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Avoiding the Race to the Bottom: How to Optimize the Marketing Experience and Break the Cycle of Discount-Based Strategies

Blog title design reading: Avoiding the Race to the Bottom How to Optimize the Marketing Experience and Break the Cycle of Discount-Based Strategies
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Customer attention is a zero-sum game, and marketers are always racing to be the first to capture that limited market share.

But in the battle for market share, fighting for near-term engagement and conversions can easily distract marketers from thinking long-term in order to build lasting brand loyalty with their customers. It’s crucial for marketers to play the long game by building lasting brand loyalty with their customers and ensuring they always cross the finish line. 

In a desire for quick wins, marketers may find themselves heavily relying on discounts for immediate results. But to generate short- and long-term wins, marketers must hone in on augmenting customer relationships. To support those relationships, marketers need top-notch brand experiences that prioritize customers’ values. Ultimately, this will lead to true brand loyalty that flourishes in any economic environment, whether discounts are involved or not.

  1. Introduction

  2. Knowing Is Half the Battle: The Current State of Customers

  3. Emphasize Unique Value

  4. Plan for an Extended Shopping Journey

  5. Lean Into Omni-Channel Marketing

  6. Ease the Customer Experience

  7. Prioritize Agility With Automated Personalization

  8. Conclusion

Knowing Is Half the Battle: The Current State of Customers

To boost the brand experience, marketers first need to understand customers’ current concerns and priorities. From there, they can pinpoint each customer's likelihood of becoming a brand loyalist and adapt every message accordingly.

Customers Have Inflations Top of Mind

Globally, inflation is at the forefront of shopping, with 66% of consumers managing their expenses by reducing savings or increasing credit card balances. As a result, the propensity to spend is decreasing, with nearly 80% of consumers shopping less when the economy is unstable.

Not only are shoppers spending less—the way they are spending is changing. For example, the majority of customers are now delaying purchases and “trading down” their current brands for more cost-efficient options.

Customers Are Stratified

While the majority of customers are tightening wallets in the midst of inflation, there is still a critical mass of consumers that are spending just as much as ever. For households with a higher income, they will continue to shop their favorite brands and purchase expendables.

However, marketers should expect customers from every economic background to be shopping more strategically by seeking unique, tangible value from their purchases.

Customers Want to be Treated as Individuals

With customers’ varying reactions to the current economic climate, it goes without saying that marketers need to communicate to consumers as individuals. Consumers that are continuing to spend through inflation will require different marketing communications compared to those who are actively budgeting. 

Depending on the customer, marketers will need to highlight different value points exclusive to the brand to improve the customer experience. If customers understand the brand’s unique value in the marketplace, discounts will no longer be the only differentiator when they decide to spend their hard-earned cash. 

With this landscape in mind, marketers must  drive engagement and loyalty to ultimately reduce customers’ dependence on discounts.

Emphasize Unique Value

Customers not only navigate inflation by decreasing their spending, but they also internationally hold out for the most valuable purchases with increased deliberation; they’re carefully weighing value, price, and quality to purchase strategically. This is the propensity marketers need to lean into to avoid a discount-heavy race to the bottom. 

Highlight key differentiators that make shopping with your brand more valuable. This can be anything from exclusive products and product features to in-store customer experiences and payment flexibility. The lowest price isn’t necessarily the most valuable; communicate that to customers and show off the unique qualities of your brand.

Mock up of an email with a personalized header, product recommendations with ratings and reviews, and social media images.

In this Inkredible Retail example, the brand shows their unique value with personalized product recommendations paired with piped-in ratings and reviews. The personalized recommendations ensure the brand will catch that particular customer’s eye, as well as deliver genuine value. Because 88% of customers implicitly trust user ratings, reviews, and social media feeds, Inkredible Retail showcases these as a tactic to build the reassurance needed to drive sales. 

Plan for an Extended Shopping Journey

As customers grow increasingly selective with where, when, and how they spend, marketers should gear up for an extended customer journey. Customers will need longer than they typically have in the past to make a purchasing decision, and marketers will need the right martech software to continually generate genuine, helpful communications that accompany them along the way.

When hunting for the  martech software that best fits your brand’s needs, finding one that adapts as customers evolve is key. The best tool for the job? AI-powered predictive analytics. With a human-centered content personalization engine that takes customers’ entire journeys into account—and not just the next best action that gives tomorrow’s wins a temporary boost—marketers will grow customer long-term loyalty and lifetime value without sacrificing short term goals.

Retain your customers for the long run.

Read In the Name of Retention to round out your long-term marketing strategy.

Read the eBook.

Lean Into Omni-Channel Marketing

For a customer experience that stands out, marketers need to create a brand ecosystem that serves customers at every touchpoint. Digital channels must support one another with information that’s relevant, accurate, and in sync at all times to avoid unmet expectations and create a consistent experience that continuously moves customers along the loyalty journey.

Drive In-Store Experiences

A true omni-channel experience that entices customers goes beyond the digital frontier. As customers return to stores, use your digital touchpoints to drive foot traffic to in-store events and experiences that make an unforgettable impression.

Mock up of an email with advertising a winter sale with a live map and product recommendations with ratings.

Here, Inkredible Retail drives customers to their nearest store location by making the process as seamless as possible. Underneath the image alerting customers of the brand’s latest spring sales, a personalized store locator map is displayed. To finish off the email, personalized product recommendations along with ratings, reviews, and up-to-date local inventory are shown to drive both credibility and urgency.

The experiential nature of in-store shopping augmented by digital channels—think of paying through mobile, QR codes, buy online and pick up in store (BOPIS), and buy-now-pay-later (BNPL) options—has the power to create unforgettable customer-brand memories that clinch meaningful brand loyalty. It’s time to break free of discount reliance and drive home the value delivered from an  omni-channel experience.

Intentionally Experiment in Owned Channels

During periods of inflation, leaning into cost-efficient owned channels to retain current customers is key. However, that’s only the first step for marketers. When the economic climate is tumultuous, keep in mind that customers will be changing just as quickly. That means campaigns and tactics that didn’t perform well in the past may now resonate with customers; likewise, those that were a big hit may no longer be relevant.

As a result, marketers must continually implement A/B testing in their channels to learn more about their customers and their changing needs:

  • Identify KPIs and establish the reaction you hope to generate from customers.

  • Establish a testing framework for intentional experimentation.

  • Set best practices and ensure visibility is crystal-clear for your team.

  • Launch test and gather customers data, keeping attribution is top-of-mind.

Every test is a learning opportunity for marketers, and every new wave of data the test generates is incredibly valuable for retargeting. Keep up with fast-changing customers and implement intentional testing as a permanent best practice. 

Ease the Customer Experience

An engaging, 1:1 customer experience is priceless. That means marketers must generate campaigns that are transparent, flexible, and personalized every time.

Make the Most Out of Your Inventory

Inventory transparency is crucial to a customer experience. Customers need up-to-date information on the products they’re eyeing; inconsistency will lead to disappointment when a desired product is unavailable, and ultimately cause customers to disengage. Transparency also has the potential to be a double-win. By including real-time inventory levels, customers are urged to act quickly and make a purchase.

Mock up of low-stock notification for a magic mini drone.

For customers that miss out on the product they originally wanted, personalized recommendations can come to the rescue. Here, Inkredible Beauty suggests an alternative product that customers are sure to enjoy just as much.

Highlight Payment Flexibility

During economic uncertainty, discounts aren’t the only option to give customers a financial boost. Payment flexibility is a highly desired option, and for many customers, a make-it-or-break-it factor in which brand they swing their loyalty to. With the right BNPL options, cost-conscious customers gain the ability to purchase big-ticket items in a way that fits into their budget.

Mock up of a product recommendation email.

Here, Inkredible Financial displays payment options with product recommendations powered by first-party data. By pairing personalized offers with flexible payment plans, Inkredible Financial’s customer experience is a cut above the rest.

Prioritize Agility With Automated Personalization

Keeping up with ever-changing customers is a tall order with manual processes alone. To stay agile, marketers must prioritize tools that leverage automation to make the marketing process as easy and quick as possible.

Automation is a crucial tool for creating a relevant marketing campaign; from gathering zero- and first-party data and translating the right data points into engaging creative, to deploying the right personalized message to the right customer, automation is the tool every marketer needs in their arsenal. 

This is all the more true when the market is volatile or team bandwidth is tight. Now is the time to create automated processes that get campaigns out the door quickly with more relevance than ever.


No matter the economic environment, pulling back on marketing and relying on discounts alone is never the answer. Continue to invest in martech that drives your business forward to promote long-term success and customer loyalty. There’s no time like the present to stay a step ahead in your marketing strategies and be the first to grasp long-time customer loyalty.

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