By Andy Kriege, YSN

David Jones knew that digital promotions were successful in other places; however, the owner of Jones Appliance & TV was skeptical that they would be as effective in Iowa Falls, a town of 5,000 just big enough to poke through the corn stalks. He never imagined that in the middle of a pandemic, so many people in rural Iowa would want to shop his store via his website.

David Jones, owner of Jones Appliance & TV

Jones had recently upgraded his site, adding transactional capabilities and a payment terminal and effectively merchandising his catalog online. “I thought having all these features on my site was really cool,” he said, “but I doubted that very many people in this area would actually transact this way.”

Despite his initial skepticism, Jones figured since nobody during the lockdown phase could visit his showroom, it might be an opportune time to offer a discount to push them to his website and see if they would buy online. “Working with Amanda Nelson, my AVB Marketing rep, we assigned a coupon code that applied to all items in the store, including installation, parts and accessories,” he recounted. “The only stipulation for the offer was that they had to place the order online.”

As Nelson explained, “Dave and I worked together along with his LINQ4U specialist Shelby Runyan to build a special catalog and implement a coupon code at check out.”

Following the upgrade, visits to JonesApplianceAndTV.com were up 273 percent, sessions increased 259 percent, and add-to-carts rocketed 800 percent.

“I was happy to see the collaborative efforts between Dave, Shelby and myself pay off for the store,” Nelson said. “We now have a good idea of what works in his store and will use that knowledge to build a strategy moving forward.”

Jones regularly runs “Shop Local. Save Big!” messaging on his local newspaper’s website.

Indeed, plans are already in place for the runup to the July 4th PMAP period, involving three separate campaigns: an appliance sale, a grilling sale and a 5-percent coupon code mattress offer. Promoting the events is relatively inexpensive, with Jones paying around $1,200 all in for the entire campaign, comprised of $500 for a Facebook ad, $500 for a Google display ad campaign and an update to his regularly appearing $200 post on the local newspaper site promoting “Shop Local. Save Big!”

According to Jones, “That $1,200 expenditure was very reasonable considering we typically pay as much as $5,000 for a private sale by mail or $3,000 for a newspaper insert.” He noted that the impact of the digital campaign started out slow but gained steam over the course of the promotion.

Besides being cost-effective, the online promotion was also simple and easy. As Jones noted, “The entire process of fulfilling the online orders was pain free. The customers had already chosen what they wished to purchase, and instead of spending an hour or more with a them in the store, it was like starting the process at the checkout counter.”

When Jones is notified of an online purchase, he immediately sends out a confirmation email to acknowledge the order and let the customer know that he will soon be in touch to complete the transaction. Allowing him to follow up at is convenience is another added benefit of the digital transaction, as it helps spread out the daily workload and customer flow. “It allowed me to take care of customers in the store and reach back to wrap up the online purchase details at my convenience,” he said.

What’s more, shoppers who saw the promotion online and came to the store in person were highly motivated to buy. “The minute they walked in the door they would say ‘I just want to see these two models,’” Jones said. “We would show them and then write up the sale. They would literally be in the store for just 10 minutes.”

Jones is planning on conducting more digital promotions going forward, albeit with a more focused approach. “The one thing I will do differently is instead of going storewide with a discount, I am going to pick categories,” he explained. Additionally, Jones firmly believes that the digital campaigns will have only limited success if the website is not merchandised by availability. “Customers want to know what you have available today on your site,” he advised. “If you don’t have the time to do so, sign up for LINQ4U and have a LINQ specialist do it for you.”

Jones feels that now is the right time for digital promotions and believes that will hold true for the remainder of the year. “People have been cooped up and staring at their computers just bored out of their minds,” he observed. “This is the perfect time to hit them with a digital campaign. I believe this trend will continue as people are now much more comfortable making a major purchase of this magnitude entirely online.”

Looking ahead, Jones said he is “excited for the future, because if it is working well now, it is going to be even better in a year or two. BrandSource has been keeping me ahead of the curve for what is coming, and I have been planning accordingly.”

His only regret: “I wish I would have done this much sooner.” And if digital promotions work in rural Iowa, you are crazy to believe it won’t work in any other market.

Indeed, if you build it — whether it’s a baseball diamond in an Iowa corn field or a digital promotion online — they will come!

BrandSource is a unit of YSN publisher AVB Inc.