Drawing in Customers: Then and Now
By Rick Doran
For the past 35 years, the number one question a retailer asks me is, “What’s the latest and hottest idea to drawing in customers to my store?” What they are really asking is, “What will attract potential customers that want to buy the product I offer; can my salespeople close them and increase the average ticket, and will it cost me less than 6% of advertising?” The answer to both questions is the same: Offer the highest impact quotation possible, either by making the perceived offer the best it can possibly be or by having the largest share of voice in the marketplace.
Offers have not changed over the years, but how we reach potential customers has.
When I managed a Sears store in the late 70’s we would send potential customers a postcard inviting them to come to the store to pick up the latest catalog (because it was too expensive to mail a 3” thick catalog). The postcard would offer them $10 off any order placed the day they picked up their catalog. On a Saturday it was not uncommon to have 50-100 people in line at the catalog desk to take advantage of the $10 offer.
In the 90’s the offer would be a $50 – $100 gift card towards their purchase sent in a direct mail. The direct mail would also include a lucky number with a chance to win $10,000 in prizes. The potential customer had to go to the store to see if their lucky number was a winner. For every 10,000 pieces mailed, 500 customers checked their lucky number.
Delivering a share of voice to the marketplace was augmented via social media, but the offer was still a coupon. If a potential customer liked your Facebook page they were entered to win a sofa. They also got a follow-up email with a coupon of $50 – $100 off their purchase. Plus, an invitation to attend a private sales event with an exclusive offer and a chance to win a $1,000 shopping spree. The private event would generate 4 days of above-average daily sales and a daily increase in-store traffic with potential customers printing out their emails or bringing it on their cell phones.
So what has change over the years? Certainly not the offer! But how you reach potential customers with a share of voice sure has. Keeping up with the new tools takes too much time when you have a store to run.