Convenience to play big role in '09

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I predict 2009 will not be the year of impulse buying.

Amid growing joblessness and falling stocks, frugality is “the new black” this year. Faced with the reality that clever copywriting may not always convert a sale and deep discounts may be unrealistic or appear unimpressive aligned with competitive offers, direct marketing may return to another important element in its roots: convenience.

At their most basic, direct channels such as catalogs, DRTV and e-commerce sites are about getting product and services shipped directly to your door. It came as no surprise to me that one of the most sophisticated online retailers — Amazon.com — claimed that a record number of products went out of its doors during the 2008 holiday season. The company declined to tell the press whether the increased order numbers also resulted in an increase in sales — due to overall falling retail revenues, that would have been a weighty holiday miracle — but Amazon's popularity certainly proved that its model of 24-hour price and item comparison and free shipping resonates with today's buyers' need for personal convenience.

While much of the in-recession talk has centered on the affordable cost of direct channels for the marketer, what's been slightly overlooked in the media is that direct marketing channels are affordable and convenient for the consumer as well. This year, many

Americans may be faced with taking on more hours at work, working a second job, supporting out-of work or retired family members or cutting back on personal travel and shopping trips. That means coupons, free-shipping options, continuity programs and loyalty rewards have the potential to play a huge role in the average person's budget, which can free up precious time and resources and hopefully pave the way to our country's financial recovery.

In this issue, we take a hard look at saving money and time through customer retention strategies from Sears (page 7) and the success of online and mobile couponing (page 4).

Yet the level of convenience direct marketing is expected to provide continues to rise. Information, support and purchasing options are expected round the clock via multiple channels. Instant and relevant comparisons ought to be made available and transparent.

And each and every customer is greeted with preferences, purchase history and new offers tailored to their needs.

Amid the noise and the multitasking, consider what your customers may really need (and/or secretly want). I suspect it's free time. Just as each media type in your campaigns are being asked to accomplish more in this downturn, buyers' paychecks and workdays are feeling a similar squeeze. Resolve to use your customer data, not only to learn how to get a customer to buy a product, but also how to bring convince and simplicity into a purchasing decision.

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