“Markdown!” “Lowest Prices in Town” “Save 75%” “Rock Bottom Prices!” “We’ll Beat Any Price” “Cheapest Deal in Town”. For the past 18 months, these sales slogans have been screaming at consumers from websites, TV and newspaper ads and more.

$1 dollar bins, something you’d normally find only in the aisles of a dollar store, Wal-Mart or KMart are now a fixture in many stores – the first thing you see when  you walk through the door.

But here’s the problem. Shoppers are tired of the message.

Your customers have “frugal fatigue.”

They’re tired of pinching pennies, “buying down” from the product levels they’d normally buy at, always looking for the cheapest price. They’re tired of compromising on quality and service to save a few bucks. And even if they don’t have a lot of extra money to spend, they don’t want to be constantly reminded of it.

Granted, the rampant excess buying of extravagent luxururies is over.  Back in 2005, one of the trends I talked about when I spoke on stage at eBay Live! on the topic of product sourcing was a trend called “mass lux”.

Luxury for the masses.

At the time, people were spending huge sums of money on disposable products. Parents were buying $900 purses for their teenage daughters. In multiples! Heck women were buying $1500 – $2000 purses for themselves, without batting an eyelash.  And these were not people with 7 figure incomes. These were everyday people, making an average income.  Those days are gone.

A Badge of Honor

When the need for frugality kicked in, most people were actually glad to do it. Like eating a big buffet on Sunday and feeling virtuous about cutting back your food intake on Monday – people realized their spending had gotten out of control.

It even became somewhat of a sport for newbies. Those who had never looked at a price tags with much scrutiny were suddenly clipping coupons and happily telling their friends about the money they’d saved on their latest purchase. Or where to find the cheapest prices on food.

But the 2009 holiday season, it became apparent that people had frugal fatigue. Just like day 10 on a low calorie diet, the celery doesn’t have the same crunch and you’re ready for a cheeseburger! 🙂

In fact WordSpy, one of my favorite places to keep up with the latest in words, defines frugal fatigue as :

Mental exhaustion caused by constant frugality during hard economic times.

And yes, your customers have it.  They’re tired of being reminded that they are on a budget. Ready to upgrade their shopping choices.

And as a savvy online seller you want to make sure that you are communicating a Unique Promise of Value (UPV) that doesn’t focus solely on being the lowest price in town. You have to clearly explain the value of what you’re offering.

Reuters ran an interesting article today titled “Retailers Broaden the Meaning of Value” that underlines this point.

Recently the term “great value” has become synonymous with low price.  But value is and always has been about more than just price.

What are the benefits of your product?

What is your Unique Promise of Value?

You can’t compete on price. It’s a downward spiral. Even Wal-Mart changed their message from “Always Low Prices” to “Save Money. Live Better.”

Their new message brings up a much more compelling Unique Promise of Value for people.

If your store sells kitchen accessories – what would your message be?

How about “Cook at Home. Eat Healthier. Save Money.”  As a potential customer, now you’ve got my interest!

But if you were to say “Cheapest prices on cookie sheets.” The first thing I’d think of were those cheap baking sheets that warp, rust and burn my chocolate chip cookies.  As a shopper, I don’t want more junk to throw away in a landfill.

If you want to see a store that’s wildly successful and excels at promoting a Unique Promise of Value, check out Moosejaw.  Yes they run sales. And they have some great deals, but that’s not the message that attracts their customers.

So if you’ve been focusing your message on “Low! Low! LOW!” prices, it’s time to go back to the core of your business and see what else you have to offer your customer.

Whether it’s style, selection, value, service, expertise, humor, whimsy, trendiness, quality, product obsession, a keen eye for what’s hot, the latest and greatest, the tried and true or the plain but useful.You’ve got to have something besides “Great buys all the time.”

How about you?  What’s your Unique Promise of Value? Tell me below.

PS: This doesn’t mean that you can’t/shouldn’t offer your customers sales, discounts and special deals.

But when you do, add some special sauce to it! “Save 20% on our color-popping, sizzling hot summer tank tops!” (As opposed to “Lowest price of the season on all tank tops. Yawn 😉 )

It’s time to re-energize your customers and help pull them out of frugal fatigue!