Buying better for a greater ROI

Get the buying process right and your promotions and incentives will win over consumers.

Promotions and incentives are big business. Motivating consumers with on-pack promotions, merchandise, vouchers or money off coupons, continue to play an important role in the marketing mix. In fact, the size of the motivation market in the UK is worth about £6.3bn. Yet, successful promotions aren’t always guaranteed. It’s easy for marketers to buy into a ‘one size fits all’ promotion – but 2008 should be about getting the buying process right.

The two essential components to a successful promotional campaign are relevance and communication. Marketers need to make the right choice of promotional tool for the recipient – promotions can open the door to a world of experiences all of which can be rewarding and inspiring, but they won’t be effective unless they are relevant to the recipient. The promotion needs to be useful and the quality on offer has to be tangible. Quality cannot just be ‘perceived’, it must be experienced, for instance, through regular, excellent customer service and enjoyed through extra added value.

Secondly, there is communication. A product or service, however excellent, is of no use unless people know about it, understand it, and appreciate how and why it is better than a competitor’s offering. Retailers, promotional issuers, and marketers themselves have a role to play in communicating the advantages. A well planned communication channel with consumers is essential, but marketers should not forget that communication is two-way. Customer feedback presents opportunities to make promotions even better.

I would take it one step further and argue that when choosing a promotion, marketers should look at their buying process and reassess at every stage. If we take gift vouchers as an example – gift vouchers and cards play an important role in promotions and incentives. With a changing array of services and products on offer, the shopping voucher and card are of prime importance in the marketing mix, bringing flexibility, convenience and a perceived higher value that cash. However, marketers would be better to ignore the urge to compare what discounts they can get from different suppliers and instead concentrate on what is the best choice in terms of relevance to the consumer.

Communication is something that I believe in very strongly. In fact, we are currently actively telling our customers to spend less with us and invest more in their communication methods. It’s worth noting that the more invested in communication, the better the return on investment.
Let us not also forget added value. In this day and age, consumers are looking for, and indeed in come cases expect, more than just face value. It’s worth marketers investigating the added value that a supplier can offer. This added value could be something they could pass on to the recipient, which could take the form of discounts, promotions or giveaways. We set up the SayShopping Privilege Club this year to give useful added value to our customers, which includes monthly prize draws and downloadable money off coupons for extra discounts with our retail partners.

Technology will continue to impact on our industry. The spectacular rise of e-commerce through the internet has changed everything. The UK is now Europe’s largest online shopping market. This has been possible, in part through cheaper computers, more widespread broadband connections, and the proliferation of retail websites. Indeed, UK retailers are widely viewed as being the most modern, most innovative and most active in Europe. The internet gives marketers an exciting and adaptable platform to access consumers. Promotions and incentives will have to adapt and reflect consumer needs, and suppliers should be one step ahead of demand. In 2008 marketers should look out for increased presence of gift cards (plastic credit-card designed vouchers), online e-vouchers and coupons and SMS promotional added value.

So what then does the future hold? Where will promotions and incentives be this time next year? Well, if marketers take heed and find ways to improve their buying power, they will benefit from more efficient, more consistent, and more cost-effective promotional programmes. Old-style, random or one-off promotions will decline. Promotions and incentives will become the home for motivation. Ultimately, marketers will themselves benefit not only from inspired consumers but also from the tangible return on investment they’ve made into ‘buying better’.

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