Do you know what your customers bought six months ago?
Many retailers focus on looking forward and seeking new, fresh ways to make more sales. But it’s easy to get lost in the possibilities because there are countless things you could try.
Should you send out more coupons (and to which customers) or run different sales (and for which products)? It’s hard to tell which path would lead to the most sales, and you may end up randomly guessing at the best tactic for your business.
But using data generated from past sales can help you create a strategy to increase revenues so you can stop feeling like you’re playing darts blindfolded.
You don’t have to do so much guesswork when you have the right data — and you know how to use. To get insight on what works and what doesn’t when it comes to making sales, look to the past and evaluate your customers’ order histories.
Understanding Your Order History
A customer’s order history is a list of all the orders they’ve placed with your business in the past. It includes the specific items they purchased and how much each costs, along with information about the customer and when they bought the products.
You can find order history in your point-of-sale system. A robust POS will allow you to browse using various data points, from the customer themselves to individual products and sales broken down for specific dates.
As you and your staff make sales, create thorough customer profiles so that you can learn more about them and their shopping habits.
Getting this information is step one. (So make sure your POS allows you to track this!) Step two? Knowing how to use this look into the past to boost sales in the future.
Use Insights Provided by a Customer’s Previous Orders
Order histories are like a glimpse at what works and what doesn’t in terms of the products customers want to buy from you. The easiest way to put the data to use? Look for trends:
Dates: Are there specific times during the month where sales increased in the past? What about the year as a whole — where were your slow periods? What about times when you sold much more than average?
See if you can spot any date-related trends in your order history, and use that information to plan ahead to better manage your shop and inventory.
Products: Are there products that consistently outperform all others? What about items that never seem to sell at all? Do customers commonly buy certain products together?
Analyzing product sales trends gives you the information you need to offer the right products to the right people. It can also inform how you organize your store (or your website), so that products frequently purchased together are displayed together.
- Customers: Do certain customers buy certain items? Do they buy at particular times? What percentage are repeat buyers, and how many might you need to entice back by offering coupons, deals, or exclusive sales?
You can look at the order history for your store and use that data for marketing purposes, too. Here are some ideas you can try once you use your POS to understand sales trends:
Upsell and make specific recommendations: Customers who make one purchase from you are likely to make another in the future — especially if you make it easy for them and give them a nudge. Create opportunities to upsell.
Let’s say you filter your order history by specific product: in this case, maybe it’s a killer dress. Identify the customers who bought the dress, then send them a follow-up marketing email featuring a great pair of shoes that go perfectly with the outfit.
You can offer tailored coupons and offers, too. Customers who show an interest in a specific product may buy a related item when offered a coupon for the second product.
Create personalized marketing messages: Because you know who bought what and when after looking at order histories, you can tailor your marketing messages in really specific ways.
This is more effective than sending generic (and general) emails to your entire list. Create segments based on customer activity and purchases. Then send campaigns that are highly relevant to their interests — which you know, because you can see what they buy.
Target your promotions and advertisements: Use customer demographic data to target audiences on paid social advertisements and other promotions you want to run.
If you know you have a best-selling item that everyone wants around Mother’s Day, for example, an ad you create and run in April and early May will likely get more traction than an ad you run for the same item in September.
Improve the Individual Customer’s Experience
Order history also lets you improve the experience you offer to consumers, one customer at a time. Again, it’s all about trends: you can look to see when a repeat customer makes purchases, what they buy, and how often they shop with you.
From there, you can proactively curate their experience to leave them feeling more satisfied and highly valued. And personalizing their shopping experience based on their past purchases and potential needs can lead to brand loyalty and a higher customer lifetime value.
If you want to give it a whirl, try something like:
- Sending a personalized email asking if they’re low on a certain item — and including a small coupon for what they purchase most frequently.
- Providing an offer for a free sample or small gift with their next purchase of an item that’s similar or related to what they frequently buy to encourage a bigger sale in the future.
- Offering special or exclusive deals that only “top customers” receive. (They’ll feel valued and might add something new or extra onto their usual purchase.)
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You could also express a simple “thank you” in an unexpected or personal way. Send a handwritten note expressing your appreciation for their business, or send a swag bag filled with a few branded goodies.
Order Histories Help You Make Better Business Decisions
Order histories serve as a sort of blueprint when you need to make decisions about how you’ll boost sales. Instead of guessing, you can make informed choices based on actual data and trends.
That includes keeping accurate inventory, even during your busiest periods. Maintaining stocked shelves means you don’t miss out on sales opportunities — and you keep customers happy.
It also means knowing what sells well and creating plans and promotions to feature that in store and online to encourage even more sales. On the flipside, you can discontinue the products that take up shelf space but aren’t popular with customers.
Plus, your order history helps you market better by providing you with the necessary information to create highly targeted campaigns and ads. You can send highly relevant messages and offers to specific groups of customers based on what they bought in the past.
Get Started Making the Most of Your Customer Data
Ready to make use of information about your customers like their order history to make smart decisions about how to market and keep shelves stocked?
You can get started right away — as long as you have the right POS. If you still need a system that allows you to dive deeply into the data to better manage your shop, you can try Shopify for free for 14 days.