What’s better, predictability or surprises? Predictability is nice, right? We become loyal to a coffee shop because our soy, half-caf, two-pump mocha will taste, smell, and cost the same every time. I read each new Jack Reacher novel by Lee Child (there have been 18) because I know Reacher, the main character, is still going to love good coffee, be 6’ 5”, 250 lbs (except when played by Tom Cruise), throw away his clothes when they get dirty, and carry a folding toothbrush.
But what about surprises? When you arrive home after work and your teenagers DIDN’T leave every light in the house on? That’s fun. Groupon’s entire model is to deliver a new pleasant surprise to your in-box every day, which is why consumers still love them even if the financial experts don’t.
My favorite though, is when a company lull’s you into pleasant predictability and then surprises you. That’s really when it is obvious that a smart, long-term strategy was put in place to gain the loyalty of consumers. M&M’s are predictably lovable, to the point where candy consumers will automatically reach for whatever new flavor they surprise us with—mint, coconut, white chocolate, and there are rumors of a “birthday cake” flavor next year. Dude, I’d stand in line for those!
Bed Bath and Beyond caught my eye this week as a great example of creating predictability and then launching a great surprise. Everyone knows, loves, and expects the Bed Bath and Beyond 20%-off-one-item coupon. They have trained consumers to wait to make a big purchase until they receive one of those coupons. It’s a great competitive advantage–if you are going to buy a Dyson, a down comforter, or a bread maker, those big blue coupons immediately come to mind before considering buying anywhere else.
So what’s the next smart move? To top their regular offer and “surprise” customers in a way that gets a lot of buzz, goodwill, and attention for it of course. Bed Bath and Beyond announced yesterday that they will offer 20% off your ENTIRE purchase for Veterans Day (November 9, 10, & 11th, 2013) if you are part of the US Armed Forces. All military personnel are eligible including dependents, veterans, spouses, yep, everyone. Offer is in-store only and you MUST provide proof of eligibility. For those keeping track at home, that’s over 32 million consumers who have stated that they are more loyal year around to companies who recognize them with a discount on Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day.
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