Simply put, a complementary product (or complementary good, as it’s sometimes called) is one whose use is interrelated with the use of an associated product so that a demand for one generates a demand for the other. For example, a store that sells fine china and flatware almost always also stocks stemware, table linens, candlesticks and other related tabletop merchandise. Full-service gas stations also sell motor oil and tires, and many dry cleaners also offering tailoring services on the premises.
Complementary products enhance each other either out of necessity (toy stores sell batteries) or because they enhance each other (donut shops sell coffee). Choosing the right complementary products or services for your retail operation is an exercise in thinking about what logically “goes” with what you’re already offering. Alternatively, pay attention to the types of goods or services requests you get from your established and new customers, and then consider adding them to your inventory.
Offering complementary products to your customers has many advantages. The most obvious is turning one sale into two or more. Customers who have already done business with you are more likely to do so again; likewise, if they’ve bought one item from you, they’re more inclined to buy another (or a combination of others) that complements it. Most consumers prefer to complete their shopping in one location and avoid traipsing from store to store. If they can fulfill all their needs in one purchase at your store, that’s a bonus for both them and you.
Offering a discount on the purchase of two or more complementary products can also pay off for you and your customers. This is known as bundling, as anyone who has ever contracted with one provider for their phone, cable and Internet service knows. When you offer shoppers a better deal if they bundle goods or services, they’ll leave believing they’ve saved money while you profit from the additional sale.
Consider running a promotion that features a free service or product to attract new customers or to reward established ones. For instance, if you operate a day spa, consider offering a free mani or pedi to clients who purchase a day-of-beauty package. If you run an online business, offer coupon codes for complimentary shipping or a percentage off the total purchase to encourage shoppers to make a purchase.
Some other ideas to consider when setting up your complementary product/service program include:
- Promote the value of the complementary goods or services in cash, not as a percentage of the overall purchase. Dollars and cents often motivate shoppers more than a percent sign!
- Spur customers to action by setting a time period in which they must make their purchase to qualify for the discount or free product.
- Give your customers a choice of which complementary product or service they’d like. If you sell jewelry, think about offering a discounted price on earrings or a bracelet to shoppers who purchase a necklace.
- Create one or more alliances with other merchants who offer products and services that complement yours, promoting all your businesses. Examples of such cross promotion alliances include landscapers and painters, caterers and florists, and clothiers and shoe stores.
- Finally, make sure the complementary goods you offer are truly related to the product purchased and that they’re something your customers are likely to want. Making the sale is important, but gaining or keeping a customer matters more.