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This article originally appeared in Artisan Essentials. Download your free copy here.
The word ‘upselling’ might bring to mind pushy salespeople with not-so-subtle tactics to squeeze a few more pounds from their customers, but in the world of fine food the word conveys an altogether different meaning.
The shops of Speciality Food readers are renowned for the personal touch their customer service offers, and the knowledge and expertise their shopworkers bring to the buying experience. For this sector, upselling is a service for customers just as much as it is a tool for to boost sales. Thus, perfecting the art of upselling and cross-selling provides a simple way to improve your bottom line and increase customer loyalty.
In a fine food retail environment, customers are often looking to be upsold as they seek out new, premium products. “It’s no longer enough to provide good customer service and quality produce; consumers expect something more, a niche offering,” explains Shane Godwin, commercial director at Macknade Food Hall in Kent.
Macknade aims to provide a unique array of products by drawing upon its Kent connections and its Italian heritage, supplying customers with genuine handmade Italian products with provenance and history. “It is these qualities that you can play on during an upsell,” Shane says.
For some, upselling and cross-selling come naturally. But for those who have yet to perfect their sales pitch, Mark Kacary of The Norfolk Deli has a word of advice: listen. “A classic phrase used in sales training courses is ‘you have two ears and one mouth for a reason… listen twice as much as you talk,” he says. Get a conversation going with customers, and see where they take you. “Ask simple questions, ‘Is that everything?’ or talk to the customer about how they are planning to use a particular product they are buying.
“People like to talk, especially if it is about themselves.” This, Mark says, can open up new information about a particular dish they’re desperate to try or a potential product they’ve been on the hunt for. “Listen and make suggestions.” Upselling and cross-selling techniques are only likely to be successful if they offer something relevant to the customer, so ask yourself: will this product benefit them? If it’s a better version of something they’re buying or another product that goes hand-in-hand, it’s likely to be of interest to them.
While speaking to customers offers a direct line to upselling, in busier periods or times like the Covid-19 pandemic when customers may be less keen to be approached in the shop, let your displays do the talking.
Bundle products together or place them in a logical display where the purchase of one item will naturally lead to another. “It doesn’t take a genius to appreciate that putting chutneys next to or close to cheese might improve sales, or placing crackers close by will achieve an additional sale,” Mark says.
However, you can get even more creative by considering the motives behind your customers’ buying habits – and shoppers will likely appreciate this insight. “Creating a display which frames a selection of complementary items together will also help add value to a sale,” Mark says. Incentives can also boost upselling power by proving the benefits of spending in your shop. Introducing a loyalty programme can help with this.
For those retailers with an on-site café, restaurant or butchery, these schemes can also be used to cross-sell and self-promote across different areas of the shop.
To successfully upsell, one must be completely familiar with the products in their shop. “Upselling is about offering something of value that the customer didn’t know they wanted, and key to this is ensuring you have a knowledgeable team that can recommend a complementary wine, a superior cut of meat or something interesting that is unique to us, so they don’t pass up the opportunity,” explains Shane.
Ensure all members of your staff are up-to-date on the latest products to hit the shop floor, and take time to educate your employees on the finer details of your top-sellers. Mark also advises that shop owners keep their eyes on what’s trending on TV.
“We saw a significant uptake in the sales of Cornish Gouda when it featured on Rick Stein’s Cornwall. Knowing what’s on TV, which celeb chef is cooking what, and having some of the additional ingredients is key so that when a customer comes in clearly looking to replicate what they’ve seen on TV it’s possible to sell them additional items they didn’t think they had come in to buy.”
At the end of the day, upselling and cross-selling tactics are about boosting the value of each shopping basket based on your advice and suggestions. But beyond that, they’re what fine food retail is all about: helping customers to discover new food delights.