It’s that time of year! During the Holiday shopping season, companies love to entice deal-hungry consumers with special offers to grab their share of the pie.
Facebook page offers. Mobile discount codes. Coupons, special discounts or gift cards with purchases.
These promotions can be a great way to interact with fans and create ambassadors for your brand. Or you can turn off regular customers, who will instead share their negative experiences. It all depends on implementation.
Implementation? Unfortunately, this extremely important part of the marketing process often doesn’t come up in the marketing department while great ideas are being kicked around. How will your customers redeem your special offer? Will you make it easy or painful? Implementation can be the difference between your customers returning or moving on to your competitors.
Case Study 1 (Created Friction)
For example, a major retailer offered a $10 gift card if you spent $50 in the store during a 3-day span via its Facebook page. What a fun idea! Engage your customers on social media and encourage them to purchase now. Upon redeeming the offer on Facebook, I received an email to show the cashier in the store. When I checked out, I noticed that the offer didn’t automatically ring up once I eclipsed the amount needed as it has with past promotions. While showing the cashier the offer email (which she was not aware of at all), we noted that no bar code or special code was included.
The cashier had no idea how to ring up the gift card in the system and actually mentioned the email might be spam. Once I assured her that it was a valid offer from the company’s Facebook page, she directed me to the customer service desk. The two ladies there were actually aware of the offer but neither knew how to ring it up either. Finally, they offered to refund me $10 from my purchase, which I appreciated.
Case Study 2 (Created Friction)
Another leading retailer came up with the novel concept of distributing small Holiday-themed pins in its stores. Customers could pick up these pins at checkout or even stop in to pick some up without a purchase. They had fun designs, and some people really enjoy collecting little keepsakes (or giving them to others). Each pin had a code on the back, which you had to enter at a website to see what you had won. Prizes ranged, but many were small gift certificates in the $5 – 10 range. After unveiling what you had won, your prizes (i.e. gift certificates) were emailed to you. There was fine print, of course, including that the certificates could not be combined on one order.
Of course, some people ended up collecting several pins and amassing a number of small gift certificates. When they came to the store to shop, they wanted to use all of their certificates, of course. In order to do that, many people had to pay for most of their items as separate orders. Picture this: a retail establishment already busy with the Holiday shopping crowd further slowed with customers checking out 5, 10 or even 20 times a piece.
While I love the pin idea, did anyone think through implementation? Maybe they did and didn’t think the long lines and slow checkout process would deter customers. But of course there were several impatient (and unhappy) customers around, some who would undoubtedly share their experience with friends, family and social networks. Add to this scenario a mobile code discount that the associates weren’t aware of how to ring up, and I’m sure you can picture the scene.
Case Study 3 (Nice & Easy)
This fall, Starbucks offered a LivingSocial deal to purchase a $10 e-card for only $5. Being an avid espresso fan, I bought. Not only did I receive a deal, I was also introduced to Starbucks’ e-gift cards (yes, I’m a little behind on these things). How convenient to just scan my phone when paying and having the amount automatically updated. After registering the card, I receive rewards on my purchases using it and can easily reload with two clicks (or set up automatic reloading).
This offer was easy to redeem, saves Starbucks money (no physical gift cards to print) and saves me the hassle of remembering where I put the gift card. I’ve now downloaded the Starbucks app and regularly reload my card in order to earn rewards. All from a harmless little LivingSocial deal…
I highlighted these three situations because they are fresh and relevant. The first two companies eventually made good on their offers, so I’m not looking to badmouth either of them (hence no company names). The point is that implementation is a key part of any marketing offer, special promotion or customer engagement strategy and can be the difference in success or failure.
The more friction that you create at customer touch points, the more you encourage them to take their business elsewhere.
What’s your take?
Is a specific experience redeeming a special offer memorable to you (either good or bad)?
Do you take advantage of these types of offers? Why or why not?
Are there any specific types of offers that are more enticing to you?
Finally, what successful promotions have your company run? What are some tips that you’ve learned along the way?
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments, so we can further discuss the role that implementation plays in special offers. Thanks for stopping by!
Image credit: Entrepreneur
Stay warm! (If you live in a warm weather year ’round locale, then bah humbug. Ha!)
2 thoughts on “Special Offers: Are You Engaging Customers or Just Irritating Them?”
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