Just for a minute, imagine that your ad didn’t get out this week.
There’s good news and bad news there, right? Lots less markdown, but what would the sales impact be? 5 or 10%? 30%? More? The great unknown is how many secondary shoppers compare ads before deciding which store to shop. If your customer base is like most stores, about 50% of your total sales each week come from what Neilsen classifies as “tin” or infrequent, value-focused shoppers. The ones who pay special attention to ads.
In this perilous operating environment, there is a real danger that one important conduit to your customers could be in grave danger. Especially if you depend on newspapers to deliver your message. Since 2005, we’ve seen the incredible decline of newspapers accelerate in a way that is frankly stunning. From decades of operating at profit levels approaching 50%, newspapers can now barely lay off people fast enough to avoid bankruptcy. In fact, today’s announcement of the Chapter 11 filing of the Chicago Sun Times adds to what is now a very long list.
There will be survivors. Papers deliver content to readers on behalf of advertisers. The desire for local content isn’t going to go away. Just the delivery mechanism will be dramatically different. Meanwhile, there will be a wrenching transition—scratch that, there IS a wrenching transition and it happening now, exacerbated by the pressures of the economy.
If you rely on newspapers, or one could argue, just about any other print based media, it might be prudent to begin now to begin to control your own destiny. If you have a loyalty card and you use it correctly, you already know that your database is one of your brand’s most valuable assets.
Right now is the time to put a plan in place to get individual e-mail and SMS text addresses from customers. But if you’re like most people you are thinking, “no one wants more spam in their inbox.” Think about this:
- Last week research came out that indicated that, next to e-mails from family and friends, people spend the most time with opt-in e-mails from businesses. That’s you. It added up to an estimated 45 minutes per week! That is a lifetime in the Internet age—especially when there’s no articles to get through before they come to your wonderful marketing message.
- Your best customers, even your second tier customers are truly in a relationship with you. They want to hear from you. They deserve to hear from you. If you wan to keep them in the relationship, that is.
- Aggressive price conscious customers may be the bane of your existence, but your best shot is to give them something beyond the below cost ad specials to look at.
- Take a look at the traffic on your web site by day of the week. You may find that there is a spike that coincides with your ad effective date. Hmmmm….. Might be an opportunity to reach out right there.
Putting together your initiative to build your customer e-mail and SMS data base can be as simple or as complex as you have the bandwidth to make it. It might involve in-store, on-line and direct to consumer components. But one thing is certain: The risks and the rewards are both large. If you misstep and irritate or alienate, you will wind up in the bottom of the digital trashcan. If you do it right, you’ll remain a valuable part of your customer’s lives. They will be much more likely to shop with you more frequently and for a longer time. More on that in a future post.
Start soon. From the way things are going, the day might be around the corner when you wind up with a very large stack of print ads and nowhere to put them.