, the world's largest independent publisher of U.S. industry research, offered us a variety of relatively simple ways companies can increase sales, be more effective and/or satisfy customers.
Among them: More retailers should offer in-store returns to attract online purchases from consumers who would otherwise withhold a purchase if they dread mailing back an item; using social media instead of focus groups for branding initiatives (
uploads potential commercials to YouTube and decides which commercials will run based on user response); fitness clubs could move away from long-term contracts and to month-to-month memberships; point of sale/on the floor checkout, as practiced by
, should be adopted by more retailers; more stores could take a cue from the success
had offering layaway during the holidays.
It isn't always as easy as it might sound to enact even a simple change in strategy or product offering, says Stephen Baker, NPD's primary hardware analyst.
"It is hard to see that there could be any real low-hanging fruit out there, something that is so obvious that somebody else wouldn't have already plucked it," he says. "I really think we are at a point in the maturity of the business where it's just not that easy. We know the things that consumers are going to want going forward, and they aren't easy things to do. They are higher fruit. They are not devices, they are much more likely to be services or support or something else to make people's lives easier."
That said, he does agree there can be strokes of genius.
"I was an original employee at
," he says. "I sat down and listened to people tell me what they were going to do, and I was like, 'Why hasn't anybody ever thought of this before? This is a great idea.' [Founder Thomas G. Stemberg] is worth hundreds of millions of dollars and deserves every penny of it for being able to think up, and follow through with, that kind of a great idea, one so obvious and so simple that it seems like somebody else would have thought of it. His alternate go-to-market plan was to do a pet superstore. So not only did he have one great idea, he had two great ideas."
They may not be as grandiose as the business model for office-supplies giant Staples or
, but we took a look at 10 simple -- perhaps even "no-brainer" -- ideas that could help various companies increase sales, accrue revenue and keep customers happy: