Coupon promotions have been a staple for businesses of all sizes. They have proven themselves to attract customers, increase sales and help reach organizational goals. But what may come as a surprise for many is that couponing is not without its rules and regulations. A major issue that continues to plague coupon advertising (even those delivered by SMS) is coupon fraud.
What Are Mobile Coupons?
Mobile coupons are digital coupons that are received and redeemed with a mobile device. These coupons are typically redeemed either by a code directly in the text itself or, a QR/bar code on a landing page. Despite their simplistic nature, mobile coupons have been very successful and have had a massive impact for a variety of industries. According to Juniper Research, 45% of mobile users will use mobile coupons this year with mobile coupon’s global usage projected to surpass 1 billion by 2019.
Types of Coupon Fraud
Coupon fraud takes on many different forms. Of course there are instances of consumers intentionally misusing coupons, manipulating offers, and even selling coupons. But one of the most common practices of coupon fraud is posting/sharing, or redeeming, codes on the increasingly popular coupon sharing sites, as well as social media. Coupons that are intended for one person to use are being released and repurposed by many. Even store employees are getting into trouble by using previously redeemed coupons for a customer without one. Often times, people don’t even realize they are committing a crime, but coupon fraud is very serious and a punishable offense.
Reducing Coupon Fraud
How can businesses go about protecting themselves from fraud? To explain this concept, let’s look at a recent example that we had here at True Dialog…
A quick service restaurant wanted to have a targeted coupon promotion for a particular region of their restaurants. However, incorporating a 3rd party coupon into their POS system wasn’t a feasible option. This meant that coupons would have to be entered manually which would increase the chances of both human error and coupon fraud. By using True Dialog’s Coupon Campaign builder, landing pages were automatically created that allowed end-users to both receive coupons by texting in a keyword to a short code. These coupons were then redeemed at participating stores. Since these coupons were single use only and were being redeemed at the register, any chances of customers posting on coupon sharing sites were eliminated which allowed franchises to control market spend.
Here are a few best practices when it comes to managing coupon liability:
- Create Single-Use Codes – For each unique device that is offered a coupon, ensure a different redemption code will be sent and the code will become invalid as soon as it’s redeemed.
- Use Unique URLs – Similar to creating different coupon codes, ensure your platform automatically generates unique URLs that cannot be shared from one user to another (even if copied and pasted).
- Set Expiration Dates – As a best practice, coupon campaigns should always have a start and end date. To ensure old coupon codes aren’t still circulating, have them expire as soon as the campaign ends.
- Use Personalized Messaging – It’s always a good idea to personalize your SMS messaging, but it’s even more so important when presenting coupon offers.
- Avoid Distributing Printed Coupons – Unlike mobile coupons, traditional methods for clearing paper coupons cannot be done instantaneously. Also, paper coupons are more susceptible to redistributing and counterfeiting.
Customer engagement is one of the most crucial aspects for running a successful quick service restaurant (QSR). Once a business overcomes the hurdle of building a clientele, a good customer relationship management (CRM) system can help maintain repeat business and provide valuable feedback for the business owner. So, what is the best way to go about management? One of the best CRM channels for many QSRs and fast casual restaurants (FCs) is SMS.
A Text Can Pull Customers Back Into Your Store
One of the easiest ways to get customers to make a repeat purchase is by enticing them with coupons. SMS text in programs can be easily incorporated into a variety of different marketing materials persuade customers to join your mobile club. Let’s imagine that you own a local pizza place. You want to build your customer database by promoting special deals to encourage customers to make a repeat purchase. Utilizing SMS, customers can text in a unique keyword, like PIZZA, to a designated shortcode. From there, they can receive a unique coupon code that they can redeem in your store for a salad or appetizer with their next pizza purchase. This special keyword can be shared among all your marketing channels, like social media, radio, or Groupon, to make a cohesive marketing experience.
SMS Simplifies Continuous CRM
Once customer relationships are built, it is important to retain them. It is difficult for many businesses to find that sweet spot for maintaining customer relations. On one hand they don’t want to be too overbearing, but they also don’t want to be forgettable. SMS can provide a great solution to maintain profitable customer retention among QSRs. It not only provides direct communication to customers, it also simplifies the entire CRM process. An SMS coupon campaign can be used to deliver weekly or monthly specials and get customers to come back. For example, Chipotle’s mobile club texts their members about 1-2 times a month offering BOGO entrees or other free items with next purchase. Since it is only twice a month, it is not overwhelming for their customers and provides incentive for people to make keep making repeat purchases.
