A recent poll from RetailMeNot.com and Harris Interactive® reveals that 30% of online shoppers will not make a purchase if they cannot find a coupon for that store. This shows that coupons don’t just offer value for consumers; they actually define the spending habits of nearly a third of online shoppers.
No matter where people shop—online or off—they’re looking to save. Retail consultant firm Inmar reported that in 2009, coupon usage increased for the first time in 17 years. Coupons.com boasted $1 billion in savings for its printable coupon category alone. Record usage. Record savings. The time is now for online store owners to embrace coupons.
The Hunt Is On
If a shopper wasn’t lured to a specific store from a promotional code they received via email marketing or through a social media site, chances are they will search coupon directory sites or even Google phrases such as “promotional code for XYZ store.” As the Harris Poll® study concludes, if there isn’t a coupon, there’s a good chance the customer will purchase elsewhere or wait until one is available to make a purchase from that store.
In the past, many eCommerce store owners feared that coupon codes meant for loyal customers would leak onto those sites, which would allow just about anyone to use these loyal customer perks. Today, not being there could be costly. The old way of thinking is quickly being replaced with: “A sale is a sale.”
There are many types of coupon sites available, ranging from community-oriented sites like RetailMeNot.com and CouponCabin.com, where coupons and codes are shared among users, to sites like Coupons.com, which distributes coupons on behalf of major brands and other retailers. Most of these sites feature popular deals and allow for searching by various criteria.
Membership to these sites often includes features like clipping and email notifications. Coupons.com even has an option to “save to member card” for many mass retailers. Many coupon sites allow users to report on the success rate of coupon codes and even make comments.
Because of the ever-increasing popularity of coupons, it’s a good idea to keep current coupons available on these sites. Scan the big coupon sites to see if any codes are presently there. If there aren’t any, or they’ve expired, get new ones listed. In a way, a host of expired coupons (even if the store owner was not the one to list them) can make a store look stale in the eyes of those perusing the listings.
Preventing Abuse and Getting Removed from Coupon Sites
Stating rules such as “one-time use only” could be deterrent enough. But . . .
If a coupon code appears on a coupon site and you would like it to be taken down, there are steps that you can take. RetailMeNot.com has a few measures to protect merchants: asking for removal of specific coupons, signing up for email notifications to see if/when coupons are posted, or opting out entirely from allowing coupons to be shared.
The capabilities of an individual store’s shopping cart software may offer help with coupon management, such as single-use coupons (a feature that allows a store owner to send a special offer to select customers) and combinable or noncombinable coupons.
Printable coupons for in-store use may be personalized with the recipient’s name and may include instructions for retailers not to accept the coupon without seeing identification. This helps prevent the fraud that many mass retailers and grocers fear when it comes to Internet coupons.
If a customer is abusing the same coupon code repeatedly to the point where the store owner no longer wants to honor them, action could be taken with a polite “request declined” notice that reminds the customer about any rules that may be in place, such as “limited to one use per customer.” Abused coupon codes can also be deactivated.
The bottom line: don’t create coupons that could hurt, well, the bottom line.
Using Coupon Offers for Marketing, Merchandising, and More
Coupons can help a business in many ways. Perhaps an item that wasn’t a great seller suddenly had a spike in sales when it became more affordable. Not only would that be a successful promotion, but it would also help identify an item that was priced too high.
Different versions of coupon codes could be used in different places as a test. Use one code with a social media audience and another with an email list and see which one has a better return. Then, you can use the data for future efforts.
Not every visitor to a store will be from the coupon-conscious crowd, but using on-site promotions such as “Scratch and Save” for Yahoo! Stores can present savings in an enticing, interactive way. Offering a coupon upon sign-up could also be an incentive for current or potential customers to subscribe to an email list.
Simply put, coupons are a smart idea for the eCommerce retailer. They attract customers, help build repeat business, and help to increase revenue.
This article was published in the March/April 2010 issue of eBiz Insider, the magazine for eCommerce professionals from Web.com.
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