Triggers and Treasures – The Costco Approach to Online Selling

Monday, April 30th, 2012
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After watching a recent report on CNBC regarding the retail giant Costco, I was introduced to the term “Triggers and Treasures” which is a phrase they like to use when referring to their marketing strategy and explaining why shoppers buy so much at their stores.

In short, the “triggers” are what is used to get shoppers in the door.  These are their core items such as laundry detergent, cereal and toilet paper, which by the way is their #1 selling item.  The “treasures” are the thousands of other items that shoppers end up impulse buying even though these items were not on their shopping list to begin with.

Every online merchant should think about the term “Triggers and Treasures” when it comes to his or her online store and implement strategies that apply to this concept.

What I would recommend is first identifying your storefront’s “triggers”.  What are your top selling items and what are people looking for the most when they come to your store?  Identify these core items and make sure they’re easy to find and get to throughout the shopping experience.   However, try to keep in mind that Costco doesn’t just put all of its core items at the front of the store so you can just pick these out and leave.  They strategically place these core items throughout the warehouse so you’re almost required to go through the entire store to get the items you need (plus a few Bagel Bites samples maybe you didn’t).

This may not be the easiest thing to do with online selling but try putting together a clever navigation strategy, featuring core products along with additional items on the homepage or even placing banner images throughout your store.  

Next, identify your “treasures”.   What are the items that people are most likely to combine with your “triggers”?  Find these items and up-sell and cross-sell them to people looking at your best sellers.   At the very least, make sure you’re adding related items along side your core products or even up-selling during the checkout process as these are great starting points.

Costco’s “Triggers and Treasures” strategy is simple enough in concept but it will require some trial and error as well as reviewing reports and analytics before you get it just right for your company.  Companies like Costo spend a significant amount of time and money on these strategies so get creative with your approach and realize that it will likely be ever changing.

eCommerce Ninja by day and husband & father by night. Since 2003 Ty has been part of the fast growing eCommerce industry both as an Account Manager and online retailer. Ty has played a vital role in the conversion, launch and day-to-day operations of hundreds of online businesses ranging from multi-million dollar corporations to one and two person companies.