What a Deal!

Attract customers with online coupons.
Magazine Contributor
3 min read

This story appears in the December 2003 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Online shoppers are looking for deals. In fact, 49 percent of those who bought products online used a coupon or a promotion code, according to DoubleClick Inc.'s Consumer E-mail Study, conducted in 2002. By creating an online coupon strategy, you can stimulate more online and offline purchases.

Start by delivering value. More than 70 percent of U.S. consumers believe coupons save them a lot of money, according to a recent survey by NCH Marketing Services. Because comparison shopping is more convenient online than offline, present exceptional deals in your online coupons to trigger higher redemption rates.

Then take advantage of your ability to narrowly target your recipients. As opposed to placing an insert in a local newspaper or industry magazine, you can find Web sites that focus on niche topics. You can advertise in their e-mail newsletters or with skyscraper ads and text links on their sites.

Suppose you sell outdoor adventure gear. Instead of promoting a "10 to 25 percent off" coupon in an outdoor magazine, you can specify "10 percent off cycling equipment" on a racing Web site, and "25 percent off fly-fishing gear" on a fishing site. This level of targeting improves your conversion rate, which lowers per-customer marketing costs.

And team up with coupon companies, because they specifically market to people who already shop online using coupons. CoolSavings, CouponMountain, DealCatcher and FatWallet are a few companies that help connect merchants to consumers through online coupons. You can focus on Internet redemption only, or select a company that can track printable coupon use at retail stores as well.

Remember to reward your own Web site visitors, and they'll thank you with repeat sales. Coupons encourage prospects to opt in to your contact database and persuade your current customers to buy more from you. The lifetime value of your customers will grow since you'll no longer pay marketing dollars to achieve that new revenue.

There are very affordable e-commerce solutions that include a coupon management feature. This lets you create coupons for your own Web site. For less than $100 per month, both 1ShoppingCart.com and Yahoo! Store offer an online coupon tool. Consider sending coupons along with your monthly newsletter or order-confirmation e-mails. You can discourage people from opting out by limiting the number of times you e-mail them coupons.

As cited by CMS Inc., a coupon management company in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, 7.6 million coupons were redeemed online last year. Look at your 2004 online marketing plan to see where and how online coupons fit. As more shoppers move to the Internet, they'll be searching for hot offers. Help them find your coupons, and then offer them continuous incentives to shop at your site again.

Speaker and freelance writer Catherine Seda owns an Internet marketing agency and is author of Search Engine Advertising.

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