Beer-lovers across the country, including some sneaky Appliances Online employees, thought they picked up the bargain of the summer last night: cases of Coopers and James Squire beer for $15 and $16 each, respectively, from Coles Online.
Today, however, Coles has refused to honour the sales, instead offering a $15 voucher, and the real social kickback is just warming up.
Angry customers are now posting images, limericks and taunts on the Coles Facebook page every few minutes and some beer-less commenters are threatening to complain to the ACCC. #occupycoles has outranked #occupysydney volume on Twitter and replies to @ColesOnline have spiked by 400% today, while the Coles ‘No Beer’ Online page has 500 Likes and counting.
e-Commerce and social media are both booming in Australia and, admittedly, the rules are still very faint – particularly for some of the larger players who are still rooted in the old world traditional marketing thinking. Most companies aren’t quite sure how to handle incidents like this, or haven’t put in place the right infrastructure and processes to avoid them in the first place. All the same, marketing, PR and business in general, are about being reactive and innovative: finding ways to make things work with what’s at hand, with what’s topical. Always thinking about the customer. That shouldn’t change online.
Coles Online had an opportunity to turn 4,000 customers (many of which were probably new to their online channel) into advocates for a relatively minimal loss/cost – probably not much more than the company will spend on TV advertising this afternoon.
I’d suspect that 90% of the avid beer consumers would have told their mates about how they snagged $16 cases of James Squire from Coles Online. Instead they’re now creating Facebook pages and Twitter tags to attack the company.
They’ll potentially spend far more on PR in the coming months than they’ve just lost as they try to promote themselves as the top choice for Christmas Shopping. They might have had, instead, dozens of news articles, forums and social mentions heralding them for looking after their mistakes, and their customers. Not to mention, they’d have been funding 4,000 barbeques across the country this weekend. I certainly know which type of press I’d prefer.
Edit: I earlier referred to “about 4,000” people purchasing the beer offer, based on a discussion on Facebook. I’ve now removed this as the figure can’t been verified.