By David H. Martin

Is America going deal crazy? In a continuing sluggish economy, consumers are using more discount coupons than ever to stretch shrinking budgets. And traditional clip-and-save coupons are being challenged by point-and-click coupons, printed from the computer. While newspaper-distributed coupons are still more than 90 percent of the total, in 2010 more than $1.2 billion (USD) in digital savings represented a 41-percent growth. A lot of this digital coupon growth is in non-food products and services. Water treatment dealers have been posting online coupons on their websites, digital yellow pages sites and on search engine sites. Now daily-deal coupons are being tested by some—and mobile phone applications for paperless coupons are next, according to experts.

Deal-A-Day online offers are like digital coupons on steroids
What if people looking for deals on local products and services would be eager to read their emails every day to view a deal that averages half-off? New web-driven email coupon services such as Groupon and LivingSocial are combining dramatic savings with manufactured urgency to reach growing local audiences across the country. In March, BIA/Kelsey, a leading online research firm, estimated there were already 178 cities with deal-a-day sites reaching 102 million people in the US every day. Day after day, consumer spending on these offers is expected to grow from $873 million to $9 billion by 2015, representing a 31.5-percent compound annual growth rate.

So far, most deal-a-day offers have involved restaurants and health/beauty services that can easily absorb the cost of their offers in exchange for free advertising on the sites. But that’s changing. Local marketers of installed products are learning to promote free installation and other service incentives to create Groupon-caliber offers. Illustrated here is one example that promoted a point-of-use filtration offer on Groupon’s new Home & Garden site to Chicago area subscribers in August . The Groupon one-day-only purchase price included installation. When the clock ran out, 12 had been sold. Cost of promotion to the dealer: zero.

How to leverage the coupon dynamic
Create coupon offers for cost-efficient delivery online. Establish a ’Special Offers’ tab on the website home page that will take visitors to current coupons they can print out and redeem at sales visits. Deliver coupons via email to past or present customers to stimulate sales and referrals.

  • When emailing to current or past customers, make it easy for them to redeem the offer by printing it out from the email.
  • When emailing to new prospects (developed from referrals, home show drawings, etc.), direct them to the website to learn more about the company as well as ’Special Offers’.
  • Encourage recipients to forward the email coupons to friends. (An Epsilon survey indicated that up to 55 percent forward non-food email offers.) That adds up to more sales leads at no additional cost.

Consider using offline coupon support via mailings, flyers or ads
Even though costs for printing and traditional media costs will need to be budgeted, using these multiple distribution techniques can provide powerful synergy and additional reach for promotional offers. To keep down coupon mailing costs, consider using low-cost ‘shared mailings‘ through services that mail multiple coupons in envelopes or booklets. Many are local or regional services. Others are localized national services, including Valpak (www.valpak.com), Money Mailer (www.moneymailer.com), and Save on Everything (www.saveoneverything.com). Check pricing to place online coupons on the websites of these same services.

Why craft your own coupons?
While coupons have always been popular, they are even more so today. The availability of a coupon can really make or break a sale. Aside from the money-saving aspect, people enjoy the feeling of getting a bargain and being treated as special.

Be creative. Don’t copy competitors’ coupon offers. Copycat coupons lack impact and credibility. Personalize offers and don’t forget to include your logo. Determine what offer produces the best response from a target audience by methodically testing various offers. Savvy use of this coupon-testing technique provides the specific knowledge required to greatly improve advertising response, sales and most importantly, profits.

More reasons to market with coupons
Coupons are a great way to expand market area. Some people will travel far to redeem a valuable coupon. They help take away sales from competitors. People will switch suppliers and services to take advantage of a good offer. Coupons will also attract new residents in the area when they are actively looking for water filtration and conditioning. Coupons can be used to re-activate former customers, who were lured away by competitors. Use them to generate plus-sales and profits through the sale of related items, combination offers and up-sell opportunities. Don’t forget to promote free services, including filter changes and salt offers with purchase of products. Also, use coupons to offer intriguing water-related premiums as sales openers and closers.

Takeaway
Maybe Deal-A-Day offers on Groupon and LivingSocial are not for you, but digital coupons are growing and cost-effective. Develop and implement an online coupon strategy to stimulate old and new customers.

About the author
David Martin is President of Lenzi Martin Marketing, Oak Park, IL, a firm specializing in water improvement and environmental marketing that integrates old and new media. He can be reached at (708) 848-8404 or by email, dmartin@lenzimartin.com

 

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