Types of Sales Promotion Tutorial

In the Sales Promotion tutorial we saw that promotions can be classified into three main areas:

  • Consumer Market-Directed
  • Trade Market-Directed
  • Business-to-Business Market-Directed

In this tutorial we look more deeply into each of these classifications by examining the different types of promotions that fall into each. As we will see much of what is covered is very familiar to even those who are new to marketing as it involves promotional methods consumers are exposed to nearly every day.  For marketers, it is important to understand the value each type of sales promotion holds for helping them meet their promotional objectives.

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Consumer sales promotions encompass a variety of short-term promotional techniques designed to induce customers to respond in some way. The most popular consumer sales promotions are directly associated with product purchasing. These promotions are intended to enhance the value of a product purchase by either reducing the overall cost of the product (i.e., get same product but for less money) or by adding more benefit to the regular purchase price (i.e., get more for the money).

While tying a promotion to an immediate purchase is a major use of consumer sales promotion, it is not the only one. As we noted above, promotion techniques can be used to achieve other objectives such as building brand loyalty or creating product awareness. Consequently, a marketer’s promotional toolbox contains a large variety of consumer promotions.

Next we discuss the following 11 types of consumer sales promotions:

  1. Coupons
  2. Rebates
  3. Promotional Pricing
  4. Trade-In
  5. Loyalty Programs
  6. Sampling and Free Trials
  7. Free Product
  8. Premiums
  9. Contests and Sweepstakes
  10. Demonstrations
  11. Personal Appearances

Rebates, like coupons, offer value to purchasers typically by lowering the customer’s final cost for acquiring the product. While rebates share some similarities with coupons, they differ in several keys aspects. First, rebates are generally handed or offered (e.g., accessible on the Internet) to customers after a purchase is made and cannot be used to obtain immediate savings in the way coupons are used. (So called “instant rebates”, where customers receive price reductions at the time of purchase, have elements of both coupons and rebates, but for our purposes we will classify these as coupons due to the timing of the reward to the customer.)

Second, rebates often request the purchaser to submit personal data in order to obtain the rebate. For instance, customer identification, including name, address and contact information, is generally required to obtain a rebate. Also, the marketer may ask those seeking a rebate to provide additional data such as indicating the reason for making the purchase.

Third, unlike coupons that always offer value when used in a purchase (assuming it is accepted by the retailer), receiving a rebate only guarantees value if the customer takes actions. Marketers know that not all customers will respond to a rebate. Some will misplace or forget to submit the rebate while others may submit after a required deadline. Marketers factor in the non-redemption rate as they attempt to calculate the cost of the rebate promotion.

Finally, rebates tend to be used as a value enhancement in higher priced products compared to coupons. For instance, rebates are a popular promotion for automobiles and computer software where large amounts of money may be returned to the customer.

Most consumers are quite familiar with this form of sales promotion, which offers purchasers price savings or other incentives when the coupon is redeemed at the time of purchase. Coupons are short-term in nature since most (but not all) carry an expiration date after which the value may not be received. Also, coupons require consumer involvement in order for value to be realized. In most cases involvement consists of the consumer making an effort to obtain the coupon (e.g., clip from newspaper) and then presenting it at the time of purchase.

Coupons are used widely by marketers across many retail industries and reach consumers in a number of different delivery formats including:

  • Free-Standing Inserts (FSI) – Here coupon placement occurs loosely (i.e., inserted) within media, such as newspapers and direct mail, and may or may not require the customer to cut away from other material in order to use.
  • Cross-Product – These consist of coupons placed within or on other products. Often a marketer will use this method to promote one product by placing the coupon inside another major selling product. For example, a pharmaceutical company may imprint a coupon for a cough remedy on the box of a pain medication. Also, this delivery approach is used when two marketers have struck a cross promotion arrangement where each agrees to undertake certain marketing activity for the other.
  • Printout – A delivery method that is common in many food stores is to present coupons to a customer at the conclusion of the purchasing process. These coupons, which are often printed on the spot, are intended to be used for a future purchase and not for the current purchase which triggered the printing.
  • Product Display – Some coupons are nearly impossible for customers to miss as they are located in close proximity to the product. In some instances coupons may be contained within a coupon dispenser fastened to the shelf holding the product while in other cases coupons may be attached to a special display (see POP display below) where customers can remove them (e.g., tear off).
  • Internet – Several specialized websites, such as HotCoupons.com, and even some manufacturer’s sites, allow customers to print out coupons. These coupons are often the same ones appearing in other media, such as newspapers or direct mail. In other cases, coupons may be sent via email, though to be effective the customer’s email program must be able to receive HTML email (and not text only) in order to maintain required design elements (e.g., bar code).
  • Electronic – The Internet is also seeing the emergence of new non-printable coupons redeemable through website purchases. These electronic coupons are redeemed when the customer enters a designated coupon code during the purchase process.

One of the most powerful sales promotion techniques is the short-term price reduction or, as known in some areas, "on sale" pricing. Lowering a product’s selling price can have an immediate impact on demand, though marketers must exercise caution since the frequent use of this technique can lead customers to anticipate the reduction and, consequently, withhold purchase until the price reduction occurs again.

As we will see in the tutorial Setting Price: Part 2, promotional pricing is also considered within the framework of the Price marketing mix component. More on of this technique is provided in that discussion.