Discover how the minds of your consumers are working!
Now socially savvy cynics, they’re using social media more and more as a way to engage with brands, and try their luck with competitions and promotions.
Brands are turning up online, but many are still failing to truly harness the power of social media. Simply being where your audience hangs out isn’t enough. Marketers need to better understand what consumers want from them in these crowded environments, learn how to inspire action in a space where attention is the currency, connect their digital experience to the physical, and adapt their strategies accordingly. Those who master it can steal a march on competitors and keep pace with the digital revolution…
Carey Trevill, Managing Director at The Institute of Promotional Marketing (IPM)
The Savvy Cynics report gives us an insight into the development of consumer behaviour that echoes the control we are all looking for in the information we digest, participate in, and pass on. Our personal dashboard has never been more powerful as consumers.
This report demonstrates that brands can no longer make broad assumptions, like Instagram only appeals to a southern UK demographic or that older consumers revert to websites to enter promotions when Twitter is emerging as the preferred option. Understanding the attractors that typically haven’t changed for consumers is also critical; cash, cars, holidays still feature high on the list for many consumers at a time when brands are searching for what works. This report holds the key to some of the burning questions brands are asking today, and can help you avoid the pitfalls of implementing a bad retail sales promotion.
Last year 27% of respondents to our consumer survey said they use Facebook to enter competitions promoted by a brand either ‘very often’ or‘ sometimes ’. It is a platform that keeps growing in popularity - this year the figure has risen to over 37%, a rise of over 10%.
Many brands simply ask consumers to like or comment on a post to be in with a chance of winning a prize. But they could do more to get more bang for their buck when it comes to their promotional marketing. For example, in the US, The Chicago Bears run an ongoing contest asking fans to caption photos of players for a chance to win a Dunkin’ Donuts gift card. The posts encourage fan engagement, connect the social to the football game ‘experience’ and regularly attract between 400 and 1,000 comments.
In 2016, 20% of people told us they found them ‘annoying and intrusive’, but this dropped to 17% in 2017. What 2018 will bring will certainly be interesting thanks to changes to the way Facebook presents advertising to its users.
“Social competitions have become part of the furniture of the social environment,” says Niall O’ Malley, founder of digital consultancy, Wraithfire. “It's a staple of the new marketing mix and consumers are becoming more and more comfortable with the mechanic. However, with this comfortable usage a new challenge has emerged - how can competitions stand out in an increasingly busy landscape?”
It seems women are driving the trend towards entering promotions and competitions on social media. In 2016, the number of men and women who claimed to prefer taking part in brand promotions and competitions using social media such as Twitter and Facebook were almost equal at 9% and 7% respectively. 2017 saw that women have stolen a march, with 13% telling us that social media is their preferred channel, compared to just 8% of men.
When it comes to Facebook specifically, just over 40% of women say they enter competitions promoted by a brand through Facebook – this number has jumped over 10% compared to last year. Instagram has also risen in popularity, with over 15% of women telling us they enter competitions via the channel, 6% more than last year.
Using social for your brand promotions has some real benefits and some pretty big negatives, too; but regardless, it is a popular way of spreading the word about attractive brand competitions and promotions. However, there has been a shift in the platforms preferred by different age groups over the last 12 months.
For example, in 2017, Facebook was the most popular social media network for sharing news of competitions and promotions among 35-44 year olds (31%), but last year it was 25-34 year olds who most commonly flocked to Facebook to share their excitement.
2016 also saw 35-44 year olds favouring Twitter (6%) for telling friends and family about competitions and promotions, while this year Twitter proved to be the most popular platform among 18-24 year olds (12.2%). Instagram was a hit among 25-34 year olds (3%) last year, while this year 35-44 year olds are the group most frequently using the platform to broadcast such opportunities. This upward trend isn’t expected to slow down any time soon.
As Niall O’Malley, founder of digital consultancy, Wraithfire says, “Generally, social media users are getting older, but the big exception to this is Twitter. Recent seismic political events like the US election have played out over Twitter - attracting a swathe of young, vocal users. Twitter is in a state of flux at the moment, so it ’ll be interesting to see if this trend continues.”
No longer are Londoners leading the way by using Instagram to enter competitions (15% said they used it for this purpose last year). This year it is the people of Yorkshire and Humberside who have embraced the platform, with one in five saying they enter competitions via Instagram.
