Coupons have been a fixture in the marketer’s toolbox for centuries, helping to entice curious consumers to try a product or service. However, the way shoppers find, share and use coupons has evolved over time, forcing us to reevaluate our strategic blueprint for distribution.
Dozens of coupon and promotion code sites now exist to give shoppers instant discounts and increasing subsets of bloggers keep moms abreast of sharable bargains. Almost as soon as many of these deals are launched, they’re quickly posted across these channels and depleted within days or weeks. According to Google’s recent study on coupon usage, redemption rates are growing to 14% or more in comparison to the average 1% for traditional coupons.
This can be a blessing and a curse for marketers. On one hand, this means people are buying – but, are they the right people? Will they transition to become a loyal purchaser, or are they only out for the deal of the moment? This increase in redemption also comes with a need for brands to cover the cost of all those coupons coming back in the door. Don’t get me wrong, these are great problems to have.
What Zócalo Group has worked to do for many clients is turn a potential coupon frenzy into a highly-targeted, strategic “experience” that brings in and keeps customers engaged for the long haul. Following are eight tips and best practices from recent coupon activations that have helped deliver on this goal:
- Consider the role of “static” vs. “dynamic” coupon links across distribution channels – Digital coupon providers, like Coupons.com, allow marketers to control distribution by providing varying types of offers. Static links most commonly end up on coupon message boards. The link is the same for anyone and thus, everyone can get their hands on it.
This is a good option for a short promotion or for a brand that appeals to the general population. Those with a more clearly-defined target audience and desire to pace coupon redemption through the year might opt for dynamic links.
This means the coupon is only valid to the person who sees the link. You can control how many times the coupon is printed by the individual and limit the total number of coupons distributed in a given month.
- Provide shopper reward card deals – Partners like Coupons.com also offer the opportunity to send deals direct to retail loyalty cards, which will remind shoppers to add the product to their lists as they plan their trips. In the absence of any solid “mobile” couponing options at this time (trust me, I’ve looked!), direct-to-retail rewards are a worthwhile alternative.
- Use “Dark” Facebook posts to adjust offers and messaging among new and existing fans – Dark Facebook posts are one of my favorite social innovations. With the help of paid media, marketers can publish posts that appear only in the newsfeeds of those they’re trying to target as new fans. The content will not appear on the page Wall or be visible to existing fans. It’s pretty amazing how closely Facebook can target people based on their expressed interests.
I like this option for coupon distribution because it addresses a common fear about cannibalization by current fans. A brand can develop an entirely separate editorial calendar of posts designed to bring in new page Likes, distribute coupons and introduce product extensions that might appeal to a new audience.
For example, a soft drink manufacturer might come up with a new sparkling water that appeals to people who are typically into natural products, walking/hiking, etc. While they would never have liked the soft drink page before, they now may give it and the brand a second look when they see a coupon offer for this new water in the newsfeed.
- Use Twitter to reach consumers after they see your ad on TV – Twitter’s ad targeting campaigns allow advertisers to publish relevant tweets in the feeds of those who likely just saw their commercial.
Say you’re running a spot during a reality singing competition and someone tweets about the host’s new haircut, you could assume they were also tuned in when the commercial appeared during the next break. One of several pre-composed tweets will appear in their feed within three-to-four minutes of their own tweet and can be designed to include a coupon link.
- Embed the coupon in an educational “game” – One way to encourage consumers to stick around after they get a coupon is to first remind them of the unique benefits of the product. Online gaming is huge among many primary household shoppers.
Take a cue from some of the hottest games and build an experience that might similarly appeal to them on your website or Facebook page. A coupon offer can greet them at the end. Try a memory matching game with product flavors or quiz them on attributes of your automobile before rewarding them with the coupon at the end.
Another option? Kiip is a new player on the market offering really innovative ways to reward fans for completing specific tasks. Here, the same sparkling water brand would pay to integrate into a popular fitness app. Targeting people who have expressed a gym or weight-loss goal, Kiip will delight them with a coupon offer for this beverage after they log three miles.
- For smart sharing, activate a progressive offer – If you do want your coupon to spread to the masses, but still prefer it remain within the target audience demographic, progressive coupons are a way to go. According to Roper reports/Nielsen, 92% of consumers say that the recommendation of a friend, family member, colleague or expert is the single most powerful influencer of their purchase decision.
You can reward social influencers for passing along coupons to their like-minded friends by increasing the value of the offer for everyone as it is shared with Offerpop. Or, you can seek out and reward top sharers individually with additional discounts and prizes through a partner like Revtrax.
- Package a coupon with the help of a blogger – As noted above, recommendations coupled with a coupon are a highly-effective way to grab the attention of target consumers. Look to appropriate category bloggers and other online influencers to share their opinions about your product or service alongside an offer for readers to try for themselves. These credible voices could share static or dynamic coupon links readers can share with their peer group.
- Offer coupons through electronic customer relationship management (eCRM) – A more tried-and-true tactic, encourage consumers to sign up for a monthly newsletter to gain access to coupons. As an added benefit, provide access to special tips, recipes or product details.
The variety of coupon partners and distribution methods is growing by the day. Before kicking off any activation, a good first step is for all parties to align on the role and goal of coupons. Then, strive to build out a strategy which may involve one or more of these options (and others). The good news is that many of these tactics can be done quickly and with little investment, providing a great opportunity to test and learn from each endeavor.