The Modern Age of Coupon Marketing

For some, the word “coupon” evokes thoughts of Sunday newspapers stuffed with promotion-laden inserts. But a new report from Experian Marketing Services shows that for today’s marketers, email, SMS, MMS, push notifications, and other digital channels are the way to go. These are today’s “coupons.” Experian’s 2013 Q4 Email Benchmark report shows that emails with some form of coupon have a 14% higher unique open rate, a 34% jump in unique clicks, a 27% increase in transaction rates, and a whopping 48% boost in revenue per email, compared to other types of promotional emails.

“Nowadays, marketers aren’t offering solely traditional coupons,” says Liz Gould Zito, Experian’s director of strategic accounts and cross-channel marketing. “Mobile is so hot right now. There’s an ability to understand the customer’s location, past transactions, propensity to buy, and create a personalized offer.” Zito says that most marketers today are able to use detailed customer data to create a campaign that’s more meaningful for each consumer.

And although few customers and marketers identify these digital discounts as coupons, Zito says that’s exactly what they are. “These days, people don’t say ‘coupon.’ It’s all digital.” Rather than traditional direct mail, promo codes, barcodes, and alphanumeric codes are playing a major role and changing the landscape of coupon marketing, Zito says. The Experian report shows, for example, a 50% year-over-year increase this past holiday season in the number of email campaigns with coupons.

Zito adds that even though the bulk of the digital discounts are offered by retailers, this strategy can prove to be effective across industries—from financial and healthcare to travel and manufacturing. “Each business has to determine what type of coupons work best for them. Every company is different,” she says. “Marketers can make those decisions based on testing, reports, industry trends, and of course their own ROI.”

What’s more, coupons can also be an effective marketing tool when customers don’t buy. “Coupons give marketers the chance to implement a reactivation campaign,” Zito says. She adds that marketers can use automated trigger emails to further remarket if a customer doesn’t take advance of a discount. Trigger emails can woo customers back and get them through the funnel to make a purchase.

There are times, however, when a digital discount is not the most effective campaign, Zito points out. She says welcome emails and abandoned cart emails are great examples of communication that do well without any sort of discount. “Abandoned cart emails have such a strong transaction rate; vendors don’t necessarily need a coupon.” But the Experian report did show that welcome emails coupled with coupons had transaction rates that were more than double those with no discounts.

In addition, the report showed that mobile is a great way to mesh the digital world with the physical space. According to the report, more than 20% of digital offers encourage customers to use their mobile devices to show an in-store coupon to sales associates. “It’s probably because of the [traditional] notion of coupons,” Zito says. But digital coupons, she adds, are measurable in terms of effectiveness of an email campaign. They also tend to be more personal and are great for multichannel promotions, she explains. Marketers who use this strategy have the opportunity to make the shopping experience more relevant and engaging for their customers.

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