Instagram's own figures this year also show a fairly even split between urban (39%), suburban (28%) and rural (31%) users, suggesting it is no longer just hipsters from Shoreditch who are getting creative…
Over 50% of people told us that receiving money off their next purchase was the most attractive instant win promotion. This number has edged up slightly from 2016, when 47% cited this as their favoured way to be rewarded on the spot. This is no doubt being driven by the discount culture which is now shaping the sales promotions industry.
It is six to seven times more expensive to attract a new customer than it is to retain an existing one (source: ThinkJar). The money off next purchase mechanism taps into this truth, encouraging shoppers to become brand loyal and removing barriers to purchase.
When asked if they ever tell friends and family members about product sales promotions or competitions they’ve entered, only 6% of parents said they did last year, compared to 5% of non-parents.
Yet, it seems parents have become more avid sharers; with 12% telling us that the spread the word to others in 2017, compared to just 6% of non-parents during the same year.
When participating in sales promotions and competitions for specific product categories, fresh food proved most popular among the over 55s last year (26%). 2017 has seen a significant shift, with fresh food promotions crying out to 25-34 year olds (28%).
Food brands are ahead of the curve when it comes to using experiential promotions to boost sales; encouraged by millennials who seemingly have a passion for healthy living, which perhaps explains their growing interest in fresh food. Last year PwC reported that nearly half of 18-34 year olds had changed their eating habits towards a healthier diet - compared to just 23% of people aged over 55.
Chris Baldwin, Director of Consumer Promotions and Loyalty at Sodexo drills further down into this finding. “Brands recognise health as a key driver for younger women in particular. As a result, they often feature zero sugar or low-fat products in their promotions in an effort to target this audience.”
In 2016, those earning £ 50-60k (30%) said they were attracted to sales promotions and competitions within the automotive industry but this year the group most seduced by the chance to win a car - or something car related – proved most appealing to those earning over £ 80k (35%).
Pricey electric cars are particularly hot property. This summer alone, Scottish Power gave away a Nissan Leaf worth over £30k to one lucky winner, while express.co.uk offered readers the chance to win a Renault Zoe Dynamique, which retails at over £27k.
Less than half of men said they were consciously aware of promotional messages and offers on product packaging when we asked them last year (44%). This year they have become more engaged, with over half (51%) of men telling us that they sometimes see promotions on packaging and can’t help but be curious…
When we asked people if they had ever won anything when taking part in a brand's competition, nearly a quarter of respondents gleefully told us of their success last year.
2017 gave even greater cause for celebration, with happy winners nearly doubling from 25% to 43%. A hugely positive factor when we know people are using social media more and more – more winners, means more chances for winners to show off and encourage others to take a chance on taking part.
On-pack sales promotions are a proven method to drive people online; be it to a dedicated website or social page, plus they grab consumer's interest in a retail environment, too. In 2017, 33% of people said they are more likely to buy a particular product if it has an offer or promotion printed on the packaging. This figure has dropped slightly from 37% of respondents who were tempted into making such purchases in 2016, but there are a number of factors involved in this statistic.
“This figure could change significantly depending upon the category and type of shopper,” says Jonathan Jackson, Managing Partner at iPackaging, which advises organisations such as PepsiCo, ABF, Mars and Nestle on intelligent packaging. “Categories that discount 70% and above, like tea, bread and cheese, will likely influence purchase more if they have a promotion on pack.
Furthermore, making sure the promotion is relevant requires understanding who the target the demographic is. For instance, a promotion aimed at demographic that the brand wishes to reach, as opposed to their existing demographic, means the promotion will be less relevant to their current shopper. Therefore hitting 30% may be a good result if they’ve attracted new consumers from their target demographic.
“Our research shows seven distinct promotional segments which means relevance is vital both in terms of the mechanic and the actual incentive. If both are aligned with the target demographic it will make for a much more impactful promotion."
“Lastly, too many promotions do not stand out on pack. Designs are often too sympathetic to the brand and therefore lack the stand out for consumers to even notice the promotion.”
Last year 34% of people told us they would be more likely to buy a product if it was part of a free cinema tickets promotion, but this year the number had dipped to 29%. Yet cinema still has a bright future in brand promotions when it comes to rewarding consumers, with nearly one in five people claiming to have visited the cinema within the last three months.
