If you hadn’t heard, the online retail behemoth Amazon recently celebrated their 20th birthday (July 15th) with a site-wide, one-day only promotion dubbed “Amazon Prime Day.” It was intended to be the summer sales promotion to rule them all, offering Prime members (including those signing up for a 30 day free trial) a plethora of rock bottom sales, sweepstakes, and giveaways. But once the sales began, many customers were left feeling disappointed. Some reported shopping cart malfunctions. Others felt the deals weren’t as good as they had expected, and that the items that were discounted amounted to “random crap.”
Yet despite myriad complaints, Amazon reported that their sales increased 80% over the course of Prime day. Whether expectations exceeded reality, or Prime Day was a smash success, it’s clear that in the aftermath there is a lot that can be learned about how to promote your business. Let’s take a look at the successes and failures of Amazon’s advertising techniques for this particular event.
Make the Offer Worth Their While
Everybody loves a deal, but a discount alone does not always make a deal. It also has to be something people actually want! Perhaps Amazon forgot to consider this during the Prime Day promotion. While consumers eagerly refreshed their browsers awaiting deals on things like electronics, media, and designer clothing, Amazon was slashing prices on things like floppy chef hats and gluten free candies. Not exactly the doorbusters people had imagined.
Consumers felt misled by Amazon’s eccentric sales items, because the company seemed to have forgotten the golden rule of sales promotions: consumers are smart. You can’t expect them to make a purchase just because you tell them something is a good deal, especially on the internet. During last year’s holiday shopping season, 78% of consumers performed research online to find the best deals on the things they wanted. If the deals that you offer fall flat, you can be sure that shoppers will take their business elsewhere.
Does Your Offer Match the Hype?
Don’t talk the talk if you can’t walk the walk. Offering a good deal to customers but overhyping it can be just as bad as offering a poor deal. Running advertisements or creating hype on social media is a great way to promote sales, but if the deals don’t live up to the hype (I’m looking at you “Up To 75% Off”) your customers will be left feeling disappointed because they were expecting something better.
If you’re running a promotion that really is The Deal Of the Century, you should absolutely be promoting it. But if the sale you’re running is more of the good-not-great variety, it’s best not to start advertising it weeks in advance. While it seems counterintuitive, lowering expectations (and being transparent) about a sale is always the best course of action in small business marketing. Your customers will be left feeling pleasantly surprised, rather than disappointed.
Be Prepared for Success
Not all of Amazon’s Prime Day deals were a bust, but the popular deals had the reverse problem… they seemed to sell out nearly instantly. And to add insult to injury, customers who tried to buy these products began experiencing problems with the site, preventing them from getting in on the deals at all.
If you are going to run a promotion, make sure you’re prepared to deal with the increased demand it will bring. Stock up on inventory for hot sellers (or clearly disclose that there are limited quantities, and be prepared to deal with the disgruntled customers who missed out). Make sure you have enough staff — or bandwidth if you’re online — to accommodate a packed store. Prepare and plan ahead of time so that you have enough resources to handle the before, during, and after of your sale. There’s nothing worse than being underprepared and having to turn away customers holding fistfuls of cash.
Use Marketing to Your Advantage
It’s one thing to overhype your promotion, but if no one knows it’s happening, that’s even worse! It seems obvious, but make sure you’re promoting your sale or campaign so people actually know about it. This is something that Amazon did exceptionally well. Everyone — whether a Prime member or not — seemed to know about the buzz surrounding this special event. They effectively advertised on their own website, via email, and in a variety of other media to ensure it was properly promoted.
For your own promotions, in-store signage may not be enough. Instead, get the word out through direct mail flyers, social media, third party websites, and other forms of media that fit your goals and target audience.
Be Ready For the Good and Bad
On Prime Day, Amazon found that their social media mentions were up 50%. Sounds great, right? How about 42% of those mentions on Facebook and Twitter being complaints directed towards Amazon? Less great.
Sales promotions can get crazy, so be prepared. Even if you run things perfectly, you’re bound to have a disgruntled customer or two. It’s just the nature of the beast if you are a successful and popular business. Whether digital or otherwise, be sure to have your customer service strategy locked down, including having enough resources to engage with satisfied and unsatisfied customers alike. The feeling of being heard, and knowing that their concerns are valid and being worked on, can go a long way in increasing customer loyalty and engagement.
What Goals Are Most Important to You?
When planning a promotion or special offer, it’s easy to get overwhelmed in the details of running a campaign and lose perspective of what you want to accomplish with it.
So what is it that your business wants to achieve? More sales? Increased brand awareness? Is there a new model or product line that you want to draw attention to? Write this goal down and place it somewhere visible in your office. It may sound silly now, but you’ll thank yourself later. A one-time promotion might allow you to bring in some quick sales, but ask yourself, “Will this promotion hurt my overall brand with bad gimmicks or poorly executed service?”
If you want your marketing to be an investment in your future, Amazon Prime Day is the perfect example of how not to conduct your small business marketing. A year from now, consumers won’t remember that Amazon had an increase in sales that day, just that it was a PR disaster. Slow and steady wins the race this time. A quick payoff from a mega-sale just isn’t worth hurting your brand in the long term — the latter is much more valuable.
Plan Your Next Promotion Today!
Take what you’ve learned about running sales and promotions in this article and begin thinking about what sort of promotion would benefit your business.
- Start by identifying a specific, long term marketing goal for your brand or business.
- Brainstorm promotions, sales, and offers that could help you achieve that goal without sacrificing brand image.
- Make sure that you have a strategy and the resources to handle the customer relations side of a big sale or promotion. This includes managing demand and resources leading up to and during the event, and also engaging with customer complaints during and after.
Running a poorly planned, overreaching promotion can damage your brand’s reputation. Promotions that are properly managed, appeal to customers, are well-promoted, and satisfy a long-term brand or business objective can be an extremely powerful marketing tool.