about how to get started with personalization here.

7. In-store demonstrations

Use your physical space in a way you can’t online and create memorable moments only physical spaces provide. 

There is no better example of this than IKEA, which has built its entire brand on creating an experience – rather than focusing on product – by setting up each store to be an inspirational journey to your dream home.  

How do customers engage with your store? Before you get started, understand how customers navigate your store – you can use technologies like floor sensors and heatmaps, or just get your team to make notes. If there is a regular section customers are drawn to, enhance it and grow it. 

What would add value to their experience? Consider pop-ups that align with your brand. Gift-wrapping is always an easy and natural integration during the holiday season, but consider taking it further. Think about making your customers’ lives easier or treating them.

When planning, consider:

  • Offering something free to draw them in – such as a complimentary coffee or another beverage while they shop. 

  • Creating a special “trial” area – can they try or sample products in a way they never have before?

  • Sharing your expertise – could you offer 10 minutes with a personal stylist or a relevant industry expert?

  • Novelty personalization – bespoke, monogrammed and personalized products are booming. Think about how you could make it work for your products.

  • Making it Instagrammable – the more bold and beautiful, the better.

Focus on creating an experience so good that when the customer walks away, they feel fantastic – and want to come back. Integrate your in-store demonstrations with your brand story as mentioned above (such as Lululemon offering in-store yoga classes) and you’ve got a winning tactic.

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Written by
Isabel Sandercock-Brown
Isabel Isabel Sandercock-Brown is a freelance writer and copywriter.
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