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Everybody Wins



Colby Graff, GM, Strategy & Communications at Propac, on why 'everybody wins' promotions are fast becoming 'everybody earns'

Everybody Wins

There’s a colourful balloon drop and a shower of festive confetti, along with sirens and camera flashes and Champagne. Somebody won the grand prize!

That scene may be a bit of a throwback, best known from classic commercials and television shows. And though it’s a beloved piece of Americana, and an eye-catching marketing stunt, the time of singling out that one lucky person, even without the party, may have come and gone. 

At least that’s the thinking in retail channels today, where the one-winner sweepstakes is fast becoming a dinosaur. Taking its place is a much more egalitarian, and strategic, marketing approach at the nation’s drug, mass, warehouse, grocery and convenience stores. 

Those retailers are moving from one person winning to everybody winning. And in the latest evolution, “everybody wins” is fast becoming “everybody earns,” with retailers beefing up their loyalty programs, targeted promotions and digital outreach to build deeper, longer-term relationships with consumers. 

There are several reasons for the shift, most of them rooted in competition and technology. According to Forrester, the number of consumers browsing and buying online will hit 270 million by 2020, driven largely by the rising popularity of mobile devices. Online sales in the U.S. are expected to reach $523 billion in the next three years, the research shows. (Business Insider Intelligence in a recent study predicts an even more robust figure: $632 billion spent online by 2020). Amazon and other sites are often the go-to choice for shoppers, especially Millennials. 

But while brick and mortar stores have been losing shoppers to etailers, the news isn’t all bad. Most consumers report that they would rather buy packaged goods, food and grocery items in person, according to a study published on Statista that found 92 percent of shoppers preferred buying food at a retailer, and 77 percent wanted to fetch their consumer packaged goods from a physical store.

The environment remains fiercely competitive, though, and retailers are looking for every possible way to lure shoppers into physical stores and keep them coming back. They’re faced with this tough query: Why would a consumer want to leave home and travel to a store instead of staying put and clicking a button? Price alone won’t do the trick. 

Sweepstakes, once a reliable tactic, are showing their age and their limitations. Consumers know the odds are stacked against them in one-winner contests and there’s little hope of a payoff. That’s where multiple-winner sweeps have stepped in, encouraging more consumers to enter and doling out more prizes. Better foot traffic followed, and in the process, retailers have been able to bulk up their databases of consumer information and insights. 

It’s been a natural progression from there to the idea of “everybody earns,” with the rise in popularity of loyalty programs. Consumers earn rewards in return for visits and purchases, which may be as important in their day-to-day lives as a glittery big-ticket prize they might never win.

Retailers that consistently provide cents-off coupons, exclusive offers or targeted promotions could be helping their bottom lines more than if they gave away a family trip to Disney World. Consumers feel a thrill when they save, akin to playing a game, and it can strengthen their affinity to the retailer and keep it top of mind.

High-profile sweepstakes with coveted prizes — seats at the Super Bowl and VIP treatment at a Beyonce concert, for instance — won’t go away. They’re great PR, they have a wow factor, and they can generate tremendous buzz and attention. Soda and snack behemoths, telcos, financial services and other heavy-spending companies will continue to mount these types of promotions because they’re sexy and exciting.

But for the time being, such programs aren’t likely to come from retailers, where marketers have already scaled back their one-winner contests and tasked their agencies to come up with fresh, groundbreaking ways to grab consumers’ attention. If that’s your mandate, here are a few ways to tackle it:

Partner up. Are there ways to put brands together under the same retail roof that make sense and draw crowds? Being able to answer that question requires a solid understanding of the shopper and what motivates him or her. Do some homework, and then combine the power of brands in an organic way, a sports drink with a streaming music service, for example. Give the consumer an incentive to buy in.

Stand out in the crowd. Safeway needs a different promotion than Kroger, just as Target can’t tout the same offer as Walmart. Retail programs must give shoppers something they can’t find anywhere else. Even if there’s a shared brand at the heart of the promo, each program needs a unique hook that differentiates it from competitor locations.

Mine your data. Use everything at your disposal, whether that’s beacon technology, digital coupons, on-site sampling, targeted advertising or smartphone apps, to entice consumers to make the trek to your location, browse your aisles and fill their baskets. Make the experience seamless for the shopper, and mix in some instant gratification (on-site coupons) with options like online ordering and in-store pickup.

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