Experiential marketers need to embrace a sales orientation

One lunch hour in Mombasa, my son and I walked into a supermarket and our nostrils were accosted by an aroma. We followed it to find two cheerful ladies grilling and selling the brand of sausages, there aprons displayed, at a hundred bob a piece. We had ours grilled as we paid and two hundred shillings later, we were munching away at a freshly grilled hotdog and primed to the brand name. Five months later at a supermarket in Nairobi, same scenario, only, no selling-merely sampling. The girl grilling is eager to get everyone to try a piece, and shoppers flock to do so. Upon sampling, she uses pester power (getting kids to pester their parents) plus a free packet of bread rolls (to make the sausage sandwich with, I suppose) to get “samplers”to buy. In the half hour period I’m there, 18 people sample and one shopper buys and is awarded with a packet of bread rolls. In Mombasa, over the same period of time, the two ladies make 10 cash sales. In both instances, experiential marketing is at play-the only difference is that the Mombasa experience has managed to seamlessly incorporate a selling experience

People derive much greater satisfaction from purchasing experiences than they do from purchasing goods. As a result, framing a sale in experiential (as opposed to material) terms is more likely to lead to satisfied customers and repeat business. That explains why experiential marketing is all the rage-from caravan on the road to sampling in the supermarkets and all in between. I do not doubt that at its introductory stage, experiential marketing was a hit. Now that it’s common (especially sampling), it needs to evolve into selling. Why?

Time was, when buying freshly baked bread from the supermarket was novel; today, what’s trending is buying any manner of food from the same outlets. Supermarkets caught onto the fact that shoppers are already in “buy mode”when in the supermarket and, possibly informed by the success of freshly baked bread, evolved there offering into cakes, juice, milk and entire meals. However, many FMCGs (fast-moving-consumer-goods companies) still haven’t. They still prefer merely sampling.

Also, I find the merchandisers (the ladies getting you to try the sausage or cornflakes) incline heavily on hope, that is, the experience, pester power and giveaway to induce the purchase. And as has been said before, hope is not a strategy. Marketers will argue that the samples and giveaways are a marketing expense already catered for and to be recouped through sales with the passage of time, now that brand awareness has been created. On the other hand, business will be interested in seeing a faster return on investment during such experiential marketing sessions; and if the Mombasa experience is anything to go by, it is possible.

The whole set up (process) however, must have a sales orientation, not a marketing one. Starting from the timing and purpose of being there (to sell sausage sandwiches for instance) to the training of the merchandiser. Keeping in mind that the shopper is already in “buy mode” and is not new to experiential marketing, I envisage cash sale shaving booths for men-not just a sniff of how the after shave lotion smells; cash sales of bowls of cereals for the child as the parent shops and cups of hot tea while we shop especially this cold season we’re just coming out off. Farfetched? What do you think?

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