Discount offers and product specials delivered by e-mail routinely besiege in-boxes, yet distributors say they hate them. So why do suppliers do it?
To clip or not to clip is no longer a question.
Coupon clipping or, more often these days, downloading has returned as a standard part of life for many consumers. In 2009, coupon redemption grew 29 percent over the same period in 2008, according to coupon management firm Inmar, Inc. At the same time, coupon distribution by marketers grew by 10 percent.
The growth came after almost 10 years of steady decline in coupon marketing, and many point to the recession as the cause. Yet evidence shows consumers won’t stop using coupons even when the economy improves.
Seventy-five percent of consumers surveyed in a Valpak study said they will continue to search for coupons and discounts after the recession, including researching, comparing prices and actively searching for savings opportunities.
Special offers via e-blasts raise the ire of many distributors in the promotional products industry, but has the economic climate softened attitudes toward what some consider a daily assault on their e-mail in-boxes?
It would stand to reason that if distributors are using coupons more in their personal lives that it would spill over into their work, says Michelle Stiles, vice president of operations at Plymouth, Massachusetts-based supplier Americanna Corp (UPIC: AMER0022).
“Everybody’s looking for a bargain these days, myself included,” says Stiles. “I don’t pay full price for anything.”
Americanna Line puts together a book of specials every year and mails it to distributors with its product catalog. Specials in the book, titled Bonus Q-Pons and filled with off-beat humor, are redeemable all year.
“We have found that you need to offer a special. I don’t like to get bogged down with coupons,” says Stiles. “I don’t like to get it done by a certain date. We try to make it easy on our distributors.”
PPB couldn’t find any distributors who admitted looking forward to receiving special offers and coupons via e-blasts from suppliers, but they did confess to using them—sometimes. Yet the majority still express disdain for the amount of “clutter” they receive in their e-mail in-boxes.
Despite how much distributors complain about being inundated with product announcements, they must be taking advantage of these offers on a regular basis because suppliers say they work.
For one supplier, the phones start ringing as soon as their weekly e-blasts hit distributors’ in-boxes.
“We get a lot of action immediately for samples,” says Richard Meth, vice president of sales for Edison, New Jersey-based supplier Rainkist (UPIC: RAINKIST). “Distributors and their customers love a deal.”
Meth says he sends more e-blasts now than a year ago because it’s been so successful. The biggest benefit, he says, is that they create more sales and turn inventory more quickly.
The immediate responses Meth experiences may explain the volume of promotional e-mails distributors receive.
“I have multiple e-mail addresses and seem to be on virtually every e-blast list in the industry,” says Michael Barnett, president for Baton Rouge, Louisiana-based distributor Barnett Co. Inc. (UPIC: BARNETT). “I must get 200 to 400 or more of these e-mails every day—some are duplicated four times!”
For Francesco Indrio, CEO of Oakland, California-based supplier Alpi International, Ltd. (UPIC: ALPI0002), it’s all about timing.
“In this industry, the most effective is when you find somebody at the exact moment when they need that item,” Indrio says. “Otherwise, it is a waiting game.”
But suppliers aren’t kept waiting long. Mark Hollar, special productions manager of Shippensburg, Pennsylvania-based supplier Beistle (UPIC: BEISTLE), which specializes in party goods, says distributors frequently reply to the bi-weekly product announcements the company e-mails out.
“We definitely see a lot more follow-up phone calls from the people who receive them and electronic responses back asking for further information,” Hollar says. “At tradeshows, people will come holding a flier or something they’ve printed off from an e-blast. It’s definitely working; it’s been a positive result for us.”
Hollar says that in the last nine to 10 months the company has practically doubled the amount of product announcements it sends. “We’ve really increased the amount of attention we give to it,” he says.
And it seems the more discounts and deals there are, the more there are going to be. Hollar says Beistle’s idea to increase its e-blast production came from all the promotional e-mails it was receiving from vendors. “We thought if so many people were doing it, we might find it useful too.”