’Tis the season of limited-time offers. As holiday shopping escalates, it's hard to escape all of the limited-time offers (LTOs), which fill our inboxes, mobile apps and brick-and-mortar retail spaces.
Consumer product groups have long used LTOs as a way to introduce new consumers to their products and bump sales at key times in the sales calendar. Technology is giving CPGs never-before-imagined ways to communicate and target LTOs to interested shoppers quickly. Even better, technology enables CPGs to track response rates and more carefully measure success.
There's often a lot at stake for a LTO. CPGs that navigate the maze of harmonizing their brand message with digital content, packaging and in-store activation can not only see a short-term increase in sales, but also bring in new loyal customers to their brands. However, if a LTO message is pushed too hard, branding can be compromised, and the promotion intended to bolster a brand can actually backfire, wasting valuable marketing dollars by creating a negative perception.
How can CPGs balance LTO messaging with the necessity to relate it back to the core brand? Let’s explore three best practices that can help LTOs succeed: cross-functional teams, variable data, and agile use of data.
1. Collaborate early across all teams involved.
An effective way to maximize sales from a LTO is to break down the normal barriers between a CPG, its agency and other contributors, such as a packaging design partner, early in the planning process. Once everyone is at the table together, review goals and make sure all teams are aligned to the brand, and also to take advantage of relevant emerging technology to maximize and measure the campaign. Too often, each team works in its own bubble and by the time all the thoughts are brought together, valuable time and budget have been wasted.
Bringing at least one representative from each contributing team for collaboration early in the process helps minimize lost opportunities and expose ideas that might otherwise not ever never have been given life. Cross-functional teams also highlight where redundant budget is being spent, streamlining the planning and deployment process.
2. Leverage variable data printing.
The potential and appeal of variable data printing, which leverages digital printing technology to allow changes in in the printed content from one material to the next, is easy to grasp for any CPG seeking to optimize its campaigns. Many CPGs wish to utilize more variable data when creating print promotional materials and packaging, and yet they struggle to find a solution that applies it without disrupting their budget and supply chains.
Good news: LTOs are a perfect opportunity to test the waters and prove return on investment. That said, don’t let the opportunity to customize messaging detract from the core branding. On the back end of the campaign, variable data also empowers CPGs to collect data about how audiences respond to the messaging in these campaigns.
For example, a LTO could use variable data to test new messaging on a smaller campaign to see if shoppers will follow an on-shelf product call to action to engage on their mobile devices. If the campaign has greater-than-expected sales results, it could prove the concept for a larger campaign for the core brand message.
3. Make agile use of data.
Technology is allowing for more data collection opportunities than ever. The key is having someone on the cross-functional team who can interpret it and have a plan prepared that can be executed quickly depending on where the data leads you.
Once a variable data test has been executed as in the example above, and the data is available to reflect a campaign’s performance, that data must be applied to future efforts. When the integrated LTO team is prepared to take swift action based on what the data reveals, over time campaigns become more effective and lead to greater ROI. The CPGs that benefit the most from the data they collect are the ones that are equipped to take agile action.
Should the LTO be extended? Should its geographical reach be broadened? Should it be shut down more quickly so budget can be re-routed to a new effort? Data holds the answers.
When combined, these three best practices are even more powerful than the sum of their individual parts. Applying these three steps to LTOs, CPGs can breathe new effectiveness into these short campaigns and navigate them in a more holistic and agile way. The result will be a higher ROI and an increase in customer engagement.
Breaking down old perceptions about what a LTO is — and what it's not — can be the first step to unlocking potential revenue and brand loyalty.
Paul Nowak is the senior director of sales strategy and business development at QuadPackaging, a provider of collaborative end-to-end packaging solutions.
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