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An electronic coupon service can work hand-in-hand with your print coupon strategies. You might want to sign up with an electronic coupon service that distributes coupons over a variety of channels. Some people like to take surveys to earn ecoupons. You can also combine your strategies and offer printable coupons for your in-store customers. Send these out regularly in your newsletter and have customers click on a link that brings them to a printable electronic coupon. They can include the bar codes that make it easy for your clerks and can help you track which promotions have the most impact. Offer different sets of ecoupons with a higher dollar discount for a higher dollar purchase. People like to save money.
Currently ecoupons are generally good for a certain online store rather than a manufacturer's coupon good at any online store. As such, they are a bit easier to track. You can try to ensure that each customer only redeems one coupon if you match up shipping and billing addresses. Or you can set up a coupon which says it's only good for the first "x" customers. There are web sites set up to trade ecoupons. If you're trying to use coupons to track spending profiles, then trading ecoupons is going to ruin your data. If, however, you're using an ecoupon to bring new customers to your store then set the discount low enough that you won't lose money if the coupon is traded online.
Electronic coupon programs can help stimulate sales. You might send emails to your best customers with a special code they can enter at checkout for a discount. You might have coupons that allow special discounts when certain quantity thresholds are reached. Or you might have a special deal where you send out ecoupons that are good for free shipping. Another ecoupon might offer a discount if two particular items are purchased at the same time. Be aware that your customers may share these coupons with others. If that bothers you, you can create one-time use coupons but that is more complex. Instead, look at it as a special sale that brings new customers to your online store. Sure, you're giving away a small bit of profit--but you're gaining new customers who are likely to return and buy something else from you later.
Some may quibble about calling that an ecoupon since they are being redeemed in a brick and mortar store rather than through an electronic coupon service. But yes, you can offer printable coupons for your customers. Restaurants, bookstores, hardware stores, and many other small businesses frequently offer a simple coupon on their web sites, with no worry about complicated electronic coupon programs, tracking, fraud, and so forth.
One difference with ecoupons is that they are generally store-coupons rather than item-coupons. As long as you're not giving away the store with each coupon, you might not care if people to share. In fact, consider adding a "share this with a friend" link so your customers can more easily share coupons with their friends and you can track which customers are bringing in the most customers. Your customers recommendation to their friends is worth more than any discount you're giving away in an ecoupon and word-of-mouth referrals cost you nothing--other than the ecoupon discount.
Many customers will be thrilled to receive an electronic coupon that gives them a discount for a future purchase. Make your survey fairly short (unless you're offering a really good coupon!) and make it easy to fill out. If you want to only collect data from existing customers, you can send an email with a URL to your survey. You might also think about asking them at the end of the checkout process if they'd like to take a short survey in exchange for money off their next purchase. The information about your web store will be fresh in their minds that way. It's always a good idea to give people an indication of how long the survey will take so they don't fear getting stuck in an hour-long process.
Just because you're now doing business online, you don't have to ignore tried and true methods of obtaining and retaining customers. Take coupons, for example. Customers love coupons that offer discounts on specific purchases. Retailers love coupouns because they are effective ad tracking devices. Electronic coupons work just as well as their printed counterparts, but without the printing costs. If you want to use electronic coupons as part of your online sales solution, all you need to do is send coupon numbers via email to your customers and allow space in your shopping cart for the customer to add the number and get the promised discount. It's effective, quick and relatively easy. Electronic coupon software can be purchased as part of an integrated online sales solution or separately to build into a custom online sales solution.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|