Before the internet came along and shook things up, old-fashioned paper coupons were your mom's entire reason for getting the Sunday paper. She'd start clipping, save them in her special coupon case, and head to the store. It was as close to relevant and timely marketing as the good ol' days allowed. But the days of using paper coupons -- even email coupons -- to drive in-store traffic are nearly obsolete.
A new breed of coupons, special offers, and promotion tactics has arrived alongside mobile. According to eMarketer, mobile coupon users will top out at a whopping 46 million in 2013. Mobile capabilities, of course, have not only inspired a rise in this type of consumer buying behavior, but also provided marketers with a new way to think about and deliver coupons to consumers.
Brands across the board are embracing mobile as a way to deliver content to consumers, the very moment that they need it, which has revived the coupon's popularity among new audiences. On-the-go coupons cater to the things shoppers have come to value -- efficiency, utility, ease of use, and real-time relevance. They're not just discounts; they're part of an overall experience. Getting that experience right can make or break the success of the campaign.
So how do you create a successful mobile coupon campaign?
Use multiple channels to promote your offer
Indeed, mobile is a great way to deliver your coupon, but it's important to remember that the coupon itself is not enough. In order for the user to value the coupon you send, he or she must be aware of a need. An important factor in achieving mobile coupon success is using multiple channels to "touch" a single person more than once before delivering the coupon. Consumers are accessing your brand from several touch points, and every campaign you do should reflect that.
A campaign that integrates a consistent message across multiple channels -- video, print ads, social media, and radio -- is worded to make the consumer aware of their own needs. This will ultimately drive more quality engagement with your coupons and spur higher redemption rates. For example, in addition to Travelocity's television and digital promotions, sponsorships, and Facebook efforts, it does a great job syncing up all prongs of its campaign with mobile promotions.
Be specific about the discount
No matter which channel you leverage to promote your mobile coupon -- SMS, social, print, TV, email, etc. -- vague language will get you nowhere. For example, saying "text 103948 to get $5 off your next order" will produce much higher engagement rates than simply "text 103948 for a coupon." Consumers need details in order to act. Although the amount of the discount can be anything you want, there's an art to striking the right balance between too high and too low.
Omaha Steaks recently promoted mobile coupons via its print ads to boost orders. With a simple call to action in print and on radio, "Call **OMAHA now to redeem an exclusive $20 off mobile offer," the company realized a coupon conversion rate of more than 35 percent. On average, coupon users spent more than $40 more than non-coupon users.
Ensure it's timely and relevant
The beauty of mobile is its notable ability to happen in the moment. Since most people don't leave home without their phones, it's a golden opportunity for marketers to make coupons timely and appropriate for the user. For starters, it's important to make sure mobile coupons are instantly redeemable. Sending mobile promotions that have yet to be available is a big no-no. Your text or alert will likely be forgotten -- or worse deleted.
Second to this is location. From GPS to big data, marketers now have real-time location data about their audiences. Before you promote, evaluate if your mobile offering has any local relevance. For example, if you're looking to drive sales of your new iced latte with a $1 off coupon, it's likely that locations experiencing higher temperatures will go for this over those still shoveling themselves out of their driveways. In short, the technology exists to be timely and relevant with mobile offers. Take advantage of this to propel higher returns.
Ease of redemption = high returns
They say the less steps -- or clicks -- the better. And in the mobile world, fast, quick, and painless is crucial to sustaining engagement as well as redemption rates. When it comes to mobile coupons, it's highly important that the campaign provides instant gratification.
For example, if your coupon campaign is sending a text message to promote the reward, include the coupon right in the text message itself and use a UPC or promotional code at the point of sale redemption. Don't make people email themselves a coupon -- or worse, print it out. The power of mobile is that it's accessible, digital, and timely. Avoid forcing another medium into the mix.
Provide additional incentives to procure engagement
As marketers, we all know coupons can be a great incentive to momentarily spur sales, recruit new customers, and reinforce brand messaging. But your business wasn't built on couponing, and it shouldn't be the only leg a mobile coupon campaign stands on. In fact, providing additional content with your mobile campaign is a sure-fire way to not only improve engagement with the coupon itself, but also encourage a repeatable model over time.
Any additional incentive you can provide, such as exclusive content or media (music, videos, downloads, etc.) can deepen the consumer's engagement. You can also consider bringing the campaign to life with interactive voice or social integration. Connect with your customers by showcasing that your brand cares and has more to offer than just discounts. Coupling this with opt-in features will allow you to remarket to this group.
The coupon format and delivery mechanism are just the beginning. The big differentiator between mobile coupons and their paper predecessors is their timeliness and accessibility, as well as the fact that they're scalable, trackable, and conducive to audience segmentation. Follow these four steps and your customers will want to sign up to receive your timely, relevant, and easy to use offers.
On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.
"Hands scanning qr code from coupon" image via Shutterstock.