Massive cancellations of trade fairs and events have recently put a damper on the promotional products market. Nevertheless, the industry is robust. On the road back to its former greatness, digitization and online sales are playing an increasingly important role – areas in which promotional products retailers have not exactly been model students. To change that, the networking platform mypromo, founded in 2019, has repositioned itself. In addition to its core business, the team wants to gather targeted industry-specific online expertise through its own store and thus support retailers in their digitalization.
Anyone browsing the mypromo.com website will arrive at a smartly designed online store for promotional products. Beyond-print.de spoke to Managing Director Heike Lübeck about the background and aims of the new mypromo service and general developments in the promotional products market.
Beyond Print: Since 2019, mypromo has enabled promotional product retailers to go online with their own store. At the time, the industry was lagging behind in terms of digitization, to say the least. What has happened in the promotional products market in the meantime?
Heike Lübeck: Frighteningly little in the promotional products sector. Corona hit the promotional products industry hard, and also brought one or two companies to the brink of insolvency. Thus, many companies were simply concerned with ensuring their survival and the existence of their day-to-day business. In other words, they had little or no resources to deal with strategic issues, such as how to align themselves in the area of e-commerce in order to be able to exist tomorrow or the day after. However, this is changing once again, and we are already feeling it. 2022 is clearly different from previous years. Also due to the fact that trade fairs, events, personal meetings and even sales calls will take place again. It is also the case that the clock of digitalization can no longer be turned back, even in the promotional products sector. Because even if not every retailer has yet repositioned themselves digitally – customers have. And that will provide new momentum.
Beyond Print: What have these challenges entailed for you as a networking platform? How many stores have you been able to integrate in the meantime?
Heike Lübeck: We currently have between 50 and 60 promotional product retailers active with mypromo, although this number has gone up and down from time to time. For us as a marketplace, the last two years have brought the realization that we need to support our partners more, for example in marketing.
On one hand, to compensate for non-existent resources on the ground. It makes more sense if you can provide something for many retailers instead of everyone preparing their own concoction. On the other hand, we also want to be able to provide very practical experience: Which search terms should you book? Which budgets are the right ones? Which keywords work? What are the right settings? These were questions we couldn’t answer before, because we weren’t a retailer.
Beyond Print: This has changed now, because you went online with a mypromo store in February. Why did you decide to take this step?
Heike Lübeck: There are three reasons. First, we see our mypromo store as a kind of test balloon and want to share the insights we gain from our experimental marketing with the retailer network. In addition, we also want our supplier partners to benefit by offering them another sales option. And ultimately, of course, it’s also about generating additional sales for us.
Beyond Print: But aren’t you competing with your users? How have your dealers reacted to this?
Heike Lübeck: Completely at ease. At the beginning of December, we sent an e-mail to our dealers and suppliers informing them of our plans. In addition, we picked up the phone and spoke personally with our dealers. This is about our partners, so any kind of non-transparent communication is out of the question at this point. But the feedback was positive, there was no competitive thinking. On the contrary, our partners also see the need for more marketing know-how and support.
It must also be said, however, that the target group of our mypromo store is different from the target group of the promotional product retailers who have been operating traditionally up to now. With our store, we are addressing a very online-savvy target group. Our customers are used to uploading print data anonymously and sometimes even shy away from personal contact. The promotional product retailer’s model is different. They have an established customer base to whom they offer individual advice on complex orders. The “standard” orders can then be handled independently by their customers in their online store.
Requests that we cannot fulfill with our store are therefore also forwarded to our network partners.
What’s more, the whole project is coupled with technical innovations that we will be making this year. In other words, we’re not just doing our own store and supporting retailers in terms of marketing; there will be significant simplifications for retailers in technical terms over the course of the year.
Beyond Print: What are you focusing on in terms of portfolio and marketing?
Heike Lübeck: In our store, we actually want to bring the classic online virtues to the foreground. That means we have a sharp, but high-quality range of products. The customer browsing our site will find all the relevant product information and can be sure that the products are guaranteed to be available at the stated delivery times and prices. The express assortment is of particular importance.
In addition, we have a small but very agile and active team, whose presence and name stand behind the merchandise. It is important to us that we try out the products ourselves, prepare them, put them in our hands. Consequently, we carry items that are well suited for online sales, that meet our quality standards and for which we would be happy to stake our reputation. Our focus is also on “made in Germany”. All of this is aimed at ensuring that complaints are avoided wherever possible.
And, of course, we also focus on the issue of sustainability. We will gradually expand the corresponding range with new items.
Beyond Print: In addition to the new store, the mypromo brand will also remain open as a marketplace for promotional product retailers. How do retailers who want to tap into the online sales channel get in touch with you?
Heike Lübeck: The best way is via mypromo-service.com, which is the organizational unit behind this network. The contact partners are still the same.
Beyond Print: Let’s take another look at promotional products in general. Are they still in demand at all – now that so much is happening digitally?
Heike Lübeck: Absolutely! Promotional items are still one of the strongest forms of advertising in Germany. I’m confident that they will regain their position as number two behind TV in the course of the next year or two. Why am I so sure? For one thing, you can see that there is an incredible need for trade shows and meetings – an important application for promotional products. Mailing inserts are also in demand. Although there will certainly be a shift in the purposes for which they are used. We assume that the demand for promotional items for sales calls will decline in general. A return to pre-Corona levels is rather unlikely. Rather, in our opinion, there will be orders for home office equipment. Promotional items are, after all, identity-builders.
Furthermore: The German Association for the Promotional Products Industry (GWW- Gesamtverband der Werbeartikel-Wirtschaft) recently presented a study on the emotional impact of promotional products. The study measured how promotional products appeal to emotions. The scale previously ranged up to 2, which was the value achieved by a really well-made commercial. Promotional items, however, have blown up this scale – even standard promotional items have an average value of 3. There are various reasons for this: the feel of the promotional items, the appreciation for the other party that is created by handing over the promotional item, and certainly also the fact that, unlike TV commercials or newspaper ads, promotional items are not perceived as advertising. They are first perceived as attention, and that is a potential that is very difficult to achieve with other forms of advertising. That’s why I see a rosy future for the promotional products industry.