"There is clearly a disconnect here,” says Paul Parry, Head of Filmology at Sodexo. “There are tonnes of ways to enjoy films these days that are slightly out of the ordinary, and brands need to recognise that consumers are looking for new and different experiences."
For example, look at the consumer trends behind cinema's success; event cinema, alternative content, VIP seats, or even the chance to see the film in a different way – maybe a midnight ‘spookfest' at Halloween, or a Christmas Eve festive marathon? Brands need to be smart about how they maximise the opportunities cinema offers to their audience, product and price point.
In 2017, cinema won the hearts of those earning over £80k (15%). But as Parry says, brands need to look carefully at the product and the price point to ensure it works. “We’ve seen high–value products offering high-value cinema rewards. So, cars with free Annual Cinema Passes that retail at over £200. Here, clearly two free tickets wasn’t going to entice a consumer to part with serious ‘car money’!”
The number of women redeeming a coupon or entering a draw in store has dropped, from 24% in 2016, to 17% in 2017. This trend is expected to continue into 2018 and beyond, so it's important to think outside the traditional retail space and encourage women with their promotional campaigns via digital and social platforms, like Facebook.
“I wonder if shopping habits towards more shops per week across multiple retailers may be the cause?” says Jonathan Jackson, Managing Partner at iPackaging. “This fragmentation means shoppers are probably not thinking about coupons or entering a draw in store as much as they did.”
The proliferation of supermarkets means consumers are certainly spoilt for choice. According to research from retail marketing agency TCC Global in February 2017, shoppers have access to five ‘very easily reachable ’ stores on average, as well as 10 ‘easily reachable ’ shops; it has never been easier to switch between retailers on a whim.
When it comes to brand competitions, 45-54 year olds are most likely to be attracted by a prize or prizes with a high monetary value but low odds of winning. Last year the age group most happy to take a chance on a high return was the 18-24 year olds (19%), but this year it is the older generation (16%) who are drawn by the chance – however slim - to win a hefty sum of money.
The group most interested in having the odds in their favour – despite a prize with low monetary value - is 25-34 year olds (33%), while last year it was 35-44 year olds (25%).
When it comes to major headline competition prizes and promotions, what do millennials really want? A dream holiday or luxury trip proved most appealing to the 25-34 year old millennial segment (17%), supporting the well-documented belief that experiences trump material things for the majority of this generation.
More specifically, when asked what type of travel prize they would prefer, 25-34 year olds remain most attracted by an exotic all expenses paid beach holiday (22%), something which also proved most popular among this age group last year…
This aspiration is supported by the fact that the ‘dream holiday or luxury trip’ was most attractive to those earning £ 25-30k (15%) in 2017 – a bracket likely to include a large chunk of millennials - a departure from 2016 when it held the most allure for those earning £70-80k (21%).
“Millennials' appetite for experiences is inextricably linked to the ubiquity of social media,” says Chris Baldwin, Director of Consumer Promotions and Loyalty at Sodexo.
“This generation want to share everything on social platforms, and experiences such as exotic holidays are very visual, lending themselves perfectly to that. One of our clients is running a pan-European campaign targeted at 18-35 year olds, offering consumers the chance to win experiences if they snap themselves with the brand's product. It is a great example of companies capitalising on this trend for showing off on social.”
Last year, 18-24 year olds told us that email was their preferred way to receive a ‘money off your next purchase’ voucher from a retailer or brand, and this year the same holds true. But there has also been a noticeable - and unexpected – jump in the popularity of on-pack coupons among this age group, rising from 19% to 24% this year. This young audience is nothing if not unpredictable….
While last year the East Midlands were the unluckiest in competitions, with 80% of people confiding that they had never won anything, this year it was Northern Ireland, with 76% of people telling us they had never been lucky. Are brands missing a trick by not bringing some joy to this audience?
In 2017, over 20% of people told us that they enter competitions via Twitter, up from less than 15% last year. Instagram also saw a jump, with over 14% of people saying that they used this platform to enter competitions – a growth of nearly 5%.
Expedia is one company that frequently holds competitions for its Instagram and Twitter followers. For example, its Travel Yourself Interesting campaign identified what it deemed to be the UK ’s ‘most boring ’ tweets and sent these to exotic locations around the world where production teams filmed a more interesting version. Within minutes these short, branded films were tweeted back to the originator to share.
