Customers Seek Value Now More Than Ever, and Brands Must Get on Board

Consumer behavior has changed dramatically and smart marketers are paying attention.  Seeking value as a priority, paying cash for necessities, foregoing credit cards, searching for discounts and putting money in the bank have become the norm thanks to the recent recession. Spending is more cautious, with consumers looking for deals, using coupons and actively focused on getting the most for their money.  And while the recession may officially be over, some economists say many of these changes in spending habits, initially seen as temporary, have taken hold for the long haul.  The 2010 Nielsen Economic Current states “value remains the mantra and the new normal is characterized by restraint.” The report also indicates that shoppers across the U.S. and Canada are cutting back on trips to the store, seeking value and balancing their purchases with a mix of branded and store brand items. This economic trend represents a significant opportunity for marketers, going beyond the sole purpose of grabbing someone’s attention, and instead delivering usefulness and value. 

Further, internet research firm Burst Media recently surveyed more than 4,500 women, age 18 and older, concluding that coupon use, in both the online and offline world, is growing.  In fact, nearly one-third (32.4%) of respondents consider themselves ‘frequent’ coupon users and one-third (34.0%) are using coupons more frequently today than they were six months ago.

High value offers characteristic of front door marketing strategies may fill a gap here – demonstrating a brand’s understanding of customer needs, while meeting a customer’s expectations of value. If it’s all about the getting the right offer on the right door, today’s creative front door media can make a high value offer stand out.  Gift cards, sweepstakes, tear-off offers, and sensory marketing with sound, scent or taste are available media options and represent a dramatically personal approach suited for major brands seeking to offer special treatment to their best customers.

If customers have high expectations of value from their favorite brands, what are you doing to deliver VIP treatment to their front door? Is your offer high value enough to walk through your customer’s front door as a welcome visitor?

For Retailers, Black Friday is Not a Shopping Day but a Shopping Season

Over the past several holiday seasons retailers may have rung in less-than impressive sales but this year they are determined to turn things around.  In fact, the National Retail Federation projects that 138 million shoppers are expected to hit stores Black Friday weekend, representing an increase over 2009 estimates. Further, retailers are making the most of this as a ‘shopping event,’ asking themselves why just a single day of Black Friday deals, when a full season of ‘Black November’ offers may be just what this economy needs…

With most consumers still feeling the crunch of the recent economic downturn, many of us really are eager for a bargain, or two, or many, many more.  People are using credit less, paying cash and looking for discounts wherever possible; many retailers are smart to up the ante with earlier sales and many more deals that are expected to extend right up to Christmas day.  This elongated shopping cycle gives consumers the means to make responsible purchases, with the added bonus of boosting retail profits for Q4.  

Some marketers have initially reasoned that this could dilute the power of the day itself; others see it an opportunity to capitalize on shoppers’ ability to making decisions, shopping lists and even purchases in a much more relaxed, comfortable atmosphere than a single frantic Friday or long pre-holiday weekend.  NRF stats from last year prove that 40 percent of shoppers started holiday shopping before Halloween, much less November.  The trick for retailers is to capture a shopper’s attention early in their holiday gift planning phase, and capitalize on their extended decision-making process.

Front door marketing strategies are uniquely applicable in this environment, delivering a highly targeted brand offer in the uncluttered, private environment of the front door. Brands are reaching their best customers early on the path to purchase and making the most of their ability to evaluate and respond to competitive brand offers.  Offers made here are typically very high-value, with brands recognizing this as a requirement to be invited into a consumer’s home.

If Black Friday is now Black November, don’t you want your best – and perhaps most elusive – customers to have the chance to see, touch and share your offer around the house before the big shopping day arrives?

Shopper Marketing at Home: Front-Door Access to Influencing Consumers

A study released today by Booz & Co. for the Grocery Manufacturers of America projects shopper marketing as the fastest-growing area of marketing investment for packaged-goods marketers over the next three years. Findings indicate an overall increase in awareness and sophistication of shopper marketing strategies—illustrating a primary industry focus on creating incremental consumption and loyalty by delivering the right messages at the right time and place to the right customer. Reaching consumers at home is at the core of this effort, with emphasis on accessing a highly targeted audience in a location where recipients interact with the media and have a high percentage of response.

Front-door shopper marketing can stimulate a retail visit and influence shopping behavior by avoiding the clutter of direct mail that appears in the mailbox and bypassing the steady noise of ongoing marketing channels. Digital strategies are proving to tie into shopper marketing, with a strong percentage of consumers researching online prior to making shopping decisions. And as indicated by the graph below from the study, evolving consumer behaviors coupled with emerging technologies have given birth to a variety of new shopper marketing vehicles and consumer points-of-contact.

Chart-for-Shopper-Marketing

Front door marketing benefits from this convergence as well since shopping decisions and lists are made in the home, and nearby phones and computers support the consumer’s ability to act on the message or offer.  

Booz & Co.’s current report, Shopper Marketing 4.0, indicates shopper marketing is not just an effective means of driving action by creating trial and purchase, but also a way to increase awareness and loyalty, all of which are critical to long-term brand health. Marketers should assume consumers are looking for value, pricing differentiation and personal relevance in their brand choices, and work to deliver the right message of value through the right channel.

Data-driven front door strategies support this thinking, reaching targeted customers early on the path to purchase and maximizing their opportunity to consider and respond to brand messages. As the report notes, one of the most important prerequisites for future shopper marketers will be the ability to generate shopper insights to create a lasting emotional connection with frugal consumers in a deal-driven environment. Some of the other crucial abilities include:

  • Collaborating with retailers and creating a scalable calendar of events that support drive periods
  • Evaluating, using, and integrating of new vehicles, especially in the digital frontier
  • Coordinating across shopper marketing, brand advertising, promotions, merchandising, and events to support more integrated marketing efforts
  • Accurately measuring shopper marketing effectiveness in a way that includes both brand health and ROI

Shopper marketers, where will your emphasis be on the path to purchase as 2011 rolls around?

Out of the Mailbox: Alternatives to Reaching Consumers At Home

Direct mail is a multimillion dollar business in the US and a usual fixture in most direct marketing programs. However, according to DMNews, the changing nature of the USPS and emerging customer communications technology have forced marketers to consider new alternatives for reaching consumers at home.

Despite the Postal Regulatory Commission denying the Postal Service’s request for a rate increase, marketers are still planning for higher postal rates in the future (the USPS reported last month that it is looking to appeal Commission’s decision), the cutting of Saturday home delivery, fewer Post Office branches, and the possibility that the USPS will be out of money in 2011.

What this means for marketers is that not only will direct mail access to consumers homes be more expensive, but marketers will miss out on the chance to influence consumers at home on Saturday, one of the biggest retail shopping days.

In an effort to diversify their media mix and decrease their reliance on US mail, some marketers are moving towards an online solution, which has been propelled by recent mobile commerce innovations such as mobile payments. However, Paul Vogel, president of mailing and shipping services at the USPS, warns that inboxes and social media messages are becoming increasingly cluttered.

Making the move from out of the mailbox and into the inbox doesn’t solve for the age-old problem of increasing advertising clutter. If marketers are looking for a true alternative, front-door marketing gives consumers the touch and feel of a direct mail piece, but without the clutter of the mailbox or inbox.

Change is inevitable for the USPS, and marketers should consider how these changes will affect their future marketing plans and place renewed emphasis on finding alternative options to reaching consumers at home.