Welcome to the the Ivey HBA Retail Marketing Management blog. Retail marketing is an exciting, dynamic, important, and very visible aspect of the overall field of marketing. Throughout the year, students will be posting comments regarding contemporary retailing issues. Although this is intended to be used by Bus 4411 students, industry marketing professionals are also invited to join in if they like.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Hallmark: How to Build a Positive Relationship with Consumers?

Hallmark: How to Build a Positive Relationship with Consumers?

Joanne Yin

I am always very interested in Hallmark retail store. I am curious what drives consumers to be willing to spend buying cards in Hallmark retail stores, rather than dollar stores or creating them on their computers. I am also curious about what method Hallmark has used to maintain a positive relationship with its consumers.

Driven by my curiosity, I went to visit a Hallmark retail store yesterday. Before visiting Hallmark, I already knew the competitive advantage of Hallmark is to speak to human emotions, such as encouragement, friendship and love. The first impression Hallmark gave to me is a sense of warmth and caring touch to consumers. This feeling fits Hallmark’s value proposition, which is to help people express their feelings and to strengthen the important relationships in their lives. I stayed in the store for a few hours, putting myself in the place of a Hallmark consumer to understand the value proposition that attracts them to purchase Hallmark cards. During that time period, I discovered that most consumers going to Hallmark retail stores are people with mission of buying cards. This implies that those consumers are repeated consumers. They on average spend anywhere from five to fourteen dollars buying one to three greeting cards. I was thinking that the majority of the revenue should come from those loyal consumers. Then the next question jumped to my mind is the method Hallmark uses to maintain this positive relationship with its consumers.

The RVP of Hallmark is price and selection. The price of all the greeting cards is consistent. Consumers can budget their money before coming to the stores due to the price consistency. In addition, consumers will not feel frustrated when shopping for the cards they want, because the cards are categorized in an organized way, with noticeable signs on the top of the shelf. For example, birthday cards are in one section and wedding cards in another. Hallmark even subcategorize birthday cards into multiple consumer segments, such as father, daughter, mother, boy, friends. Consistent price systems and organized categorization are two factors contributing to positive relationship between store and consumers.

In addition to greeting cards, Hallmark also provides other products, which are relevant to the theme of caring, creative and elegant, to consumers. Some products can be customized based on the consumer’s personal need. Some products fit to the holiday theme, such as Easter. This provides more product choices to consumers and allows them to express their emotion to the important people in their lives in multiple ways. This is the third factor contributing to the positive relationship between the retailer and consumers.

Hallmark also implements loyalty cards to enhance the loyalty relationship with its consumers. Consumers will enjoy the process of accumulating points by purchasing in Hallmark store. Further, consumers will come back to stores again, because they can get discounted on the merchandise items by using the accumulated points. The Hallmark website and magazine are two other methods for Hallmark to connect itself to its end consumers. The content provided by Hallmark Magazine and its website is also consistent to the theme of Hallmark Inc. The writers of the magazine and the blog posters on the website share Hallmark’s culture and values. They provide some daily life tactics, which can help consumers create surprise in their lives. The interent portal method also create a social community for consumers. Consumers can meet new people who share the same concern with them in the virtual community provided by HallMark Inc.

The success of the Hallmark marketing program tells us that emotion marketing is a useful program to build positive relationship between retail store and end consumers. Conveying the message of brand identity consistent in multiple channels, which is an important element in building a loyalty relationship with consumers.

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