For decades, nearly all retail mass promotions have followed, basically, the same pattern. Choose an item you want to promote. Pick a great price that will get people through the doors. Let people know about the price through your channel of choice (a sign on the shelf, a flyer on their doorstep). Then sit back and wait to see if it worked, all the while hoping you ordered enough product (But not too much.) This was what driving sales in retail was all about.
It is no secret that a new breed of tools and technology is changing how retailers interact with customers and promote products. But even with the advances in retail personalization and AI, we are surprised how often we see retailers using new tools to employ old tactics.
Sure, a lot of fancy algorithms are used to make sure the offer is going only to the right customers. And these days the offer is as likely to show up as a notification on their phone as it is to come to their front door. But typically we still see retailers doing a big push on an item or group of items for a set time period. Then moving on to something new. In doing so, they are missing one of the biggest opportunities that comes with precision marketing: “Always On” promotions.
What is “Always On” all about? Basically it means you have a huge set of promotions that are always live for somebody, but are probably never live for everybody at once. Say you are a drugstore chain and trying to sell a brand of shampoo. You can plan a big promotion for the third week of March and blast everyone you think might be interested. Or you can create a coupon or other incentive for the shampoo that you trickle out to a selected group of customers each week, all year long.
The “Always On” method has many benefits. Here are four that can really make a difference:
1. Get the Timing Right
Retailers are becoming experts at sending personalized offers that match the right customer with the right offer. But what is often forgotten is that with today’s technology, we have the ability to personalize not just the offer but the timing. Is it possible that every single one of your customers is running out of shampoo at exactly the same time? Sure. But it’s not very likely.
2. A Steady Stream of Feedback
Let’s face it, we don’t always get things right the first time. An offer incentive might be too low…or too high. The image we chose doesn’t resonate. Or we accidentally included the 30 mL trial size of the shampoo in the offer, meaning with the discount we offered customers were getting it for free.
But if you’re going to get something wrong, would you rather do it for all of your customers at once, or for a tiny sub-group? By using the same offer every week through the year for a small set of customers, you give yourself a steady stream of feedback on how the offer is performing. Instead of doing a post-mortem and wishing you had done things differently, you can fix things on the fly and reap the benefits for the rest of the year.
3. Increase Efficiency by Making Offers Reusable
If you are going to take the time to create an offer (source an image, write the copy, review the legal, and double-check that the right SKUs are included) you might as well get some mileage out of it. Most retail promotions are created for a single use and then thrown on the discard pile. By creating an offer bank of reusable offers, your marketing team can basically set it and forget it.
4. Your Supply Chain Team Will Love You
Behind every big retail promotion, there is a supply chain team working like crazy to make sure just the right amount of product is in stores at just the right time. Want to push that shampoo we talked about with a big in-store display and front-page ad? You better get the forecast right. Order too little and you will end up with disappointed customers and missed sales. Order too much, and you will be heavily discounting a few weeks from now and eating away at your margin. Using personalization to slow-release the offer to different customers all year long prevents this problem. Instead of unpredictable volume spikes, you will have nice, steady growth all year long.
There will always be a place for the big campaign that makes a splash in the market. But more and more we are going to see retailers shifting to this “Always On” model. Give it a try and experience the benefits for yourself. You’ll be glad you did.