Home Articles Five ways to drive customer conversion rates in your stores

Five ways to drive customer conversion rates in your stores


The whiff of financial meltdown still lingers around store retail. But if you survived the crisis, it’s time to get that sales needle shifting in the right direction.

There are only three ways to drive sales in-store:

  1. Encourage more prospects to visit your store
  2. Increase your average sale price
  3. Increase your conversion rate – that is, sell to more of the prospects already visiting your stores

To date, retail sales have been a two-trick pony: drive prospect traffic and raise your average sale price. But what about your conversion rate? It’s another sales opportunity that most retailers overlook.

First things first

Before I get into the ways you can drive conversion, I need to establish whether you properly track traffic and calculate conversion rate in your stores. First things first, you need to track prospect traffic.

This is not the same as transaction counts – as many retailers falsely believe. Traffic counts represent the total number of people who came to the store including buyers and non-buyers. Conversion rate is simply calculated by dividing sales transactions by gross traffic counts. For example, if you logged 500 traffic counts in your store and there were 200 sales transactions for the day, your conversion rate would be 40 per cent (i.e. 200/500).

As you can see, without traffic counts, you can’t actually calculate conversion rate. And if you can’t calculate conversion rate, well, you can’t improve it.

For the 35 per cent of retailers who actually track traffic and conversion rates, here are five ways you can improve conversion in your stores.

1. Understand why people don’t buy

One of the most important things a retailer can do to improve conversion rates is to understand why people don’t buy. Long till line ups, M.I.A. sales help, out-of-stocks, poor merchandising; the list goes on and on.

Every store manager should spend some time observing visitors in his/her store. Resist the temptation to help; just observe the behaviours. Watch customers as they move through your store; it won’t take long to identify actions you can take to turn more visitors into buyers.

2. Align your staff to traffic, not transactions

Staff scheduling is tricky at the best of times, but aligning your staff resources to when prospects are in-store will help you maximise your chances of converting more of them into buyers.

Pay particular attention to lunch time, when store traffic can be way up, but staff lunch breaks can seriously drag down conversion rates. Associates need to eat, but customers need to be served. Matching staff schedules to traffic volume and timing in your store will help improve your chances of converting more.

3. Look for conversion leaks and plug the holes

Traffic volume and conversion rates tend to be inversely related. That is, when traffic is high, conversion tends to go down or sag. When traffic levels are low, conversion rates tend to go up.

It’s not hard to understand why this happens. When the store is busy, till lines are longer and it’s harder to get help from an associate. The opposite is true when the store isn’t as busy.

So, if you want to improve conversion rates, look at the traffic and conversion patterns in your store by day of week and by hour. When conversion rates sag, this may represent times when sales are being lost.

4. Set conversion targets by store

Having goals and targets is essential if you want to improve results. If you don’t have a conversion target for your store, you need to set one.

It’s important to remember that every store is unique; your conversion targets should reflect this. One store might be doing well with a 15 per cent conversion rate while another may be under-performing even though it has a 30 per cent conversion rate.

5. Make conversion a team sport

It takes the collective effort of all staff to help turn prospects into buyers.

A good way to help improve conversion is to ensure all your staff understands what conversion is and that each of them plays a part in improving it.

Ask your staff why they think people don’t buy and what the store can do to improve conversion rate. Discuss targets, get their buy-in and share results. Get them excited about improving conversion and you’ll significantly improve your chances of hitting store targets.

Everyday prospects visit your stores with the intent to buy, but leave without making a purchase. Getting your store to capture even a few more of these lost sales can have a significant impact on overall sales results. Improving your in-store conversion rate is not hard to do, but it does take focus and attention – the suggestions above will help you drive conversion in your stores.

If you don’t track traffic or measure conversion rate in all your stores today, you are missing out on an entirely new way to drive sales.

Mark Ryski is the founder and CEO of HeadCount, a leading analytics firm specialising in store traffic and conversion serving retailers across North America. He is also the author of Conversion: The Last Great Retail Metric. For more information, visit www.headcount.com.