Published on: October 14, 2015A guest column by Chelsea Ware
Content Guy's Note: You may remember that I met Chelsea Ware at Portland State University's Center for Retail Leadership's annual executive conference. She's a student in the program, and when I found out she also was a blogger, I invited her to write a piece for MNB ... and when she did, we got a terrific reaction to her insights into how her generation thinks and acts ... So I asked her to write another one, and now a third.
I was shopping at Target the other day and while finishing at the register, the machine printed out a list of coupons for me. This is pretty standard, and I glanced at them as I was exiting the store.
To my surprise, they had given me coupons for men’s Rogaine hair regrowth products. For those of you who don't know me, I am a 23 year-old female who has what I think is excellent hair (at least my friends tell me so). I wasn't even buying hair products, I was buying lipstick. I am by no means a balding middle aged man.
While my experience is an extreme example, I feel like this sort of thing happens all the time. Consumers go into a store, make purchases, and receive coupons that are not personalized enough to benefit the shopper or the retailer. The Rogaine coupon certainly made me no more inclined to shop at Target than before, and maybe less so. I probably would have come back to make additional purchases if I had received a coupon that actually spoke to my interests and needs.
According to the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), supermarkets today carry an average of 42,214 items. In 2010 the average was 38,718, and in 2000 it was only 37, 3000. As time passes, our choices only grow. Today, a trip to the supermarket, even if just for staple products, bombards us with more options than we are sometimes capable of sorting through. In fact, it has even been shown that consumers are less likely to make a purchase if there are too many selections available.
So what does this mean for manufacturers, brands, and retailers? It means that no matter how much we have evolved or accomplished as a species, humans are still lazy, and we sometimes need things to be laid out for us in an easy-to-process manner. Better yet, sometimes consumers - especially millennials - need customization as a way to have their hands held through the decision making process.
For example, let’s look at Coke and the soft drink industry. Due to an increased awareness of health, Americans have been buying more bottled water than pop. Even diet soda has had lower sales than water. As a result, the soft drink industry has seen a decline in sales for the past few years.
As a way to revive the brand for millennials and increase sales, Coca-Cola recently unleashed two different campaigns. In 2009, Coca-Cola introduced the Freestyle, a machine that features sleek modeling, allowing users to personally concoct their own beverage mixtures out of more than a hundred different flavors. Additionally, the Coke Freestyle mobile app provides consumers with a way to create and save all their personalized mixtures. They can then hold their phone up to the machine and instantly receive their tailored beverage. A few years later, Coca-Cola released the “Share a Coke” campaign which replaced their brand name on the can with the phrase “Share a Coke With” followed by a person's name.
Both campaigns were successful and greatly aided in making the brand more relevant to younger consumers and therefore boosting sales. The Share a Coke campaign was credited with increasing sales in the U.S. by more than 2%. Seeing your name on the product of such an iconic brand makes it personal, fun, and easy to purchase. People got excited about Share a Coke because it was low effort yet still personalized enough to make them feel unique. According to the Coca-Cola website, the Freestyle was attributed with boosting sales and increasing customer traffic for the restaurants that offer the machines. In fact, some consumers will even gladly eat at a fast food restaurant that is further away if it contains a Coke Freestyle.
In an age where the average consumer has more choices and less time, companies need to think like Coke less like Target.
Millennials, practically born with a computer mouse in their hands and raised in a world defined by internet access, expect both unlimited choice and personalized options. We expect products to be given to us almost instantly.
Instead of gambling with automated coupons that can be irrelevant, a more efficient way for retailers to increase sales is to invest in systems that make it easier for the shopper to find and purchase products that actually interest them. Shoppers need retailers to find a way to guide them to products that are such a match to their lifestyle and interests that they practically have their name on them.
Chelsea Ware is a senior at Portland State University who is pursuing a bachelor's degree in business marketing in addition to a food industry leadership certificate.
- KC's View: