'Save Now' Is the New 'Buy Now" -- And 6 More Recession-Messaging Ideas

Last year, marketers seemed to be slow to change their messaging in response to the yet-to-be-formally-declared recession. During the holidays, retailers responded to slowing sales largely by promoting deep discounts in email after email. However, since the turn of the calendar, I've seen retailers adopting a variety of tactics to coax sales from their recession-wary customers:

1. "Save Now" is the new "Buy Now." In a nice twist, some retailers are dropping the ubiquitous "Buy Now" button and replacing it with a "Save Now" call-to-action. For instance, in a March 20 email, Kmart promoted a $70 savings on a GPS with a "Save Now" button, and JC Whitney also used that CTA in a Jan. 27 email. Another spin on this idea is the CTA to "print in-store coupons," which JCPenney used in a March 20 email, for example. Many consumers are not in a buying mood right now, but many are in a saving mood.



2. "Do It Yourself." You can help consumers maintain the lifestyle they're accustomed to by helping them do the things that they paid professionals to do for them when times were better. For instance, some consumers may no longer have enough money to go to the salon, but there's no reason they still can't have waxing treatments and facial peels -- if they're willing to do it themselves. In a March 4 email, Sephora taps into this thinking beautifully, comparing the cost of professional treatments to the products they sell.

Similarly, with many people unable or unwilling to buy new cars, it's increasingly important to maintain your current car. In a March 6 email, JC Whitney taps into that sentiment with messaging like "Fix It! Keep It! Make It Last Longer!"

3. Home sweet home. With less money for vacations, Americans are spending more time in their homes. Whether they're trying to fix their homes up for an eventual sale, or they just want to enjoy themselves in lieu of going away, consumers are open to solutions from retailers. As you might imagine, Home Depot has been all over this trend. A Jan. 22 email demonstrated this messaging in action. And with the summer months quickly approaching, we're likely to see much more "stay-cation" messaging, like in this June 27 Toys "R" Us email.

4. As good as new. I've seen many more retailers promoting products that have been refurbished or reconditioned. For example, in a March 10 email, TigerDirect directly aligned refurbs with the ailing economy with a newspaper design that announces that "Refurbs Saved the Economy!" In the same vein, Musician's Friend has promoted scratch and dent sales, and Home Depot has promoted tool rentals.

5. "Buy Now, Pay Later." I'm not sure what effect the credit crunch is having on private-label credit card offers, but I'm seeing many retailers -- including Barnes & Noble, Sony and Victoria's Secret -- pushing their credit cards. Other retailers have pushed "no payments for X months" offers.

6. Better targeting with better information. Looking to up the performance of their email lists, a few retailers are looking to collect additional demographic and preference data from subscribers to better target them with offers and content. For example, in a Feb. 8 email, OfficeMax asked for subscribers' zip codes to target them with local store information. And in a March 22 email, Sam's Club asked subscribers to update their preferences.

7. Maintain engagement. For those subscribers who just aren't in the market for your products right now, keep them engaged with content so that you and your products are top-of-mind when things improve. Video content and service pieces are great ways to accomplish this. For instance, in a Feb. 25 email, Kohl's features a video clip from "Entertainment Tonight" about three ways to wear the little white dress. And in a Feb. 23 email, Macy's provides recipe information alongside cookware. You may also get traction with asking for product reviews from subscribers, which engage subscribers while supporting sales later on.

What other messaging strategies have you seen being used by marketers in response to the trying economic times?

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