Did someone say inflation? By now you’re probably sick of hearing people talk about it, but there’s no doubt that inflation these days is affecting everyone: you, your business, your suppliers, and your shoppers. According to the May 2022 Consumer Price Index from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, prices have increased 8.6%, the largest 12-month rise in 40 years. (Hey we love your music, 1980s, but you can take your inflation back.) 

Like any other trend, this recent inflation isn’t impacting everyone equally. For example, according to Jungle Scout’s Q2 Consumer Trends report1, 44% of consumers said their personal spending has stayed about the same, whereas 32% said they’ve decreased spending, and 24% said personal spending has increased. In fact, consumers spent $78.8 billion online in May of 2022, over $1B more than in April2. So clearly there’s some pent-up pandemic demand, and not everyone is tightening their belts.

But when costs go up, it’s natural to see an impact on purchasing behavior. How can you compensate if your business is seeing a dip in sales? We’ve got some ideas for you to try out.

1) Focus on value.

When buyers who weren’t previously sensitive to price start hesitating about making a purchase, it can be helpful to remind them how much value they’re getting for their dollar. Emphasize things like product quality (do your shirts withstand lots of abuse in the washing machine, or are they made from the finest cotton?) and sustainability. Shopify3 found that consumers are 4X more likely to purchase from a company with strong brand values, and 77 percent care about a product’s environmental impact.

Says Andrew Codispoti, CEO of apparel company (and Emotive customer) Goodlife, “As [you] become more discerning, you’re going to care about the quality and the durability of the product in your closet, you’re going to care about functionality.” Goodlife’s own marketing campaigns emphasize durability, and the company recently introduced a lifetime guarantee.

2) Be transparent about price increases.

Being open and honest is an integral part of building trust with your customers. If you do need to raise prices, clearly communicate what led to the increase (for example, rising product costs, supplier increases, or competitive pay for staff.) Your transparency will help build credit and sympathy with customers who otherwise might feel taken advantage of, and who are feeling pinched themselves.

3) Test and learn.

Now is a great time to get to know your shoppers and customers better. Test your product descriptions, your prices, and your UX placement. Test your ad copy and images. A/B test your SMS messages (easy with Emotive) and optimize based on your data. Says Goodlife’s Codispoti, “Like anything in marketing, it becomes iterative … we’re going to continually test new copy and see what works.” 

EMOTIVE USERS: drop into our weekly strategy sessions to work with our team of expert copywriters, designers, and strategists: we can help you optimize your campaigns and set up A/B tests that yield valuable insights.

4) Set “feel-good” prices.

Prices may feel like a rational reflection of costs, competition, and value, but there’s deep psychology behind how we feel about them. Merchants should keep that psychology in mind when setting and adjusting prices. Research from JungleScout4 finds that 85% of consumers feel satisfaction when saving money (note the “feel” there.) What’s more, two-thirds of shoppers will deliberately spend enough to qualify for free shipping, and 50% say they feel “compelled” to make a purchase when they receive a deal.

If you haven’t tried selling strategies like bundles, “buy more, save more,” or BOGO, now is definitely the time. Hit our template library for ideas, and for more tips around all the feels when it comes to prices and how we perceive them, check out some of these pricing strategies.

5) Promote your affordable products.

You don’t want to pass higher prices along to shoppers unless absolutely necessary, since they can (and often will) seek lower prices at competing stores. But deeply discounting everything isn’t the right step either, because it discourages consumers from paying full price later. 

The middle ground is to make your less-expensive options more visible to price-sensitive consumers, focus on value (see above) for everyone, and promote time-sensitive or exclusive deals. Dan Wallace-Brewster, senior vice-president of marketing at Scalefast5, recommends that DTC brands try these tactics: 

  • Hold a pre-sale and invite your most consistent customers, and those who have paid full price in the past. A pre-sale can build loyalty by making customers feel like they’re getting exclusive early access to your products. You can market it as a chance for them to access their first pick of sizes and colors. “The response to a pre-sale also gives the brand or merchant valuable information on how to deliver for the rest of the market because your best customers have told you what will perform well within that product line.”

  • Offer a friends and family discount. This is a great approach especially if you have a surplus of inventory. It puts more of your products into the hands of your best evangelizers and influencers and gives them exclusive discounts on your products that will make them feel valued.