Expedia ’s Twitter followers increased by 40% as a result of the campaign. “Twitter has been trying really hard to evolve its offering over the last couple of years, so it's no surprise that their audience is responding with more engagement, ” says Niall O'Malley, of Wraithfire.
“The extension to 280 characters might make it easier to communicate Terms and Conditions to contestants (at the moment brands host these on their site). More characters means brands can be more explanatory about what is involved to avoid any misunderstanding.”
This last point is very poignant given that more than one in five people shamefully admitted to us that they never read the Terms and Conditions of competitions or promotions…
In 2016, the group most attracted to buying a product with the chance to win a high monetary prize despite low odds of winning, was those earning £ 25k-30k (14%). In 2017, it was the high earners who are most keen to pit their wits against the odds, with those earning £ 60k-70k (29%) coming out top, closely followed by those on salaries of £ 70-80k (25%).
Perhaps those in high salaried jobs achieved their status, in part, by taking risks and challenging odds, hence their success rate when entering brand competitions. Those earning £70-80k continue to win more than anyone else (36% last year and 75% this year), suggesting the rich are getting richer… but you have to be in it to win it.
“It's interesting to see that high earners are proving more successful in promotions and competitions than those in other salary brackets,” says Chris Baldwin, Director of Consumer Promotions and Loyalty at Sodexo. “Perhaps having tasted success within their professional lives they have a greater appetite for the thrill of winning and being rewarded, hence their penchant for promotions.”
Audiences are continually shifting from one social media platform to another so get hold of up to date research to verify who is using what – and how.
Consumers might be increasingly comfortable entering brand promotions and competitions via Facebook, but brand marketing still has to stand out on Facebook and engage people in an increasingly crowded space.
Consumers are naturally using social media to spread the word about their favourite promotions and competitions, so brands need to be all over Facebook and social platforms to enhance their general audience appeal. Make it easy – and attractive - for people to share. Getting your consumers directly involved in you promotions creates real impact, and making it viral can be a key factor in this.
Digital offers almost limitless scope for creativity and sophistication, but don’t neglect age-old mechanisms such as ‘money off your next purchase’. These remain hugely popular and will continue to deliver on specific objectives.
On pack promotions may have lost their edge slightly. Keep the customer front of mind when creating the messaging, tone and imagery to stand out in a crowded space. Think outside the box.
It continues to have a strong and enduring appeal, yet the big screen is perhaps not packing as much punch when it comes to promotions. Be smart about tailoring cinema experiences to your audience and making them
Take an omni-channel view: Increasing numbers of consumers shop online, and many also visit more than one supermarket for their weekly shop. Keep pace by ensuring promotions can be entered online and offline, and don’t rely on shoppers being predictable.
Build an experience which is inspiring, unique, exotic – and visual – tapping into this audience’s love of sharing their ‘wow’ moments on social media.
Different audiences respond to different incentives, with younger people perhaps more attracted to better odds and more mature people happy to take a gamble. Pitch the incentive correctly to incite maximum excitement.
As technology continues to quickly advance, urban digital natives don’t have a monopoly on specific devices or platforms for long; instead, they swiftly enter the mainstream. Be sure to keep on top of changing consumer habits and how your promotions can influence consumer behaviours. Case in point: until her recent death, the oldest person on Twitter was 104 years old…
Yup, it's totally free and you can download it to your device simply by clicking the link below!
Part of Sodexo Employee and Consumer Engagement, our Neon solutions drive consumers to your brand – and keep them coming back. As consumer engagement specialists, we know how to influence behaviour. From building brand awareness to driving consumer loyalty, our unique mix of expertise means we can transform the way people interact with your brand.
At Sodexo, we have over 50 years’ heritage in creating award-winning experiences that make people’s lives better. From growing employee culture and inspiring success in your workplace, to driving consumer engagement with your brand, we transform the way in which employees and consumers behave or perform, meaning they’ll engage more deeply with you.
Don't be shy! We have a team of consumer promotions experts on hand to help you with any query you may have! Feel free to drop us a message via the form below, or if you fancy using the good old fashioned telephone, you can also call our team on 01908 303 490.