07 April 2023, 08:36 AM
  • John Bensalhia explores the seven wonders of the special offer world, and how farm shops and delis can make the most of them throughout the year
How to give your customers the real deal

Who doesn’t love a bargain? If there’s a guaranteed way of bringing in new customers and retaining existing ones, it’s the special offer.

Farm shops and delicatessens have taken this to heart with a broad cross-section of special offers. In the current economy, with news reports of families and individuals struggling with rising costs, financial challenges and food shortages, special offers are especially welcome.

Special offers keep the farm shop or deli one step ahead of the competition, providing that extra personal touch with tailored loyalty schemes, package deals and gifts.

The Cornish Food Box Company uses special offers for a variety of marketing purposes including attracting new customers for its grocery subscription service, launching new products and pushing sales around particular events or times of the year.

“As an online-only food delivery company we have to cut through the noise on social media and digital advertising, and a really good offer is important to encourage wavering customers to get onboard and give us a go!” says Lucy Jones, owner. “The aim being that once they have tried The Cornish Food Box Company food and service they’ll love it so much that they come back again and purchase at the full price.”

“One of our main attractions is our exquisite, high-quality Wexford Valley Tomahawk Steak, which has been reduced from £40 to £23.50 – they literally fly out the door!” says Mandeep Singh, marketing manager, Tom Hixson of Smithfield. “Another popular item is Black Label Argentine Beef Ribeye Steak, which has been reduced from £65 to £29.95.”

But coming up with these kinds of offer is an art in itself. What kinds of special offer appeal the most? How often should special initiatives be promoted, and what are the best ways of doing so?

Here then, are some answers. Welcome to the seven wonders of the special offer world that can help make a real deal…

The gift that keeps on giving
Free gift giveaways! Strawberry Fields Farm Shop uses this technique on a regular basis, sometimes with a topically seasonal angle. February, for example, saw the giveaway of free dough balls and a free pancake kit for every £20 spent in its farm shop.

“Generally we find it much better to give customers something extra for free rather than discounting our products,” says Lucy Jones. “Where we use direct discounting is primarily in launching new products or new bundled boxes. For new product launches, typically the supplier will be offering a special wholesale price which we pass on to our customers to encourage them to try something new.”

The Cornish Food Box Company works very closely with several holiday cottage companies in the South-West to provide welcome gifts and grocery deliveries for their guests.

“Through them, we offer discount codes for them to promote grocery deliveries direct to holiday cottages. For the holiday cottage agencies, it is a fantastic way to promote high quality local food deliveries to their guests which results in great reviews and we get introduced to new customers outside of our local area.”

Soaring in popularity is the gift card. Not only do gift cards help save money on everyday visits to the shops, they also make for excellent presents. Among those offering gift cards and vouchers are Allington Farm Shop (card values range from £15 to £25), Ben’s Farm Shop (£10 to £50) and Becketts Farm (£5 to £100).

Special deliveries
In the wake of Covid-19, home delivery of goods is still a popular choice, especially for those who may be too old, disabled or ill to go to the shop. On the other side of the coin, today’s time-hungry society can mean that others are simply too busy to go shopping, with home delivery providing a more convenient alternative for those whose time is eaten up by work or family commitments.

“We offer 5% off our entire online range of organic groceries when customers subscribe to a recurring order with us,” says Lydia Tomkinson. “Which not only helps with savings across their whole shop, but also means they can have all their organic groceries delivered to their door at a convenient frequency, perfect for those with busier lifestyles.”

Jurassic Coast Farm Shop runs its own subscription service that allows its customers complete online control over their purchasing. Customers can choose whether to buy their shopping from Jurassic Coast on either a weekly, fortnightly or weekly basis. The process allows complete flexibility in that customers can change the frequency of delivery or, if they wish, make a cancellation.

Promote the promotion
Reaching out to customers about current and future special offers is one of the most important aspects of promotion. Farm shops have their own different methods of informing customers about special deals. “We promote our special offers through a mixture of email and SMS marketing to our customers,” says Lydia Tomkinson. “As well as via our social media accounts.”

“Special offers are promoted through our weekly mailing list (on Mondays and Wednesdays), Instagram and Facebook,” says Mandeep Singh. “Every week, we have special offers on our produce. Depending on stock, we have offers on a range of high-quality meat sourced from all over the world. Whether that’s Spanish Iberico pork, Japanese Wagyu steaks or New Zealand grass fed lamb from the Alpine meadows.”

The rise in social media affords farm shops and delis an ideal opportunity to promote special offers. Whether it’s through Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, reaching out to customers via social media platforms is a no-brainer. It’s instant, fast and best of all, free!

There are a number of considerations with respect to social media. For example, which social media outlet is the most suitable? Instagram is a good visual showcase for a special offer. A photograph of the special offer product(s) gives potential customers a clear idea of what they can expect.

Twitter users also benefit from photography: the word count limit makes for a short, snappy impact. Twitter also allows for retweets, which can help to spread the word across a wider audience. Facebook remains a popular method of promotion, offering greater flexibility in its word count.

Another consideration is the frequency of promotion. Lydia explains that Eversfield Organic tends to promote its special offers at least once a month. “However, we promote our reward scheme and subscribe and save 5% discount for recurring orders wherever we can, alongside the other benefits of having an account and receiving a regular order from us.”

More seasons
Specific changes of season and annual events are great opportunities for special offer deals. Every year brings extra interest in buying food for occasions such as Christmas, Easter, and Valentine’s Day.

“We regularly provide special offers featured around special events,” says Lucy Jones. “An example of this is our annual Cornish Food Box Christmas Dinner Offer. Every year, we give customers who order their Christmas dinner from us in October a special early bird discount.”

With that in mind, many farm shops continue to tie in special offers and deals with annual days and events like these. Valentine’s Day 2023 alone brought a slew of various special offers including deals on ribeye steaks at Taylors Farm Shop (two for £11.99), a steak and wine deal at Westlands Farm Shop; and a takeaway picnic afternoon tea at Strawberry Fields Farm Shop, Lifton (including the likes of sandwiches, cakes, plus perennial South West favourite, scones with home-made strawberry jam and clotted cream).