It’s no secret that retailers are facing massive new challenges staying relevant to consumers. Many long-time industry leaders that are unable to keep up with quickly evolving consumer sales models are going bankrupt or out of business. The ones most likely to survive? Those that are finding new ways to deliver value through retail experiences and staying ahead of the curve.
Today, most major retail stores can no longer survive as a siloed shopping experience. The more successful retailers are no longer trying to fend off online shopping as a threat to existence, but rather embracing online as the lifeblood that will nourish retail’s continued relevance.
The Evolved Shopping Experience
Make no mistake, retail has changed—and will continue to change. Retailers need to think of the in-person shopping experience as one piece of a larger omni-channel customer experience. They need to build their sales model with the understanding that consumers will use their smartphones while shopping in their stores. Retailers need to find ways to deliver value to live customers that isn’t possible online. This reality is reflected in many retailers’ new metric: experiences per square foot.
Retailers’ front-line staff need to be trained and emotionally engaged to deliver the kinds of experiences that keep a retail storefront thriving. Retail sales incentives are quickly becoming a necessity to create brand advocates that can deliver on brand promises.
Here are 10 ways retailers can use incentives to drive sales:
1. Do the research.
Take many important considerations into account as you create your sales incentives.
- Listen to your people. If you try to install sales incentives without taking the time to really understand your incentive participants’ points of view, you’re bound to waste money on the wrong incentives, and you risk alienating your people. Conduct an assessment using interviews and surveys to understand how they think and feel about your company’s brands, products and customers. Right or wrong, their perspectives are their reality, and those perspectives can help you design a more effective incentive program.
- Follow your customers. How are your customers’ learning about your offerings and what's their path to purchase? When you understand these two things, you can learn to use sales incentives to complement the customer’s natural buying process rather than detract from it.
- Learn from your sales data. Check what’s selling, when and where. Are you seeing variations in geography or seasonality? Comparing your current sales trends to your production levels can help you decide whether you should use incentives to enhance your strongest sales or try to level out your extremes by reenergizing lower performances.
- Pay attention to your competition. Are there times of year when their promotional efforts trail off? This may be your best opportunity to stand out and grow market share.
- Incentivize the things you really care about. Don’t encourage a number just because it can be measured. You may just be encouraging your audience to game the system and drive metrics that don’t create company value. Think about what really matters, and ensure that what you’re paying for is worth the value. It’s a good idea to work with an experienced incentives program designer who knows how to build airtight rule structures to prevent your people from gaming the system or engaging in fraudulent behavior.
2. Train for success.
Customer experience is quickly becoming the most valuable performance metric in retail—so your people need to know how to deliver. Use whichever training methods work best for your business and your people, and offer enough incentives to get them to pay attention and get excited about your message. Without a learning incentive, you may get them to go through the motions of learning and not engage with the content.
3. Use a mobile-friendly platform.
Reach your sales team at their convenience. Allow them to connect their smartphones to your stores’ Wi-Fi so they can engage with your incentives at no cost to them.
- Use a sales incentive platform that’s built with responsive design (or on a mobile app). This will make it easy for retail sales people to engage with your brand when they have down time on the floor. Give them permission to use their phones during slow times to log in to the platform, read product marketing materials and take quizzes about it, and shop for awards. Get them excited to get them performing.
- Consolidate your information. Some customer-facing representatives get bombarded with so much information it’s hard for them to keep track of everything they’re supposed to focus on. Minimize the number of incentives to make each one more effective. A well-designed sales enablement platform can help consolidate all available training materials, promotions and incentive awards.
4. Use tangible awards.
Ask your people what motivates them the most, and they’ll tell you they want cold, hard cash. Compare cash vs. points in an awards catalog, and research shows that the catalog is better at positively affecting behavior. There’s lots of reasons why, but the bottom line is that people will use those points on something memorable. They won’t spend points on routine expenses that they’ll forget about later.
Related: Thinking about switching from monetary to non-monetary incentives? Here's how and why to do it.
5. Keep the program top of mind.
Employees pay attention to how managers talk about new initiatives. Did you have a big launch? Did you support it with professional-quality communications? How often are you bringing it up in meetings and conversation? Because managers’ priorities become employees’ priorities, creating a comprehensive manager or supervisor incentive can help make your incentives a priority for everyone.
6. Recognize desirable behaviors.
While sales incentives are good at growing your revenue, some intangible performance factors may not show up on a leaderboard. For instance, if customer experience is a key consideration for you, use manager recognition scorecards or ecards with points to recognize strong experiences when you see them. Tell your other people what you recognized and why—you’ll motivate copy-cat behavior. Soon, everyone will be delighting your customers in similar ways.
7. Set growth goal incentives.
Paying your people extra for selling specific products is a great way to get your team’s attention, but that might not necessarily push them out of their comfort zone. Setting individual goals for growth based on historical performance, and then paying specifically for performance over that goal, can be a very effective way to gently nudge your people to do more.
8. Surprise and delight.
Your people need to feel like they have control over whether they earn through their performance, which is why having a simple earning structure is important for any sales incentive. However, some overlay promotions can incorporate more chance earnings to get them excited, like gamified awards or drawings. Balance the two methods of earning structures (structured and games of chance) to appeal to your people in different ways.
9. Recognize your top performers.
Recognition is a great tool to keep your highest performers loyal and onboard. And a professionally planned experience is one of the best incentives available. Treat them to something special like an unforgettable, multi-day trip with a guest. You’ll foster a sense of peer-to-peer community and give them a reason to love your company.
10. Foster friendly competition.
Most natural salespeople are fairly competitive and don’t like to lose. Creating a leaderboard that highlights the names of your strongest performers can be a powerful motivator for a retail sales audience. Post it someplace where all of your sales team will see it on a daily basis, such as on your digital platform or in a breakroom.
There’s a lot that goes into creating effective retail sales incentives, not the least of which is an effective digital platform to drive learning, engagement and awards redemption. Working with a strategic partner that has professional experience custom designing incentives rule structures and platforms may be well-worth your investment. Your people will assess how serious you are about your incentives program based on how strategically planned and invested it is. It’s important to execute both smartly and completely. Ultimately, you should be monitoring your total investment of dollars and hours to help measure how much of an impact your incentives are making.
Formalized recognition and incentives offer enormous potential for your organization’s results. Check out the white paper below and discover even more great ideas for running a strong, effective recognition or incentive program.