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09/14/2022

Make promotions more impactful during illness uncertainty

Brad Pope, head of customer success at Kinsa, explains how retailers can realize the total potential of promotions.

For illness-related brands, retailers and retail pharmacies, price promotions are a key driver of product sales, trial and revenue growth. But to realize the total potential of promotions, retailers must plan them at the optimal time of the season, for the appropriate length of time and with the right pricing.

With economists projecting inflation to continue into at least the short-term future and an expectation that inflation in the United States will be estimated to hit between 4% and 5% by the end of 2022, it’s even more important that retailers are able to deliver on value through effective promotions in the coming months.

There are two main drivers that could make promotions more effective:

1. Start advertising your promotion in advance of community transmission
Illness reporting for public health systems is a statistic that typically lags two weeks. This season will be especially challenging with the co-circulation of COVID-19 in addition to traditional illnesses. In the case of COVID-19, those data sets are based on lab-based PCR tests, and, with the rise in popularity of at-home tests, the case data is increasingly murky. This means retailers have less time, and less accurate data, to maximize the impact of promotions.

It is critical to reach consumers with awareness and purchase-intent prior to illness spreading to multiple family members, especially in multigenerational households.

Retailers who wait for cold, flu or other illnesses to reach peak levels in an area to begin promotions are too late to get in front of consumers. Illness may be declining in one DMA just as it is beginning to peak in others. At Kinsa Insights, our brands and retailers have learned promotions and other advertising efforts should be timed to hit in advance of the first wave to reach consumers, just as illness is first brought into their household. They can also be more efficient by targeting the right subset of stores based on predictive analytics in our current environment where illness can vary county by county.

[Read more: One answer to drug stores’ supply chain problems: high-quality data]

It is critical to reach consumers with awareness and purchase-intent prior to illness spreading to multiple family members, especially in multigenerational households. Brands and retailers that have timed promotions sooner, thanks to first-party data and real-time/predictive analytics, have been more successful in attracting attention of consumers stockpiling essential items as an anticipated illness approaches their households.

2. Rely on current, accurate symptoms-based data
COVID-19 has thrown the playbook out the window when it comes to traditional seasonality of illness. Each Omicron subvariant has been more transmissible than the last, and, unfortunately, being infected with one variant does not mean one will be immune to future variants. This means that the cold-like symptoms the majority of infected persons incur will require medication based on transmission timeline, not time of the year.

In addition to COVID-19, influenza and RSV have continued to have unusual seasonality, but real-time, accurate data in this new world can also help you determine which products to promote based on type of illness and symptoms.

[Read more: Retail brands now face rising expectations to deliver omnichannel customer experiences]

For example, one leading cough, cold and flu remedy, Mucinex, a Reckitt brand, took years of proprietary national illness data and cross-referenced it with its sales at a large club retailer to identify ideal promotional timing for maximum revenue. By analyzing data both from “normal” illness seasons (2017-2020) and volatile pandemic seasons (2020-2022), a relationship between seasonal illness and Mucinex sales at the retailer was uncovered.

Timing promotions correctly with real-time, accurate data will help shoppers find the products they need and make purchases before the impending illness, ultimately helping people experience symptom relief while maximizing sales.

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Brad Pope is the head of customer success at Kinsa.

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