Coupon usage is big and is projected to get even bigger. About 96% of American shoppers are coupon users and numbers continue to climb thanks to the popularity of digital coupons (RetailMeNot). However, with such high volumes of coupons being redeemed each year, the potential for coupon fraud increases as well. Fortunately, incorporating mobile coupons into a cohesive digital marketing strategy can both increase redemption and reduce coupon fraud.
The Power of Mobile Coupons
Mobile coupons are digital coupons that are received and redeemed with a mobile device. These coupons are typically redeemed either by a code directly in the text itself or, a QR/bar code on a landing page. Despite their simplistic nature, mobile coupons have been very successful and have had a massive impact for a variety of industries. According to Juniper Research, 45% of mobile users will use mobile coupons this year with mobile coupon’s global usage projected to surpass 1 billion by 2019 .
SMS vs. Coupon Fraud
It is easy to understand how mobile coupons are beneficial to businesses but, how do they stop fraud? To explain this concept, let’s look at a recent example that we had here at 3Seventy. A quick service restaurant wanted to have a targeted coupon promotion for a particular region of their restaurants. However, incorporating a 3rd party coupon into their POS system wasn’t a feasible option. This meant that coupons would have to be entered manually which would increase the chances of both human error and coupon fraud. By using 3Seventy’s Coupon Campaign builder, landing pages were automatically created that allowed end-users to both receive coupons by texting in a keyword to a short code. These coupons were then redeemed at participating stores. Since these coupons were single use only and were being redeemed at the register, any chances of customers posting on coupon sharing sites were eliminated which allowed franchises to control market spend.
SMS and Email integration is a winning combination for your multi-channel marketing strategy. Integrating these platforms allows marketers to provide a cohesive experience that caters to the different preferences of their clients. However, what many don’t understand is how these systems work together – integrating with each other as well as CRM systems.
How SMS and Email Come Together
SMS and email cross paths in a variety different ways but, how does it work? Once implemented, an SMS API integration is a very understandable process. To talk to each other, the two systems rely on two vital technological processes: SMPP and A/B testing.
SMPP Simplifies Short Message Communications
Let’s start with short message peer-to-peer or SMPP protocol. This is a term that simply means the transfer of text message data with external messaging entities (a SMS application). This is how businesses have the ability to send text messages in bulk to thousands of clients at once. Imagine that you’re a business with a large customer database and you want to alert all of them about a special promotion. Instead of texting them one at a time from a mobile device, you can use a SMS application – the SMPP provides the capability for you to send your message to everyone at the same time.
A/B Helps Systems to “Speak” to Each Other
Once you have SMPP setup for your text messages, how do we integrate the email system? More importantly, how do we make sure that clients are receiving messages on the right medium? This is where A/B testing comes into play. Using A/B testing, or split testing, is the process of comparing two versions of a web page or application to determine which performs better. This is crucial for SMS and email integration because it’s the way that platforms define how each client receives the business’ message. The A/B test combs through your client database and, based on your clients’ selected preferences, it will send your message through the correct medium. Think of it as a digital huddle between SMS and email as they decide the best of course of action for scoring points with your clients.
SMS and Email Integration for CRM
One of the key reasons marketers have for SMS and email integration is for customer relationship management (CRM). A dedicated CRM system can easily facilitate integration in a way that is cohesive to your business’s multi-channel marketing strategy. Email and SMS simplify the CRM strategy by allowing you the most convenient and effective way to reach customers – the way they want to be reached. The added bonus of monitoring customer preferences gives the business the power of new data – for tracking behaviors and adjusting messaging to save both time and money.
Integration within multi-channel marketing is imperative for keeping up with the growing digital landscape. Email and SMS are essentially the peas and carrots of multi-channel marketing; they are a tried and true combination that can fit almost anywhere. By understanding integration at a technical level, businesses can discover how simply this integration can be adapted for multiple purposes.
Make Your CRM System More Effective
Customer relationship management systems (CRM) are a key component for many businesses today. Using a CRM is a major priority, but it can also be difficult to execute. Thankfully, there are many CRM platforms with features that make customer relationship management a less daunting task. There’s been a sharp rise in mobile device ownership in the U.S., and so SMS integration has become an important feature to include in your CRM system.
Does SMS Fit Into CRM Strategy?
