For Winter Sales, Marketers Get Creative

Friday, December 9, 2011

Holiday shoppers across the nation have begun their yearly purchase-frenzy, but even with events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday driving sales, preliminary studies have shown that consumers plan to spend only as much as they did last year. Facing a predicted flat line in profits rather than the increase retailers prefer, marketers for many well-known companies are taking non-traditional routes to bring in business.

“Retailers are generating new and diverse ways to create urgency for consumers to buy this year, because more people are taking the time to research store sales and promotions before they shop. It’s not unusual for holiday shoppers to do price comparisons online before they even leave the house to ensure that they’re getting the best deal out there,” says Janée Burkhalter, Ph.D., assistant professor of marketing at Saint Joseph’s University.

Tactics include one-day coupons for in-store shopping, similar to those used in email campaigns by companies like Living Social and Groupon, supplying limited quantities of products in stores and forgoing rain checks, offering free delivery within specific time frames and extending return policies. Layaway, an option widely dissolved over recent years, has also been brought back to encourage even frugal consumers to buy big.

“Persuading shoppers that they have to buy now in order to get the best price can counterbalance the comparison-shopping they did beforehand,” says Burkhalter.

In addition to these adult-centered strategies, some companies have taken a more kid- and family-friendly direction, catering to parents through their children. Commercials featuring kids using electronics such as the Nook and Kindle Fire with their parents suggest the products’ usefulness to all family members, while other companies have created integrated marketing communications plans that include rehashed Christmas song lyrics (Krispy Kreme’s “Dozen Days of Doughnuts”), music videos (GapKids “I Want Candy” campaign) and the creation of an animated Christmas special (Macy’s “Yes Virginia,” aired on CBS).

“It’s becoming about brands with well developed, but sustainable, campaigns,” says Burkhalter.

Media Contact

Burkhalter can be reached for comment at, 610-660-2274 or by calling University Communications at 610-660-1355.

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