Promotions – my pet hate!

OK so what promotions will work? I like the value add promotions that are linked to high turnover products as they make both financial and emotive sense to me as a consumer. As an owner of a store they also make sense as I get to make some extra margin at the end of the promotion, knowing that these are high turnover items. Basically I get to buy the Coke in at the promotional cost price just before the promotion ends and then sell it at the normal retail selling price.  Extra margin on a high turnover product! Win win all round.

For example, a promotion linking a pie and a Coke on sale for under R10. Now that sounds like value for money to me as a consumer. A free newspaper with my coffee! That sounds like a really great offer to me. What do you think? Compare that to the buy two Milo drinks for R9.95. How does it sound to you just reading this?

BUT now comes the challenge. How do we tell our customers about these promotions?

I stood in a store recently which had a promotion of a coke and pie for under R10 running at the time.  Now here is the nub.  The customer walks into the store and moves straight to the Coke fridge and takes one off the shelf. He then grabs a packet of crisps which are merchandised directly opposite the Coke fridge section. There is no signage to tell him about the promotion anywhere near the Coke!  So no pie sale!

On his way to the fridge he has passed a so called promotional stand. On it are lots and lots of cans of Coke.  He does not even see this display at all as he knows that Coke can always be found in the fridges.  After all who sells warm Coke?

He walks to the till point and pays for his goods.  The cashier says nothing about the promotion to him and out he walks none the wiser!  That is criminal to me. But my guess is that the cashier has no interest in telling the customer about the promotion. Why? Because I bet you she rang the transaction up as a promotion, she put in the R2.50 difference and got herself (or a colleague) a pie for R2.50.   As easy as that.

Even if she did not personally gain, why should she tell the customer about the promotion? That would mean she will have to do a refund for the chips, call her supervisor to process the refund – and then get called in at month end – for having too many refunds processed on her shifts during the month!

And all because the ticketing, selling the promotion, is just so bad – it is plain awful to say the least. There is a pamphlet at the till counter with an array of items on promotion – and here I get to the fact again that we have so many line items on promotion at any given time – it looks like hard work to try and make sense out of them on the pamphlet! So the customer does not even try to understand how they all work… out he walks.

If you see a customer walk out of a store with one of the promotional items in his hands – and he has not bought into the whole promotion at the store – you don’t deserve to be in business. Harsh words, but that is how I see it.

The oil companies measure their store staff performance using Mystery Shoppers.  A waste of time as far as I am concerned. The cashiers can see them a mile away and do all the right things – like tell them about the promotion, when they get to the till. And then tell nobody else thereafter. As an owner, I want to ensure that my customers get the message.

The measurement for the Mystery Shopper is, “did the cashier tell you about the promotion?”   Answer dead easy – yes or no.  Is this useful information?  Absolutely not!  A waste of time and money in my view.  If I buy still water and a yoghurt – would I be interested in a pie and Coke special?  Go figure…

BUT if I buy a Coke – and the cashier does not tell me,  the customer,  about the special – she should be fired.  Quite simple in my eyes!

So measure what makes sense to the customer. Promote items that add value to the customer.    And be creative ….


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  1. #1 by Troy Maidwell on June 26, 2009 - 2:36 pm

    a perennial issue that companies have been trying to get right for over 10 years. A very small percentage of the cashiers actually do this effectively. If someone does come up with an effective way of getting cashiers to do this, they will become very rich very quickly. Why bother trying (keep doing the same thing – keep getting the same results). I’ve never walked into a supermarket and had a cashier tell me about their promotions – yet the promotions are still effective. It comes down to the pos, display, product selection, and promotional vehicle – that’s what alerts customers and gets them to buy.

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