Consumers have become hesitant and uncertain about the economy. Inflation hit a 40-year high in July 2022, driving up the costs of everything from restaurant meals to electronics. And the vicious cycle of labor shortages and supply chain issues has created product and service delivery issues for almost every industry.
You know the headlines and you probably know the market realities they have created.
What you may still be struggling with is what shape and form your marketing should take in these turbulent times.
What to avoid
It’s tempting to keep your head down until it all explodes. After all, why promote what may or may not be available for sale? Plus, a reduction in marketing spend can help your bottom line, right? Of course, you’ll also need to raise prices to cover increased delivery costs – gas, supplies, and labor.
The problem is, this combination of silence and raising your prices could potentially leave you out of sight, out of mind, and completely out of the purchasing decision.
You can reduce costs in the short term, but perhaps at the expense of long-term loyalty, and perhaps even erode brand awareness. This strategy could make your product optional to the point of forgetfulness, depending on how long these conditions last.
Finally, the pass-through of price increases carries the potential risk of losing consumers forever. As they become less and less willing to tolerate higher prices, demand could weaken and buying habits could change, perhaps in the long term. In the best-case scenario, consumers may increase their bargain-seeking behaviors, intensifying the quest for market share. In the worst case, consumers may adopt new behaviors that completely leave your category or brand in the cold.
Instead of staying silent and risking being irrelevant, here are three tailored marketing strategies to consider in times of inflation:
Focus on staying ahead
We believe brands that invest in marketing and innovation in tough economic times stand to gain when consumer buying habits inevitably change. In this environment, short-term losses are likely. But the question is, will these losses continue after inflation stabilizes and supply chains normalize, or will you view these losses as a potential investment in brand awareness and customer loyalty?
Meet the need to save
More and more consumers will engage in value-seeking behaviors and value brands that offer simple savings. If you offer an offer, you can not only fill a real need, but you will also contribute to play from the heart.
Using coupons and other incentives may be just what is needed to attract buyers who are ready to redeem or even skip the purchase altogether. And in the process of securing the sale, you can improve satisfaction and get on their list for the next purchase.
Due to labor issues and supply chain disruptions, business owners may have no products to sell even if consumers are in the mood to buy. Restaurants and retailers are having abbreviated hours, grocery stores are struggling with recurring out-of-stock items, and some products, like cars and electronics, are taking longer for delivery. It is therefore particularly important to adapt your marketing to the available inventory and to maximize sales opportunities in this environment. For that to happen, you have to work smarter rather than harder.
Connecting the brand to consumer needs
As difficult as it may be to advertise effectively with these economic headwinds, times are especially tough for consumers. And the more empathetic you are, the more impact you will have on consumers.
While the exact tactics may vary, we know one thing: shutting up is the last thing to do.
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John Ruedi is a regional marketer at Savant Wealth Management in Bloomington.