Ditch the discounts. There are other ways to drive online sales

holiday cottage five star reviews

Last Updated on April 8, 2023

That is the title of a recent article by Pablo Pérez in some very interesting research carried out by a little firm called Google. We, the Woodfarm digital marketing team, were delighted to read this as it very much mirrors our approach and M.O (modus operandi or method of operating)

The research from Google resoundingly said: Ditch the discounts. There are other ways to drive online sales. In this article we look at;

  • Social Proof
  • Authority Bias
  • Giving You Extra.

Google’s Pablo Pérez is a leading researcher covering the retail industry with 15-years of experience. He is market insights manager at Google, where he leads retail research for EMEA. In the last few years, he has been researching retailing using a combination of Google’s data, industry knowledge and deep human understanding. In other words, he’s a bit cleverer than Carl and Andrew. Hard to believe, but there ya go!

Pérez said that he took up running after turning 40. His search for the ideal shoes started with a Google search, like most of us. He came across so many options that he started to think more about what influenced people’s decisions. he said that he usually looks at factors such as availability, price, store reviews, and delivery speed. Obviously we’re not a product retailer, but this started our little brain cogs turning too.

What he found during some recent retail research, with 1000 participants, was that it simulated 120,000 shopping scenarios!. His research showed that consumers can be rather focused on buying something specific, however, they can be open to chopping and changing from one retailer to another before finally buying.

His research highlighted that discounts are good, but retailers can do so much more. This has always been our philosophy. We have been doing this for 14 years now, and have always tried to add more value, than to be seen as cheap.

Competitive Industry
Our industry is incredibly competitive, which is why we work our socks off to be the best we can possibly be, build our reputation, and to be as prominent and relevant on the internet as we can. Our level of repeat business grows year on year, currently topping 30% so far in 2023. That is crucial to us. We value our guests and do our best to make sure they know that. But we must keep working hard to attract new guests.

What we have found for years is that many people in our industry are pretty obsessed with being seen as the cheapest in order to combat things like high inflation, cost of living issues etc. This practice has always made us squirm as we just don’t want to be perceived as ‘cheap’. As the word ‘nasty’ often follows. Don’t get me wrong, we are continually seeking to give value for money, and we monitor our prices, booking levels etc, but it goes deeper than that. Yes of course we have the usual last minute deals if we have late availability, but we really try not to shout about it as our main thing to attract guests. We include any in our weekly newsletter roundup, but only because our own research showed us that many people want to hear about it!

Suffolk Holiday Cottage business with 600 Five Star ReviewsFree Break giveaway to show our thanks

800 Five Star Reviews
At the time of writing this in April 2023, we have somewhere around 800 Five Star reviews on Tripadvisor, Facebook and Google. We have worked for years to get those, because we think that is a way more powerful tool than slashing prices and shouting about huge discounts. And Pablo Pérez agrees;

He says that his “behavioural science research into people’s purchasing decisions has shown that retailers can effectively attract customer attention and sales with a range of alternative strategies, other than discounts”

Social Proof
His research that is relevant to us, has found that the single most effective alternative to discounting is what he calls ‘Social proof’. He goes on to say that “good customer reviews, such as 5 star ratings, can be very persuasive to secure sales, as we tend to trust our peers. My research found that this is the most powerful principle to counteract discounting”.

Who Gives You Extra?
He also cites a strong alternative as “The power of “free”. This is what he refers to when retailers include something extra with the purchase. This is why we have always provided a scrummy Suffolk Breakfast Basket with your stay. We do tell people they will get this, but it is still often a surprise that a) it is there, and b) how good it is.

Scrummy Breakfast Basket with every Woodfarm break – we have GF, Veggie, and Vegan options too

Authority Bias
The other main finding that is very pertinent to Woodfarm is what Pérez calls “Authority bias”. He says that “Reviews from experts or authority figures lends extra credibility to a particular product or store. For example, if you see a brand or retailer has won an industry award, that could sway your purchase decision”. To this end we have been so pleased to feature in loads of related publications over the years, as well as feature on The BBC, ITV, and in The Times. 

Perhaps our biggest ‘shout it from the rooftops’ factor in this regard though is the fact that we have been bestowed with our precious Gold awards ever since we have been rated by Visit England, the main authority on, well, Visits in England! And to cap it all, they awarded us their extremely coveted ROSE AWARD last year! 

Tim & Carl picking up the Visit England ROSE AWARD for Team Woodfarm

So if the leading expert at Google thinks we are going about things the right way then I’m good with that. If you would like to read Mr. Pérez’s full article you can.