A few years ago we discovered a surprising marketing opportunity. Our aviation sightseeing business had a sales spike after Christmas that we didn't understand. With some digging we discovered people were buying flights for themselves, a gift they’d wanted but didn't receive.
A National Retail Federation survey corroborates our discovery, revealing that people plan to spend almost $140 on themselves this holiday, the highest in the survey’s 10-year history.
Here are some ideas that will help you tap the self-gifting market without ruining the spirit of giving.
BOGO With a TwistA good ol’ buy-one-get-one-free promotion with a self-gift twist may attract customers you might otherwise have missed.
Discount the second purchase. Holiday shoppers are driven by sales and discounts, but in the season of giving, most feel a certain sense of guilt when buying for themselves. You can help them justify the self-indulgence by offering a discount on the second purchase (“If I like it, so will my friend”). By buying something for themselves, they’ve made it possible for someone else to have something too, at a discount.
Quantity discounts turned inside out. A slightly different version of the buy-one-get-one-free promotion, the idea here is that if your customers buy something for themselves, they can "earn" a discount by buying the same thing for several other people. The more they buy, the bigger the discount on their self-gifted item. It’s quantity discounting turned inside out.
Give your discount to charity. A final variation on the quantity discount theme promotes the idea that if they buy something for themselves, at a discount of course, you’ll make a donation to charity. You might even base the promotion on the idea that they can have the discount or contribute the amount to charity instead. It’s the perfect solution for guilt-ridden self-shoppers.
Use Scarcity to Your Advantage
Sales and discounts drive holiday buying at twice the level of the next highest factor (selection, followed by quality). But scarcity is a powerful motivator. People want what they can’t have, or what they may not be able to have soon. A “shop early, limited stock holiday sale” can tickle both needs.
Holiday specials just for you. Many people wait for the holidays to buy big ticket items such as computers and tablets, or appliances. Take advantage of the opportunity by offering “holiday specials just for you.”
Share a gift with someone. Another way to take advantage of people’s desire to gift something to themselves is to encourage the proclivity by suggesting they share the gift. The big flat-panel TV isn’t for you; it’s for the whole family. A trip package for two allows the giver the opportunity to enjoy the experience, but justify it as something for someone else.
Promotion is Key
Don’t forget, a good marketing idea is only as good as the customers it attracts. No matter how well planned, your last-minute self-gifting promotion is useless if people don’t know about it.
Some easy to arrange last-minute ideas that can generate local press and TV coverage might include carolers or sing-a-longs, a barbershop quartet singing holiday favorites, or free holiday family pictures (delivered online along with some ad copy) taken by a local shutterbug club.
As a reminder, don’t forget to include self-gifting promotions on your website, and in your Twitter, Facebook, Yelp and other social networking campaigns. So far this year, online sales are up over 25 percent over last year, and people are making purchase decisions very differently than they did just a few years ago.
Get more great sales and marketing tips and advice you can use this holiday season.
Tom Harnish is a serial entrepreneur. Always on the bleeding edge of technology, he learned what works (and what doesn't) leading projects, products and companies to success (mostly). He can't play a lot of musical instruments.
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