CRMs provide a simple, all-in-one place for businesses to manage their contacts and conduct customer communications. Since texting is the most frequently used applicationlication on a cell phone – 97% of Americans report that they text at least once a day – SMS has become a valuable addition to a business communications strategy, especially when integrated into a CRM. Texting provides a means for keeping in touch with customers in real-time while simplifying the process of relationship management for users. Many businesses use basic SMS alerts triggered from their CRM, such as banks notifying customers about account balances or schools contacting parents about a child’s progress.
How to Integrate SMS Into Your CRM System
Not only is SMS proven to be an effective communications tool, but it’s also easy to integrate into any software platform, especially a CRM. That’s why many CRM platforms have made mobile and SMS integration a fixture in their offerings. Integrating SMS into a your CRM system can be done in a couple of ways. One method uses an application or third party extension that plugs into your CRM platform with a few steps, which is great if that is an available offering. Many of the more robust CRMs have a whole marketplace of third party plugins. A more customized approach uses an API to connect the SMS platform to your CRM. At 3Seventy, many customers use our RESTful API to integrate specific parts of their CRM system with our SMS platform. The two platforms can send and receive information back and forth such as new customer sign-ups, activity, and contact information updates.
As technology progresses, the emphasis on customer relationship management continues to grow as key component of success. Today’s fast-paced world can make it difficult to both attain and retain customers. With the power of a CRM system coupled with SMS integration, businesses can be better prepared to reach and stay connected with their contacts.
Technology is playing an increasingly large role in education around the world
Many schools and classrooms use education CRM systems for student management. These CRM (customer relationship management) systems are crucial for maintaining attendance, grades, homework, and other various classroom interactions. However, many systems operate on email-based integration for communications. Although millennials are extremely receptive to email, SMS has a higher open rate at 98% and 45% response rate (email has an average 6% response rate).
Mobilizing the Classroom Experience With SMS
For the busy college student, having a mobilized classroom experience is vital to their success. Although many education CRM systems have created mobile applications, it’s sometimes difficult to convey information in real time. Students need information as fast as possible, and in-app messaging often takes more effort than it’s worth. SMS integration into education CRM systems gives professors the tools needed to inform their students instantaneously – less work, higher response rate.
A simple way to utilize SMS with your education CRM is by setting up triggered messages via a gateway. When certain time-sensitive material is uploaded by a professor into the education CRM system, such as announcements or grades, a text message will be automatically sent out to all students on the targeted list. Although this is a commonplace feature in the email portion of education CRMs, a text-based approach will be massively efficient for both student and professor. You can even give students the choice of how they want updates from you – via email or SMS – and either way, you can include the same information and web links to the details. Students will be more likely to read the important classroom information, while professors will have a simple way to instantly reach all their students at once.
Education CRM Supports the EdTech Movement
Education technology, or EdTech, is becoming more than just the technology itself. It is becoming a wide sweeping movement focusing on changing education on multiple levels, all across the world. Integration is huge component of EdTech with many classrooms using apps, software, and even virtual reality to enhance education. When education CRM systems integrate mobile technology, professors can expand their reach and make room for more students or teach across far distances. By pushing the boundaries of the physical classroom, education can make steps towards being accessible for all.
Using an education CRM is important to many schools, colleges and universities. As of 2015, the top collegiate LMS (learning management systems), Blackboard, was on the market for over $3 billion. Not only is an education CRM the built into most schools, but it is also the norm for students to have access to their educational progress in a digital format. Making education CRM systems more mobile via SMS is a logical expansion for the fast-paced and highly dynamic realm of education.
As of November 2015, job openings in the U.S were hovering around 5.4 million. For many, recruiting is done with the help of staffing agencies which hire more than 14 million temporary and contract employees per year. With such a high volume of applicants, efficiency is key for managing the recruiting process. By integrating SMS, applicants and staffing agency employees can ease the process and make recruiting more efficient.
Timing is everything in this industry, so staying up-to-date on new opportunities is crucial. One approach used to shorten the leg work among the hiring company, staffing agency, and the applicant, is automated SMS Alerts. Using an SMS gateway, your agency can send out triggered alerts when jobs pertaining to the applicant’s skillset (setup as filters) are available.
By setting up these SMS alerts, staffing agency employees spend less time reaching out to potential applicants, and more time searching for new opportunities. Since SMS has a 99% open rate and email has just 20%, you will get faster responses to those job orders and a higher volume of potential applicants.
One 3Seventy staffing agency saw a tremendous response rate. Learn More.
