Promotional products sales topped $19 billion in 2013 and are expected to do even better this year. Why? Promotional products score major points when it comes to employee recognition, brand promotion, and customer retention. In fact, looking at the data presented in the July 2014 issue of PPB magazine, it seems that close to 20 percent of that $19 billion went to employee service awards, employee relations, safety education, and dealer awards; 10 percent to brand awareness, and about 9 percent to customer-related activities.
As the economy continues to improve and organizations increase their budgets for promotional products, they are still keeping a watchful eye on all expenditures and seeking the best price wherever possible.
This brings us to the subject of Alibaba, the gigantic e-commerce company out of China which posted $250 billion in sales last year and is readying a major U.S. expansion. Much like Amazon, and twice its size, Alibaba’s digital storefronts offer thousands of products, with choice and pricing that is tempting of budget-conscious purchasers. But can digital storefronts like Alibaba and Amazon, with their huge assortments and competitive pricing, replace promotional products distributors? The promotional products industry is keeping an eye on both giants, but the key lies in what purchasers of promotional products want.
If pricing is the only factor in the purchase decision, possibly. And even then, probably not (more on that below). But working with a promotional product specialist offers value that generates returns not always captured on a spreadsheet. Here are three ways that a promotional product specialist can add value to your promotional product purchase decision, and save money in the long run:
Are you buying workplace safety program incentives, years of service recognition, a trade show give-away, or a customer retention item? Each of these occasions presents a different criteria and an experienced specialist can guide you to the best choices for your goal and budget. And they know the best supplier for that choice.
When you want to personalize an item, there’s no margin for error. A misspelled name or wrong date could, at a minimum, slow the production process or, at worst, cause embarrassment and a negative impact—the opposite of your intention. When you work with a promotional product specialist, the chances of this happening are minimized.
You want your promotional items to arrive at the right place, on time, at and with the type of packaging you require, from special boxing to a personalized enclosure. And your specialist will help you to avoid a possible disaster. For example, you may want to send branded chocolates to a select group of dealers or to a particular employee event, but if those chocolates aren’t properly packaged and shipped via refrigerated trucks, you could be sending syrup instead of bon-bons.
It is critical that your promotional products source offer only those items that meet U.S. safety requirements. Most will show evidence of QCA certification (Quality Certification Alliance), considered the industry standard. At this point vetting Alibaba merchants is difficult.
Purchasing promotional products is more than a transaction. It’s a process, and one that requires professional oversight from beginning to completion in order to deliver the kind of recipient experience you want. As you explore your options, think carefully about value and remember: value doesn’t always show up on the price tag.
For promotional product ideas, check out Marketing Innovators’ online catalog, or talk to one of our promotional consultants today.