Franchise group Battery World had a problem: customers could not imagine why they would visit its stores. A clever community marketing campaign and discount offer has turned things around.
You don’t need to be an electrical engineer to figure out what’s on sale at Battery World, a retail franchise group with more than 70 outlets.
But the simple name wasn’t translating into sales beyond a core group that already understands its range of specialist batteries.
“We came from the auto-electrical side of the battery business,” explains National Marketing Manager Kerry Hannah.
“Our research shows that people know we have expertise, but they cannot imagine what one of our stores will be like, or they assume we have batteries for 'other people'.
“AA batteries are the picture people have in their mind, but we can’t fill a store with AAs. So we have to get people to come in and have a look at a battery store.”
The group's current tactic to encourage more customer visits is a clever promotion that offers nine volt batteries for just one dollar, as part of an education campaign urging Australians to change the batteries on their smoke alarms twice a year.
“We treat this as almost a community service,” Hannah says.
“We time it for the national changeover to or from daylight savings.
“We trailed it in 2009 with the Spring changeover to get a feel for the response. Demand for the batteries took a lot of franchises by surprise: there was a big impact.
“In 2010 we sold more batteries than we expected again: we had organised double the stock and sold out.”
The safety angle of the promotion – smoke alarms stop working if their batteries go flat, and increased use of heaters in winter makes for more fires – means the promotion scores media coverage Local promotions.
Some Battery World stores install new smoke alarm batteries in community facilities like Nursing Homes – re-enforce the importance of replacement batteries and demonstrate the group has a community connection.
The result, Hannah says, is “people get to see a Battery World, so that instead of not being able to picture our stores, we create some pictures”.
“And if we have all our other ducks in a row with customer service and we merchandise properly, we can give them a reason to come back.”
This year, the group has sold 34,000 one-dollar batteries and Hannah says the promotion is “not quite” a loss leader, but certainly opens doors for future sales.
“A cheap battery is not going to make franchisees a fortune, but the conversation that you need to change every six months and you need to vacuum the smoke alarm to make sure it works builds trust.
"Or perhaps someone comes in and their alarm needs a specialist battery. Our stores can help with that and once a customer is in there they get wowed by the staff.
“We don’t pounce and add people to a loyalty program or anything like that, but after you visit a few times you’ll pop up as a customer we can help with other things.”