6) Double-down on personalization.

It may sound cliché to say that inside every challenge lies an opportunity, but consumers struggling with budgets and expenses may just want to feel “seen.” You can use your knowledge and data about your customers and your relationships with them to show them you appreciate them and understand their needs and preferences. Consulting firm Accenture6 found that 91% of consumers say they’re more likely to do business with brands that remember and recognize them, and provide them with relevant offers and recommendations.

For example, Emotive makes it easy to pre-populate text messages with specific fields relevant to your individual subscribers, set up segments based on specific target audiences, and do Experience quizzes that yield more information about what your customers are interested in. EMOTIVE USERS: log into the app to get started with segments and Experiences, or hit our template library for ideas you haven't yet tried.

7) Use SMS to build relationships with your customers.

Not every communication with customers has to be a promotion. When you build long-term relationships between your customers and your brand, that loyalty pays off. It may not happen right away, but when customers are ready to buy, you want them to think of you. Research from Motista7 finds that customers who have an emotional relationship with a brand have a 306% higher CLV (customer lifetime value) and will recommend that brand at a rate of 71% (compared to the average rate of 45%.)

SMS is an ideal format for a “just saying hi” campaign, behind-the-curtain stories that reflect your brand values, educational broadcasts about your products, or links to your newsletter or blog. This is also a GREAT time to focus on improving your abandoned cart conversion rate and to nurture post-purchase relationships with customers. EMOTIVE USERS: check out our Experience and Broadcast templates for easy set-up in the app, and visit our template library for even more ideas. 

8) Don’t stop advertising.

Ever heard that driver advice about accelerating into curves? When it comes to your business, now is not the time to take your foot off the gas. According to JungleScout’s research, 57%  of consumers right now are shopping online weekly or more. You don’t want to miss out on attracting these shoppers to your store because your competitors are still advertising and you’re not.

There’s also tons of research9 showing that advertisers who maintain or even grow their advertising during a weak economy can grow their market share and sales. Here are three reasons why. 

  • Brand strength. When others cut back on their market presence, your brand stands out. Maintaining a strong brand in a down economy also projects stability and confidence to shoppers.

  • Ad costs. When there’s less demand for advertising, costs typically drop. That means you can get more for your advertising dollar and perhaps even get traction on some of those previously hard-to-reach keywords or audiences. 

  • Brand awareness. If you take a step back from advertising, will your shoppers miss you? Maybe, or ... maybe not. Evidence shows that consumers have an “out-of-sight-out-of-mind” approach to brands. Stepping up your brand awareness now, when others go quiet, could prevent you from losing customers and yield bigger sales down the road.

9) Diversify.

Now is a great time to diversify your marketing and advertising mix. SMS with Emotive continues to offer at least 5X ROI, meaning that for every $1 our users spend they’re seeing at least $5 back in sales. And many of our brands that saw a dip in their ROAS since iOS privacy changes are focusing right now on building their subscriber lists with Conversational Ads

If you’re feeling strapped for time or expertise in putting together revenue-generating campaigns, this is where we shine: our Customer Success team is an extension of your own marketing team, with expert advice on copy, design, and strategy. EMOTIVE USERS: check your email and the app for weekly strategy sessions or reach out to chat with us.

And finally ...

Be patient. This too shall pass. Economic downtimes have happened before, and they’ll happen again. In a boom-and-bust world, most booms are never as good — and most busts are never as bad — as the news makes them out to be. The brands that live through rough times are the ones that are resilient, optimistic, and open to self-improvement. These companies often emerge stronger and more efficient operators than ever before. 

Keep an ear to the ground, pay attention to what your customers are expressing and what you’re hearing from your support team, focus on delivering value to shoppers, and don’t hesitate to get in touch: we’re here to help! 

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CITATIONS:

  1. JungleScout Consumer Trends Report, Q2 2022

  2. Adobe Commerce Study

  3. Shopify Future of Commerce Report

  4. JungleScout Consumer Trends Report, Q2 2022

  5. Retail Dive, "How DTC Brands Can Optimize Growth Through Inflation"

  6. Accenture Pulse Survey

  7. Motista, "Leveraging the Value of Emotional Connection for Retailers"

  8. JungleScout Consumer Trends Report, Q2 2022

  9. Forbes, "When a Rececession Comes, Don't Stop Advertising"