Waiting For A Miracle On 34th Street ...

Like an airborne disease engulfing all living organisms in its path, the financial meltdown spread rapidly across the globe. At first, it was just a few institutions. And then overnight, it hit everyone. Business owners, retailers, manufacturers and consumers -- nearly every person on this planet has been infected with some form of recession-virus.

The vaccine, it was presumed, would be the stimulus package. An antidote to the American economy's ills, it would cure consumers of their financial nervousness, re-ignite the markets and inject cash where needed. And for marketers, it would bring a huge sigh of relief that ad budgets wouldn't be scrapped after all.

This hasn't happened just yet. But what is happening is that some businesses are waiting for a miracle to happen, while others will try to make them happen. It's true that retailers are trading in one of the most abysmal economic periods and an overall negative mood that's hard to shake. So they need to focus like crazy on their relationship efforts with core customers -- quickly and inexpensively -- utilizing direct, cost-effective marketing channels like online and mobile.



In many ways, retail could come to our rescue. The financial turmoil is very real, but if we can turn the headline tide and retailers can maintain their consumer relationships through effective marketing channels, the retail sector offers a glimmer of hope for an economic revitalization. And we've got to have hope. Here are a couple of ideas, for starters.

Utilize online and other new media and technologies whenever possible, as these generally enjoy a lower incremental cost than their mass-media counterparts.

This economic crisis highlights the effectiveness of marketing initiatives, which is fueling the continuation of the move away from expensive, expansive mass media advertising and marketing. This move is best exemplified by the long term rising trend in online marketing - even though these have been forecasted down in recent days. Campaigns are becoming more targeted, direct and individual, as these are the qualities that yield the highest redemption rates, increased ROI, and overall better relationship with customers. It's what the market demands right now.

Keep building relationships

Instead of trying to identify and reach out to new customers during this tumultuous trading period, many retailers are -- and should be -- focusing on their existing consumer base, particularly with high-touch online communications. These contacts are the most valuable assets a retailer can have, and they must be nurtured and developed with the same enthusiasm as new business development.

Actively seek innovative solutions

While it may seem counterintuitive to explore new strategies and solutions in the teeth of a financial crisis, the slowdown in business activity may actually present an ideal breeding ground for new ideas, the examination of existing solutions and shopping for others. This is a great time to try a new online strategy, or to explore other tactics as many marketing specialists and other solutions providers are willing to work more competitively for your business.

Give customers what they crave: a discount

It's common-sensical: 67% of consumers are more likely to use a coupon during a recession, indicating a significant desire for discounts during hard economic times. On second thoughts, let's make that a significant need. And while it may not be a revolutionary statistic, it does present a receptive audience for businesses that have previously avoided discounting. If there was ever a time to tout value and real savings, it's now.

Try online and mobile couponing

Online coupons are effectively replacing print coupons, as they are almost universally more cost-effective and more responsible in terms of impact. Targeted, opt-in messaging yields both quantitative and relationship-building results from the online channel. Mobile coupons have also been steadily gaining traction for years, but with the recession feeding consumers' appetite for money-saving tools and the explosion of mobile phone use approaching critical mass, mCoupons could be the wave of the future. In fact, 24% of all mobile users have responded to a mobile coupon or other mobile offer in the past year. Try it, see the possibilities.

As they have done countless times before, consumers and retailers will rise to the rescue of our incredibly complex economy. Whether this will happen by the end of 2009 is subject to a lot of speculation, but retailers across the country should be pulling out all stops to connect with consumers at a deeper level and explore innovative and direction marketing options to help boost this nation's recovery.

There is still time for a miracle to take place.

Editor's note: If you'd like to contribute to this newsletter, contact Nina Lentini.

1 comment about "Waiting For A Miracle On 34th Street ...".
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  1. Mickey Lonchar from Quisenberry, March 4, 2009 at 1:15 p.m.

    I think John (comment below) has it half right. For retailers it definitely is in remembering what you were doing when you were attracting customers like flies. However, I don't think of it in terms of where your external messages appear, or even as Eric proposes, adopting short-term tactics in hopes of winning back customers. It is more about creating a "branded experience" for customers that they can't find anywhere else. Getting back in touch with the reasons they became customers in the first place.

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