FAQs Go Mobile
While job hunting, applicants have tons of questions for you – from the basic how-to questions to the job-specific ones. While in-depth questions about a job are necessary for an applicant and staffing agency to discuss, frequently asked questions can be diverted to a self-directed resource. Staffing agencies can set up a landing page for applicants that is responsive to answer general questions. And you can include a link to this page not only in emails, but also in any text message exchanges with applicants. The more ways information is made available, the more likely someone is to utilize it. In addition to saving time, you are providing an instant way to get questions answered that is most convenient for applicants.
Recruiting More Efficient Than Ever
SMS is a smart solution for staffing agencies to best help their job candidates and clients. By reducing the distance between the hiring company, staffing agency, and applicant, filling positions can be done in a more timely fashion. Time is crucial for the job filling process. The faster things move, then recruiting becomes more efficient and everyone is happier.
Sources: American Staffing Agency
Payroll and health care benefits are one of the largest aspects of operations management and human resource management for any business. For Third Party Administrators (TPA), communication with policy holders and beneficiaries should be accurate, direct, and simple. To maintain both safety and efficiency, it is important to find an alternative to call centers.
A TPA company working with operations management needed a way to effectively communicate payroll and benefits information. Typically, this information was handled by employees in a call center. However, using a call center proved to be expensive and problematic for the most frequent customer questions around balance inquiries for their FSA (Flexible Spending Accounts) and healthcare claim status.
In addition to potentially wasted time, the call centers may were a high expense for this TPA company. According to CostOwl, the average cost for a call center staff is $30 per hour. If you’re receiving 30 calls per hour, then each call costs 50 cents. That seems like a very small amount of money, but multiplied by thousands of customers makes it add up very quickly and it becomes a harsh overhead cost for customer service. Conversely, it costs 1 cent to send a SMS message, which would have only cost the TPA company 30 cents per hour (that’s 99% savings!).
Gateway SMS Campaigns / SMS API Integration
Use Case for Operations Management
The TPA company wanted to find a simpler, more efficient and cost effective way to deliver FSA balance inquiries and insurance claim status updates. To answer those frequently asked questions such as “How much is my payroll each pay period?”, a simple gateway SMS message can be sent directly to the staff member and bypass the call center altogether. This eases the call volume at the call center – allowing for the calls that truly require a person to be answered faster – while still delivering the information needed from staff members in real-time.
The 2 goals that this TPA company had were to reduce costs and improve the customer service experience.
First: Reduce costs for the TPA company by decreasing the call volume in their call centers. While call centers are a valuable resource, they can cost thousands of dollars per week for a business so being thoughtful about best uses of them is important.
Second: Create a better customer service experience for the policy or account holder. The average wait time for a call center is 56 seconds and it steadily increases. And nothing is more frustrating than waiting on hold for a simple account inquiry. SMS can improve the customer service experience and reduces potential security breeches. Information is passed securely from one technology platform to the specific person, using the SMS platform as a delivery channel, rather than having a specific person search for it and verbalize the information over the phone. Fewer people accessing the information means a lower liability for information breech.
The TPA company implemented a Gateway SMS campaign so that healthcare, benefits, and payroll information can be accessed via text message using a keyword. Operating completely from their own platform, the TPA company uses our SMS platform to deliver account balances, new payments, and other FSA information. The SMS campaigns are setup using SMS API calls, so the TPA company can completely operate using their own platforms. It’s setup once and no further work is needed to maintain it – easy and affordable. This lowers call volume for the call centers and simplifies overall customer interaction.
Using SMS for healthcare benefits and other personal account inquiries has been fruitful for the TPA company that is using 3Seventy’s platform. By leveraging the campaign creation features in the platform and through the SMS API, they can craft their own messages to best compliment their existing messaging. The number of contacts in the customer database have more than doubled over 18 months – from 3,900 in 2014 to 8,673 in 2015. The company sends over 1,000 messages each month, which is a potential cost savings of $1,000 per month. Overall, the cost effective use of SMS has reduced dependency on call centers.
Operations management greatly benefits from making these small, but impactful, changes. It is important for staff or customers to get the information they need quickly and in a secure fashion. With SMS integration to payroll and other account management, things are simplified for both the business and the beneficiary.
Mobile Coupons are Highly Effective for Driving Purchases
According to a recent article by eMarketer, “Eight in 10 US adult mobile coupons users will redeem a coupon or code via their mobile device for online or offline shopping in 2015.”
