How to Make the Most of Fall Coffee Promotions

By Brian Harris


It’s September and fall is just around the corner. What does that mean? You guessed it: Seasonal beverages are on the upswing.

The most popular of all flavors is pumpkin spice, and you can find it everywhere from Dunkin’ Donuts, Smoothie King, and c-store retailers like Wawa. The question for these retailers is no longer whether or not customers want fall-themed foods and products. It’s whether or not they can deliver on customer expectations.

This topic is slightly personal to me. Last year, I jumped on the pumpkin spice coffee bandwagon and decided to try a latte version at a popular, regional c-store retailer. I paid for the cup and, after waiting for the beverage to cool a bit, excitedly took my first sip a couple of miles down the road. Unbeknownst to me at the time of my purchase, the pumpkin spice latte machine was broken. I had purchased a cup of pumpkin-flavored syrup instead. Yuck!

While this is only one example, it points to two important factors of seasonal beverage campaigns: 

  1. Advertising for seasonal beverages works. (It worked on me!)
  2. Customers will be disappointed when their expectations are not met.

A vast majority of customers, 72%, purchased seasonal items as a one-time indulgence. However, if played correctly, that one-time purchase can help to attract year-round loyal customers. Don’t underestimate the power of that experience: The memory of my cup of pumpkin syrup still grosses me out!

Dunkin’ Donuts’ vice president of marketing, Chris Fuqua, speaks to this point. “A limited-time offer strategy is really important, not just one time a year,” he told Nation’s Restaurant News. “When their favorite limited-time offer goes away, our responsibility is to deliver something [else] to consumers they’ll be interested in.”

The Takeaway

  1. Make sure all your seasonal drink options are filled and working properly during the season. Customers recognize when an establishment isn’t meeting their expectations. From properly working machines to a clean, well-stocked station, all elements of the experience of the customer experience are important.
  2. Seasonal options like Pumpkin Spice are great ways to get customers in the door, but creative year round seasonal specials are effective marketing tools. To reap the benefits, you’ll need to reassess your promotional programs and store-level promotions. For instance, to maximize your bottom line, consider pairing fall-flavored foods with your beverages, including pumpkin-, apple- or cinnamon-flavored treats.

Want to learn more? Check out our blog on 3 Ways to Increase Retail Execution.

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