(Pocket-lint) - When it comes to increasing sales, one of the most effective things you can do is solicit and then respond to customer feedback. But how do you do that if you have a brick-and-mortar store? Simply giving them a card to fill out and submit is not very effective, and asking for an email means they will need to remember to do it. Not only that, but usually when you ask for feedback you hear from a vocal component whose opinion may not be that of the majority of shoppers.

Here are some ways to solicit feedback both for online and offline retailers that can bring you valuable data which you can use to tailor your offerings in a way that could substantially increase sales.

Instagram

If you're a boutique retailer, odds are that Instagram is popular with your customers. You likely have an Instagram following already. That's a great arena in which to solicit feedback. Sure, you may only receive it from the same people again and again, but they are likely to be some of your most loyal customers. If you keep them happy and encourage them to reach out to their friends who may be interested in your offerings, you can go a long way toward increasing sales.

Social media is great at breaking down the walls between retailers and customers. For instance, you can both admire a fashion or fabric in the same way. While you're doing this, you're not retailer and customer; you're just some folks having a chat which can yield valuable feedback. Posting photos of some items you're considering stocking and simply asking your followers for their opinion is a great way to get a pulse on your broader customer base as to whether they'll like them enough to buy it.

Yelp or Google reviews

Yes, the dreaded Yelp! While many retailers and restaurateurs wish Yelp was never conceived, for better or worse, it's here to stay. But Yelp doesn't need to torpedo your sales.

If you're lacking in Yelp reviews, or the ones you have make you look bad, you can always add signage to your shop asking your customers to leave a review. You can also make this request on their email or SMS receipt, which may be more effective since when they read the receipt they may have time right then and there to write a review. You can't directly reward positive reviews with cash, but you may be able to conduct a drawing and give prizes to people who have written reviews. You'll want to check the Yelp terms of service to make sure this is okay.

Another way to make Yelp work for you is to engage; respond to reviews both positive and negative. It may make you want to pull your hair out to have to respond to a pompous customer who clearly wishes they were more important than they actually are, but as long as you do so in a calm and non-accusatory manner, it can only help you. 

For negative reviews, you can reply with a statement that you're working to address their concerns and then message them privately to see if there's anything that actually needs to be addressed. It is possible that you have an employee who needs to be retrained a little bit or even let go due to their behavior. You can then respond appropriately to any reviews that mention this employee. So while you can't get rid of Yelp, you can probably do more to use it to your advantage.

Surveys

Here's a way to reward your customers for giving feedback. On their receipt, you can include a QR code that leads to a web survey. You can employ signage that tells shoppers that if they complete a survey after their purchase, they'll earn a reward the next time they shop. You can also use this to collect their email address if you wish; you just need to be very clear that you may use their address to communicate with them.

You can also ask customers to take a survey while they're still in the store. This is typically accomplished through the use of a tablet tethered to a podium. Alternatively, if your store has a mobile app, you may be able to set it so it will prompt them to take a survey once they're in range of your mobile beacon.

One pro of the in-store survey is that if you catch them, their experience will still be fresh in their mind; the con is that if their experience was negative, you're really going to hear about it. However, that's still better than having them vent on Yelp.

While they're not very glamorous, surveys remain a vital part of collecting feedback. If the response rate isn't high enough, you can simply increase the incentive. Usually, a $10 discount will prompt people to take a few minutes to fill out a survey. And if they come back to take advantage of that discount, they're likely a loyal customer who will pay for themselves several times over. 

One other avenue for retail feedback is through the POS software itself. This is generally a much more seamless solution that better enables you to evaluate the feedback you're receiving. It may take a bit of finagling to come up with the right questions to ask and incentives to offer, but nothing beats the convenience when you can get valuable feedback from your customers through your point of sale software.