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Consumer Sales Promotion Techniques

Consumer Sales Promotion Techniques

A platter full of many cups of Mocha Toffee Latte

Free samples of Starbucks Mocha Toffee Latte

Most consumers are familiar with common sales promotion techniques including samples, coupons, point-of-purchase displays, premiums, contents, loyalty programs and rebates.

Do you like free samples? Most people do. A sample is a sales promotion in which a small amount of a product that is for sale is given to consumers to try. Samples encourage trial and an increased awareness of the product. You have probably purchased a product that included a small free sample with it—for example, a small amount of conditioner packaged with your shampoo. Have you ever gone to a store that provided free samples of different food items? The motivation behind giving away samples is to get people to buy a product. Although sampling is an expensive strategy, it is usually very effective for food products. People try the product, the person providing the sample tells consumers about it, and mentions any special pricing or offers for the product.

Often paired with samples are coupons. Coupons provide an immediate price reduction off an item. The amount of the coupon is later reimbursed to the retailer by the manufacturer. The retailer also gets a handling fee for accepting coupons. When the economy is weak, more consumers collect coupons and look for special bargains such as double coupons and buy-one-get-one-free (BOGO) coupons. While many consumers cut coupons from the inserts in Sunday newspapers, other consumers find coupons for products and stores online. Stores may also provide coupons for customers with a loyalty card.

Consumers can download coupons on many mobile phones. Mobile marketing and the Internet give consumers in international markets access to coupons and other promotions. In India, the majority of coupons used are digital, while paper coupons still have the largest share in the United States. More than 80 percent of diapers are purchased with coupons; imagine how much easier and less wasteful digital coupons scanned from a mobile phone are for both organizations and consumers.

Point-of-purchase displays encourage consumers to buy a product immediately. These displays draw attention to a product by giving it special placement and signage. Coupon machines placed in stores are a type of point-of-purchase display. When a consumer sees a special display or can get a coupon instantly, manufacturers hope the easy availability or the discount will convince them to buy, increasing overall sales in the process.

A variety of different sales promotions are conducted online. Common online consumer sales promotions include incentives such as free items, special pricing for product bundles (buying multiple products together), free shipping, coupons, and sweepstakes. For example, many online merchants such as Bluefly and Zappos offer free shipping and free return shipping to encourage consumers to shop online. Some companies have found that response rates for online sales promotions are better than response rates for traditional sales promotions.

Another very popular sales promotion for consumers is a premium. A premium is a product or offer a consumer receives when they buy another product. Premiums may be offered free or for a small shipping and handling charge with proof of purchase (sales receipt or part of package). Remember wanting your favorite cereal because there was a toy in the box? The toy is an example of a premium. Some premiums are designed to motivate consumers to a buy product multiple times. What many people don’t realize is that when they pay the shipping and handling charges, they may also be paying for the premium.

Contests and sweepstakes are also popular consumer sales promotions. Contests are games of skill offered by a company, that offer consumers the chance to win a prize. Cheerios’ Spoonfuls of Stories contest, for example, invited people to submit an original children’s story and the chance to win money and the opportunity to have their story published.  Sweepstakes are games of chance people enter for the opportunity to win money or prizes. Sweepstakes are often structured as some variation on a random drawing.  The companies and organizations that conduct these activities hope consumers will not only enter their games, but also buy more of their products and ideally share their information for future marketing purposes. As the following video shows, marketers have become increasingly sophisticated in the way they approach this “gaming” aspect of sales promotions.

You can read a transcript of the video here.

Loyalty programs are sales promotions designed to get repeat business. Loyalty programs include things such as frequent flier programs, hotel programs, and shopping cards for grocery stores, drugstores, and restaurants. Sometimes point systems are used in conjunction with loyalty programs. After you accumulate so many miles or points, an organization might provide you with a special incentive such as a free flight, free hotel room, or free sandwich. Many loyalty programs, especially hotel and airline programs, have partners to give consumers more ways to accumulate and use miles and points.

Rebates are popular with both consumers and the manufacturers that provide them. When you get a rebate, you are refunded part (or all) of the purchase price of a product after completing a form and sending it to the manufacturer with your proof of purchase. The trick is completing the paperwork on time. Many consumers forget or wait too long to do so and, as a result, don’t get any money back. This is why rebates are also popular with manufacturers. Rebates sound great to consumers until they forget to mail them in.

A Staples coupon for multipurpose paper. It promises a free multipurpose paper ream. You pay $5.99, and Staples will send your rebate with a receipt.

Which Sales Promotions Work Best, and When?

The table, below, summarizes the different types of sales promotions designed for both consumers and businesses. Although different types of sales promotions work best for different organizations, rebates are very profitable for companies because, as you have learned, many consumers forget to send in their rebate forms. In a weak economy, consumers tend to use more coupons, but they also buy more store brands. Coupons available online or at the point of purchase are being used more often by consumers. Trade shows can be very successful, although the companies that participate in them need to follow-up on the leads generated at the shows.

Consumer Sales PromotionsB2B Sales Promotions
CouponsTrade shows and conventions
Sweepstakes or contestsSales contests
PremiumsTrade and advertising allowances
RebatesProduct demonstrations
SamplesTraining
Loyalty programsFree merchandise
Point-of-purchase displaysPush money

Advantages and Disadvantages of Sales Promotions[5]