In the middle of July, Amazon held their 2016 Prime Day sales event, filled with discounts and special deals exclusively for its Prime members. According to CNBC, Amazon’s inaugural Prime Day in 2015 saw the company move more units than it did during its Black Friday promotion the year prior. For the 2016 Prime Day, Amazon reported 60% growth in orders over previous year, proving that they had found a way to increase revenue in a month — July! — that had historically been considered one of the weakest sales periods in retail.
Retailers — both online and off — have figured out that they don’t need to wait until Thanksgiving to induce a buzz-worthy shopping frenzy. Last year online retailer Alibaba held an annual “Singles Day” sale, making a reported $5 billion in the first hour and a half. Macy’s and Best Buy are among those now holding their own major sales events that could best be described as “Black Friday in July.”
There is no reason financial institutions can’t also benefit from this type of retail sales strategy. But what are the details within these marketing campaigns that make them successful? How can retail banks and credit unions draw similar attention to their banking products? Sure, maybe you aren’t offering items as sexy as flat screen TVs, but the principles of marketing are essentially the same.
Here’s a look at five key points you need to consider if you’re going to strike gold with your own large retail sales event.
1. Commit to an Annual Event
Much of the initial success of these events build off knowledge and feelings consumers already have. Most shoppers have come to equate Black Friday with “great deals and big savings,” meaning marketing starts one step ahead because it can build off consumers’ knowledge and expectations. Amazon had pretty solid success in its very first year, but there was no history backing it up. But once it capitalized on the idea of “Black Friday in July,” it was able to carry that momentum forward in a way that excited consumers; people were eager with anticipation, and Amazon was able to compound its success.
Key Insight: Major sales events like Black Friday are successful because consumers know what they involve, so they look forward to them every year. But this kind of “operant conditioning” requires repetition and consistency.
Think about what your institution would like to market, and then think of similarities that can connect that offer to known consumer emotions. “Black Friday” is only one opportunity, but what about other ideas like back-to-school or any other holiday? How can you capitalize on the joy of a summer vacation to help consumers feel that same excitement for your offers?
2. Build Excitement and Anticipation
If no one knows what you’re doing, they can’t get excited about it. Yes, companies like Amazon and Macy’s have the benefit of large PR teams and massive marketing budgets to spur buzz, but the same basic ideas they use can be implemented by just about any institution regardless of budget.
The important thing to remember is to use everything at your disposal to get the word out. The key to creating buzz is making consumers aware of its importance — leveraging all available marketing channels will be required to project the level of magnitude appropriate for a “major sales event.” The more touch-points consumers engage with, the bigger it will feel. This means utilizing branch signage, giant splash screens and banner ads on your website, having employees talk about it with everyone, and sending communications through touchpoints like email, social media and direct mail. If you’re thinking this might sound like the typical major quarterly campaign your institution usually runs, then you need to be thinking bigger.
3. Make It Worth Sharing
Beyond thinking creative or trying to get the next viral video, think simply about your customers. What are they interested in and what would make them share online or by word of mouth? Better yet, put yourself in their place — what would make you share news of a major sales event with your friends, family and peers? Sometimes this comes down to offering a small incentive or contest, or giving an added bonus to your promotion if they share. The point is to make it worth it to share.
Successful sales events engage customers before, during- and after the campaign. Central to this communications strategy is what retailers call “FOMO” — the Fear Of Missing Out. Leveraging this psychological principle throughout your sales event will help you sustain interest and momentum. Don’t be afraid to remind people after the campaign has wrapped that they missed out on something big and important. It will get them to pay more attention next time.
5. Learn Your Lessons
No campaign is without its faults; there’s always something to be learned. In order to truly maximize an ongoing event of this scale, your organization must critique it. How can you improve and refine it next year?
Although Amazon’s first Prime Day was a big success by any measure, they nevertheless faced complaints — some items sold out too quickly, and others no one thought worth buying even when heavily discounted. Amazon listened to customers and changed the way they did things the next year. There were more quantities for popular items like electronics, and they repositioned some of the stranger selections as quirky and fun offerings — completely changing the tone without changing the items.
Key Insight: Amazon’s first sale was successful, but if they did the exact same thing(s) the next year, they would not have seen a 60% year-over-year lift. You have to keep raising the bar and pushing yourself.
Creating a Memorable Campaign
Are you ready to create an exciting campaign for your bank or credit union? Here are a few tips and ideas to keep in mind:
- Build from one of your regular incentives/offers — something you know your CFO will likely approve — but add something extra. You don’t have to blow the budget or have an offer that isn’t feasible just to create something memorable.
- Always be emphasizing the limited-time availability in all your marketing communications.
- Put some thought and time into developing an attention-grabbing title or headline. You will (hopefully) be repeating this sales event annually, so it’s worth investing some extra energy.
- Study the retail industry. These guys have mastered the art of creating retail excitement. Learn from them, and always be looking for fresh new ways to inject the same kind of energy into your campaigns.
Creating this type of retail excitement can pay off big time, and when done right will keep consumers coming back for future offers from your institution.