Mike Anthony @ engage consultants

Mike Anthony on Shopper Marketing

Training Shoppers – When Promotions become a barrier to purchase (and consumption)

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Everyone talks path to purchase these days. It means different things to different people and that’s fine – to us it is a way of understanding a ‘journey’ from an initial idea, or a real or perceived consumption need, to an ultimate purchase that ‘completes the circle’ and fuels those consumption needs.

Everyone seems to have a path to purchase model and they are really nothing new. Indeed the idea of a path can be traced back as early as 1898 to the fabulously named sales and advertising pioneer, Elias St. Elmo Lewis.

If we consider the path to purchase as a pipe, or a highway, and then look at where are the pinch points – the places where flow is constrained, and to focus investment on those. Investing to widen the pipe elsewhere would be pointless. Imagine a three lane highway which goes down to one lane for a short stretch, causing massive congestion. Adding a fourth lane either upstream or downstream won’t help right? The path to purchase is exactly the same. Widening the pipe at the top will have little effect if there is a barrier/pinch point further along the way.

Today I bought some Centrum – the multivitamin product from Pfizer. It’s a regular consumption product, when I have stocks at home. When I go out of stock, I don’t use it, maybe for several days – that consumption is lost – forever (no, I don’t guzzle six tablets in one go when I finally buy them!).

So what stops me buying? When there isn’t a promotion. Centrum is on deal nearly all of the time, and now I’ve been trained to think that full price is “too much”. I delay my purchase. Most of the time that doesn’t matter – but sometimes, I run out at home. That’s OK for me – I’ll survive without my “A to Zinc” for a few days – but Pfizer have just lost my consumption forever. It might not seem like much, but if I skip six days that month, that’s a 20% reduction in consumption, lost forever.

I'm totally loyal, but I still only buy on deal

In the photo you’ll see two packs – a twin pack and one with two extra free tubes. Those tubes have ten tablets in them – they’re huge! Think of the on cost – distribution, packaging and such – and all to do what? Devalue the brand and potentially delay a purchase and reduce my consumption.

Am I going to consume more? No. Extra free does nothing for me. Is it going to drive penetration? Very unlikely. And as it is only visible on the shelf, then I’m unlikely to notice it unless I’m planning to buy anyway.

Next door is a new pack here in Thailand – a twin pack at a discount. Not a promotion pack, note, but an ongoing line designed to get me to stock up more, and therefore reduce the chances of me running out of stock at home, and Pfizer losing any more consumption. I buy more, spend more, and the chances of going out of stock at home are reduced. I don’t like promos much, but given the two the second pack seems to make much more sense to the Centrum brand.
Does anyone else have any good examples of promotions which create pinch points on the purchase super-highway?

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Written by Mike Anthony

February 29, 2012 at 4:42 pm

One Response

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  1. […] referred to “pinch points” in this blog a couple of weeks ago, and this week experienced them for real. I tried to buy some headphones. […]


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