It is no good being irritated by rulings of regulatory bodies. They are, like Thursdays, there regardless of how much use they are to you. Whilst you might feel sorry for Morrisons following the ruling against them from the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), you have to accept it and take it into account when planning your email marketing campaigns.
The grocers, in their attempt to increase their share of the market no doubt, tried a discount, one that others in their sector had tried before and struggled to make pay. An ‘Any Three for £10’ on a selection of wines was both aggressive and admirable.
However, there were two complaints to the ASA from customers who had been unable to buy any of the wines featured in the adverts. The essence of the complaints was that Morrisons’ estimate of the demand had been unreasonable and that there was no cut-off date.
Their defence was equally aggressive. They suggested that they had followed normal industry practice when estimating the demand and that the success of the promotion had been unprecedented. When they were aware that stocks were insufficient they had withdrawn advertising and had arranged for more stock, of similar quality wine, over the 400,000 originally put by.
There was no cut-off date due to the unpredictability of demand and so they had included the caveat of ‘subject to availability’ and ‘while stocks last’.
On the face of it this would seem to have been a strong defence. What else could Morrisons have done other than used the industry norm when calculating the demand? Further, whilst 400,000 bottles proved woefully inadequate, they had taken steps immediately to ensure the supply of similar wine.
This was, however, not enough, according to the ASA decision.
They decided that Morrisons had not adequately estimated demand. This was admitted but the reasons were felt to be insufficient. The ASA thought that given customers could buy twelve bottles per transaction the supermarket should have realised that their contingency stock was insufficient.
Critically, the ASA said that from day one the company were aware that availability was likely to be a problem. National advertising was not removed soon enough, some remaining three days into the campaign.
That there was no end date to the promotion came in for criticisms as well. The company had assumed a ten day window and not to include this meant that customers were unaware of how quickly they needed to act.
There are pointers here for email marketing.
Firstly, it took just two disappointed customers to cost the supermarket a lot of negative publicity, let alone the preparation for the defence to the charges.
Secondly, the comforting catch-alls, such as ‘while stock last’, are not get out of gaol free cards. The company’s estimate of the demand should have been more accurate and they should have done ‘everything reasonable’ to avoid disappointing customers.
Three for the price of two types of email marketing campaigns are a very useful tactic. Played well, they give excellent returns. However, it seems we need to be very accurate in predictions, even beyond depending on industry norms.
I feel sorry for Morrisons but they should have done better, it seems.