Coupons date back to the late 1800s, when Asa Candler, a Coca-Cola partner, distributed handwritten tickets for free glasses of Cola in 1887. Clearly, it worked. Within 20 years, one in nine Americans had received a free Coke, and we all know what happened after that—we became addicted, the Coca-Cola company became an international success, and couponing became a widespread business tactic.
Today we’re seeing another great leap in coupons, mobile coupons, and like their forebears they are one of the best ways to bring customers to your retail establishment.
Unfortunately, many businesses still fear mobile coupons, even though they have no reason to. But more on that later. First let’s talk about why mobile coupons are taking off.
Almost Everyone is on a Smartphone
Our parents or grandparents may have spent hours a week hovered over newspapers looking for great bargains, but the day of the coupon-clipping madman/woman is over. It’s a simple math equation, really. My time (or the dollar value I put on it) X the length of time it takes to cut coupons > the savings I get in return. But with mobile coupons, the sign gets flipped; > is now <.
So clipping coupons is out, but HALF of Americans own smartphones (46% as of February 2012, according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project), and the numbers are growing quickly. Juniper Research predicts 300 million mobile coupon users redeeming $6 billion globally during 2014. Don’t you want the opportunity to reach consumers where they are?
Do NOT Fear the Technology
Afraid of opening the door to this new technology? Having terrible visions of angry customers waiting behind someone with a mobile coupon while a sales clerk struggles to process it? There is no question that problems can arise when trying to use a barcode scanner on a smartphone, but these simple measures will solve your problems.
Use Simple Coupon Codes
Don’t bother with the barcode scanner and instead design the mobile coupon so that it includes a short code that can be entered in to the cash register.
Make Paper Coupons—Not for Customers, For You
If your accounting process requires a piece of paper to be entered into the drawer, simply turn Post-It Notes or something similar into a coupon. Write “Mobile Coupon” on them and have the clerk put one in the drawer every time a customer flashes a mobile coupon.
Upgrade Your System
It is possible to scan barcodes from smartphones, especially when you invest in a new system with a UPC reader. While the process will never by 100% foolproof, you can employ method one (Simple Coupon Codes) or method two (Paper Coupons) as a backup should the barcode scanner fail. In the long run, new machinery like this is probably worthwhile.
No matter what your approach—total acceptance or irrational fear—mobile coupons are here to stay. Now all you need is a product as addictive as Coca-Cola.