Using smart consumer-led promotions to drive brand loyalty in a post-pandemic world
By Jaco Saunders, Commercial Director at MACmobile
When lockdown hit, many brands were faced with the complete inability to do promotions. Promoter-led events, such as in-store sampling or interactions at pubs and restaurants, were suddenly off the cards. With the world still in a state of turmoil and uncertainty, there are certain changes and restrictions that may be in place for the foreseeable future. Brands cannot rely on their traditional methods to drive increased sales and, as such, need to start shifting focus towards smarter strategies that actively drive brand loyalty. Consumer-led promotions that do not require interpersonal contact, or the middleman of a promoter, are the key to helping brands survive and thrive in a post-pandemic world.
Changing times call for changing mindsets
Promotions are typically one of the key pillars in any marketing mix, and the lack of ability to use this mechanism has been problematic for many brands. Customers do not want to interact with promoters and promoter devices; sampling is not possible due to sanitation concerns; and, ultimately, the entire traditional promotion model is no longer viable. Personal engagement is what drove promotions to gain consumer attention, and with this off the table, brands need a shift in mindset and a change in approach.
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need to adopt a more consumer-focused promotions strategy. When promoter-led engagement is not possible, we need consumers to engage directly with brands. This may involve different tactics, such as unique codes inside products that require a purchase to be redeemed, the ability to earn loyalty points and rewards for engaging with brands, and so on. It is also important to drive awareness of these promotions through engaging packaging and in-store materials, as well as advertising on relevant platforms that do not involve direct contact.
Putting the consumer at the heart of promotions
Furthermore, the pandemic has also forced brands not only to transform their route to market, but also their route to customer. Focusing on the consumer and moving towards creating amazing customer experiences changes promotions from just another “P” in the marketing mix, into a tool to drive customer loyalty. Direct strategies can be incredibly effective if customers are made aware of the engagement possibilities.
A good example is the cap underliner on a bottle. Using their mobile device to send through the code gives brands a direct line to the consumer so that a relationship can begin to be formed. This can then be used to drive loyalty. For example, for every fifth code the consumer registers, they could be rewarded with product discounts. Not only does this help to drive repeat purchases, it also drives loyalty and spend back to the brand. These rewards can all be digital in nature, which simplifies the process and also minimises direct contact. If done right, this type of promotion means consumers will actively seek out the promotional packaging, and brands can build loyal customer communities.
Promote smarter, not harder
One of the biggest challenges brands have always faced around promotions is the ability to track and report on their return on investment (ROI). Promotions are typically expensive exercises, as they have involved an approach of ‘throw mud at a wall and see what sticks’. Today, this is no longer viable. Budgets are tight and marketing needs to justify every cent spent.
Brands also need to know how many customers they have actually reached and engaged with, allowing them to reduce spend through a more targeted, smarter approach. At the heart of this lies data and analytics.
The right tools for the job
Tools can deliver the ability to not only facilitate digital engagements and promotions, but also deliver cross-channel analysis from building the database through to tracking promotions, issuing rewards and reporting on engagements. This also must be auditable so that ROI can be effectively calculated. If ROI and engagements cannot be tracked, driving loyalty becomes impossible. With the right data and analytics in place, brands are empowered to quantify spend, link a value down to a granular, per customer level and enable brands to drive the loyalty that is so essential.
In a post-pandemic world, brands need to bring the customer to the forefront and take a smarter and more targeted approach to promotional spend. The goal should be to foster long-term loyalty that can be tracked and measured, so that ROI can be quantified.