Handling the Holiday Rush

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It seems every year some new product is in short supply and parents are scrambling to get one. This year it’s the Sony PlayStation 3 and the Nintendo Wii. A few years ago it was the Tickle-Me Elmo toy.

The key to getting maximum exposure from the product launch is balancing the aura of demand created by limited supply and actually getting the products in the hands of users. This strategy has worked extremely well with a number of different product launches. Recently a new problem has developed and organized groups have started to buy high demand products at retail prices and re-sell them for a considerable mark-up. Right now there are over 4000 listings on Ebay Canada for PlayStations 3s, most of them $200+ above the retail price.

This problem isn’t really new, music promoters have been dealing with these scalpers for years. They’ve created arm/wrist band programs, contests, lotteries and even special purchasing sales to fan club members, all with various degrees of success. At one-point online sales were viewed as the answer to a lot of these problems but recently we’ve seen web sites brought down by the flood of people trying to purchase and organized groups have simple moved online. Online sites like Ebay and Craigslist also make it easier for people to profit off re-selling these products.

I think most marketers would understand that companies really do want to get their product into end-user hands. A good base of loyal customers can quickly become evangelists and help drive further product demand. Should we be concerned with this trend? Is there really an online solution?

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