Why You Should Care
If your business is in clothing, retail, electronics, gifts, grocery, restaurant, quick service, office supplies, or any other in-store services, then mobile marketing does and will continue to have an impact on your business. Mobile coupons and other mobile tools have the potential to really support the growth of your business – and a lack of using these tools could be a serious detriment. You can use mobile coupons in a number of ways:
- text message coupons with a simple code (largest possible audience)
- mobile website coupons (slightly smaller than SMS audience)
- mobile coupons inside of a mobile app (smallest audience)
SMS mobile coupons are a no-brainer in my mind. These are the best of all worlds. You can deliver static or unique codes to your customers and prospective customers, include a URL if you prefer to use barcodes, and you can interact with customers directly throughout the process. A SMS coupon code could be a literal 5 to 10 digit code that is entered at check-out in the store or in your online store. If your point-of-sale system (POS) has very long and detailed codes, then you can include a link in the SMS message that goes to a dedicated webpage with a barcode and includes the offer details. I’ve tried it before, and I think it’s the best user experience.
The other thing I like about SMS mobile coupons is the possibility of interacting with a customer. You can send out a quick 1-question SMS dialog with multiple choice answers to figure out which coupon the customer wants the most. Then you’re delivering a highly targeted offer to your customer AND learning about his/her preferences and behaviors. If you integrate SMS into your POS and learn when he or she used the coupon, then you can even follow-up with the customer to see how things went with the purchase. BOOM! That is true customer relationship management.
Mobile Website Coupons can be a little tougher to grab attention, but like SMS mobile coupons can be highly effective. With SMS, you have a contact database so you’re pushing out a message to your customers and driving them to make a purchase. Without the SMS piece, you’ll need to find other ways to drive customers to your website / mobile website to find coupons.
You can use social media and email to drive contacts to a specific landing page on your mobile website where the coupon code is gated, after the prospect fills in contact information a dedicated code is provided. Yes, this does create a barrier to entry, but in the long-run you’ll want to know who is using coupons from your mobile website and gating the code is a great way to find that out. You can leave it open to the public, but then you’re depending upon your POS system to capture that data.
Mobile Coupons in Apps can also be a powerful tool, but the audience size is limited. If your business participates in a mobile app such as Yelp, Groupon, RetailMeNot, or ShopKick, then you are reaching a broader audience – which is great and highly useful. The limitations of mobile apps are technology, pricing and reach. While 92% of Americans own a cell phone, only 68% of those people have a smartphone (Pew Internet Research). That means that your mobile coupons are missing 32% of the population simply due to a technology barrier.
The technology barrier created by smartphone ownership also limits your audience. If you are seeking to reach an older population (over 65) or a less tech-savvy community with limited budgets, then your mobile coupons inside of an app will never be seen.
Depending upon your audience, needs, and technology, any of these tools can help your business. Consider each option and how you want to connect with your customers.
What’s an API?
An application programming interface (API) is a set of routines, protocols, and tools for building software applications. Simply put, an API is a set of requirements that govern how one software application can talk to another – allowing information to go back and forth between the systems.
For example: Yelp includes a Google Map in its app to display nearby restaurants. Several websites allow you to log-in using your Facebook or Google account. Using an API makes it possible for applications, such as your CRM system, to share data and take actions in your SMS Gateway without requiring developers to share all of the software’s code.
The API takes this code sharing concept and simply limits the outside program access to a specific set of features – usually it is requests for some specific data. Your API clearly defines how a program will interact with the rest of the software world. It saves time, resources, money, and potential legal issues.
How does it apply to my mobile marketing strategy?
Who cares? You should… because API’s are a simple and cost effective way to make mobile marketing easier for you.
Companies use the SMS API to integrate their marketing, analytics, CRM, and other business software with the SMS Platform for creating more powerful and customized solutions. When marketers integrate 3Seventy’s Platform with a CRM software such as Zoho to create a unified database. They can send SMS campaigns out to contacts from within the CRM program or log into the 3Seventy platform. Either way, the information will sync with the contacts in the CRM system.
Other companies use the SMS API to automate recurring activities and procedures. For example, a text message alert can be triggered (and sent to the contact) by entering new information into your contact management system. When the leasing office in an apartment complex enters into his contact management system that a package has arrived for John Smith, the the message is sent to the phone number association with John Smith letting him know he has a package. This can also be done in response to a subscriber action, such as submitting a registration form for an event or completing an online purchase.