Mobile Coupons – Driving In-Store Customer Engagement & Loyalty:
Today’s retail landscape is in turmoil. The modern consumer’s expectations can mean life or death to a retail organization. Twenty years ago, E-Commerce began its steady upward climb, and by 2020, will represent more than 11% of total retail sales. Smartphones entered the fray less than a decade ago, claiming more and more market share with each quarter.
Foot traffic is down in the malls and shops, and many large retailers are cutting back on the number of their physical stores, pushing more business online, while online pure-players are opening brick & mortar stores. While the online world captures only a small percentage of the overall revenue, it influences a significant portion of brick & mortar sales, and retailers need to think about the best ways to capitalize on their offline-to-online conversions.
Omni-channel retail is the only path to salvation for the modern retailer; adopting a customer-centric model, that allows the consumer to complete a journey across all channels of the business, with personalization & relevance. The ever-connected and smartphone-enabled customer is in the driving seat, and has heightened expectations of a unique experience as well as a satisfactory purchase. In order to reach the modern consumer, a retail organization must cut through the digital chatter and present a clear, concise and personalized message.
The Mobile Tipping Point:
Stepping back to Mobile devices, Smartphones in particular; According to Pew Research, 7 out of 10 Americans own a Smartphone, 90%+ with the Millennials, which also according to Pew Research, became the largest living generation in the US, supplanting the Baby Boomers. With the majority of Americans using their smartphones daily, this becomes the largest marketing window open to retailers and etailers alike.
The problem is getting through the previously-mentioned digital chatter. Emails, ads, social media posts, videos, snapchats, instant messages; the modern consumer is swimming in data, and only a clear, personalized message can cut through. Of all the potential customer communication methods, email still gets the best conversion rates, and they are the most preferred method between consumers and retailers.
In order to make your company’s email stand out, the message must be clear and concise, personalized and relevant, which is hard concept to master if you sell many different types of products to many different people. The modern consumer is price-conscious, and fast-fashion companies have had the edge for some time; but for the regular retailer, the periodic sales are pointless if they do not feature the item the individual customer wants, at the price and time they want.
So we have an ever-connected consumer on a smartphone, who sees email as the best channel to reach them, who likes to save money, and who does extensive research before purchase. How is a retailer to reach them, entice them to visit their brick & mortar store, and gain their purchase and loyalty?
The answer: Mobile Coupons:
While not a new concept, the modern mobile coupon is a brilliant way for retailers to boost in-store traffic, customer engagement and loyalty, while also boosting sales. In the same way the old weekly circular brought to your door coupons use at your local grocery, or clothing store, mobile coupons make it that much easier; the user merely brings their smartphone to the store, selects the items they want to purchase, presents their coupon to the retailer to be scanned, resulting in buy-one-get-one, percentage or dollar off savings.
For the consumer, it’s nearly frictionless, and allows them to remain in control of the purchase process. For the retailer, they have delivered a relevant and “personalized” message to the consumer with a clear call to action, it helps to infuse online traffic back into the brick & mortar space, and as long as the store employees are educated on coupon redemption, this presents an ideal time for one-to-one customer engagement, and creates an experience for the consumer. In addition to those benefits, offline-to-online data visibility and the increased sales in-store are obvious gains.
The majority of retailers today utilize CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software to keep track of their newsletter customers, or to better centralize all marketing, sales and service data about their customers to keep a holistic 360 degree view of their customers and their journeys. If your organization is not using a CRM, our suggestion is to start there.
For marketers, the CRM is the glue that ties their separate campaigns together, as well as the means to communicate with the customers directly. It allows them to see what works and what doesn’t, and allows them to track in real-time the performance of one campaign over another. In relation to mobile coupons, the deployment is the same as any other newsletter, but instead of promoting products and sales, here the email is the delivery method.
Of all of the options this would be the least investment required, as generally the retailer would already have both the means of deployment and the customer-base to deliver to. (Note: if sending out coupons with emails to your customers, ensure that the email being sent is in a mobile responsive format, and that the barcode or QR code is of high enough resolution to be scanned).
Another option, which is proving very popular, is via the Retailer’s Smartphone App, as it presents a native and mobile responsive way to deliver the coupon directly. The only downside to this method is it requires the consumer to download and use your application, if they previously have not.
Another benefit to deploying coupons through the mobile app is they can be delivered through push notifications, and if your store is utilizing beacon technology, the coupon can be delivered instantly when the customer has come into proximity with your store, increasing your chances at conversion. The limitations to this of course are the facts that the user must have your application, must have their Bluetooth enabled, and allows notifications from the app.
This is similar to the delivery method of emails via the CRM, and like email marketing, requires specific permissions from the user, however in a recent Merkle Advertising Study on the State of Consumer Expectations (2015) showed that Text/SMS notifications were low on the preferred methods of communication with retailers, 37% with Millennials, 20% with Baby-boomers, and that email was the most preferred method of communication, with an 80%+ preference across the board.
If your company does wish to pursue coupon deployment via SMS, simply ensure your customers have opted in, make sure they have the option to opt out at any point, and that the coupons being delivered are clear, legible at maximum magnification, and compliant with the redemption mechanism. (Recommendation: Also include an alpha-numeric code in case the barcode/QR code will not scan).
This is an excellent way to reach the masses, however not optimal on coupon usage tracking due to users sharing & reposting.
Coupon Affiliate Sites/Applications:
Groupon, Coupon.com, Coupon Sherpa. There are numerous, in fact, uncountable sites, services and applications users can download to be able to save at their favorite retailers. While their customer reach is vast, especially in the case of Groupon, there is a cost to doing so vs. self-deployment via App/CRM.
In a recent MediaPost article, the number of Adult Mobile Coupon users in the US grew to 92.6 Million in 2015, and was estimated to reach 104 Million users in 2016. With 7 out of 10 Americans (and growing) using smartphones, and the effectiveness of the Mobile coupon, it can be a perfect addition to your overall marketing strategy, and help you drive sales, loyalty, and customer engagement.