There is no doubt that deal commerce (also known as group buying, daily deals, social commerce, and flash commerce) has transformed the advertising and marketing industry -- particularly the way small and medium-sized businesses market their products and services. If you are a business owner, you've likely considered running an online deal due to consumer interest and the convenient pay per customer structure. But, what does it take to make a deal work, and how do you make sure it's a good marketing investment?
We've heard the horror stories: A restaurant runs a deal and is swamped by a crowd of customers, translating into a poor experience for all involved (most notably, the restaurant who ran the deal). This is one example that highlights the importance of being prepared prior to running a deal, as well as structuring a good deal for your business. In fact, it is very possible to make a daily deal a success, by following a few simple guidelines.
Select an appropriate deal
Creating a compelling deal for customers is the first step to success. Try to make your offer unique and something that can't be offered by competitors. Also, especially make sure a similar deal cannot be found on your website or Facebook page. Provide something above and beyond your standard service, so customers find the deal appealing -- but don't offer a discount that is going to break the bank.
And, if you are worried about risk, cap your maximum number of deals to be sold on an annual basis. Many deal commerce companies don't want you to do this -- but the reality is, it's your business, you're providing the discount, and you're the one left honoring each of the certificates post-sale.
Encourage a long-term connection with customers
Making a sale is important, but it is more crucial to turn deal-using customers into repeat buyers. Treat customers redeeming deals the same way you would treat a regular customer. It might be their first experience, and, yes, while they have paid a discount to visit your establishment, the opportunity is that they will a) spend additional money while there, b) come back as a repeat customer, and c) share this positively with others -- online and offline.
Also, offer a call-to-action to improve the chances of repeat business. For instance, provide customers a loyalty card, ask them to sign up for your e-newsletter, or request that they "like" your Facebook page or rate your business online.
Prepare your staff
Ensure that all employees are aware of your deal and its requirements or restrictions. (Note: Try to limit restrictions whenever possible.) Your deal should be straightforward so it is enticing to the consumer. Also, a simplified deal structure makes it easier for employees to interpret the offer.
Next, be ready to handle a larger amount of customers than usual. This is important from a service and inventory standpoint. If you are a service-based business, you might need extra staff on hand to answer phone calls. Better yet, consider running a deal with a provider that phases in customers over time. This will make the influx easier for you to handle, rather than having to deal with an overnight onslaught that frustrates you, your staff, and your customers.
Track vouchers to determine ROI
Don't forget to set up a process for voucher redemption and make sure your staff is aware of it, so you can easily calculate your deal's success. Redeeming vouchers should be a smooth process for the sake of your customers and efficiency of your business. Try to keep track of how many people come into your establishment, how much they spend, and track follow-up visits and purchases.
Even simple data points can help assess the progress of the deal and its success. Also, don't get frustrated too quickly or draw an early interpretation based on the first few customers. If hundreds of, or more, certificates are sold, you are going to have a few anomalies -- even difficulties -- in the process.
Check your online presence
With an expected increase in website traffic and customers researching your business, this is a good time to ensure your online presence is fresh. In addition to your website, take a look at online reviews about your business and your social media presence, especially Facebook and Twitter. Building, maintaining, and actively participating in your social presence online are paramount to the success of deal commerce and the success of your establishment short and long term.
Above all, select a deal provider that is willing to walk through the necessary steps to guarantee you are set for success -- from deal structure to editorial quality and how they represent your brand, to the types of customers they target and bring into your door. Don't base the decision on one or two variables, like the revenue share percentage. Yes, that's important, but it's more important to find a company that has a record of success, is committed to being your advocate, and wants to build a long-term value-based partnership with you.
Deal commerce is a fantastic advertising and marketing vehicle, and when done properly it's exceptionally powerful. But, there are some pitfalls to avoid as well. Who you select as your partner can have tremendous bearing on your success and satisfaction for you, your staff, and your customers.
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