Preparing for the 2nd Busiest Shopping Season of the Year
As beach days give way to school bells, retailers are gearing-up for the second busiest shopping period of the year. Back-to-school season offers a prime opportunity for organizations to connect with customers via SMS to offer competitive sales and drum-up revenue.
If you haven’t thought about your SMS marketing strategy for back-to-school season just yet, you’re in luck. Here are a few tips to consider before you start sending your mobile coupons:
- Consider your audience: To make the most of your campaign, develop targeted campaigns for the various audiences you may be catering to. For example, your message should be tailored differently for parents vs. teenagers vs. college students.
- Interact with your audience: Try sending out a quick 1-question dialog with multiple choice answers to determine which coupon your customer wants most, or what is on the top of their back-to-school list. This enables you to deliver a highly targeted offer to your customer, as well as learn more about their preferences/behaviors.
- Develop a referral program: Consider how to best reward your loyal customers who pass along your SMS coupons to their friends. Savvy marketers are capitalizing on this practice by targeting teenagers and young adults who are most inclined to “share” their latest purchases with friends.
To learn more, check out our blog post, “Reducing Coupon Fraud with SMS”.
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.
Quick service restaurants (QSRs) are projected to grow at CAGR 3.11% in terms of revenue between 2014 to 2019 (Technavio). With the increase in revenue comes an increase of competition among individual restaurants. An effective way to stand out as a QSR is bettering digital marketing strategies with SMS. SMS is being utilized by QSRs in a variety of different ways from protecting against coupon fraud or receiving customer feedback. However, the primary function of SMS for most restaurants is increasing customer database.
Opt-In QSR Customer Database for Opportunity
Virtually every QSR has some sort of mailing list to alert customers of new specials, menu additions, and other in-store promotions. For customers, a lot of these promotions can get lost among the plethora of promotional emails and direct marketing materials.However, the most difficult hurdle to overcome is getting customers to opt-in.
Using SMS provide an easy way to attract opt-ins for a QSR customer database. With a near-perfect open rate, text messages can’t be lost in the sea of competitors’ marketing materials.By establishing an SMS campaign, QSRs can implement a cost effective way to grow and maintain their database. Not only is opting-in via text convenient for customers, it also alleviates the burden on businesses as well. SMS can be integrated in a variety of different CRMs and is extremely cost efficient since messages only cost a few cents each.
Pita Pit Use Case
Recently, 3Seventy had the opportunity to work with Pita Pit to help increase the customer database of certain franchisees. In addition to being an effective way to prevent coupon fraud, our coupon campaign allowed Pita Pit to create a unique coupon that was valid 24 hours after receipt. The success of this campaign was astronomical; the franchisees database grew from 2,000 to 9,000 members in just 6 months.
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.
You, the savvy mobile marketer, already know that mobile commerce is booming. Having a comprehensive plan for Mcommerce is crucial for staying on top in 2016. An easy solution for increasing both store traffic and overall sales is the use of mobile coupons.
Mobile coupons are effective and, according to Mobile Commerce Daily, 96% of mobile users will search for digital coupons – a 26% increase from 2014. By the end of this year, 121.3 million U.S adults will redeem a digital coupon with 83.1 million doing so via smartphones (EMarketer). The expert opinions are in and here is what is in-store for mobile coupons in 2016.
Location, Location, Location
Location based mobile marketing, or SMS geofencing, is having a big moment, and it is only going to get bigger in 2016. Location SMS marketing works in 2 parts:
First, there is the use of it in physical locations where the customers are using it – to understand their purchasing personas. Customers can allow businesses to have access to their locations. By tracking customer movement, companies can get an idea of the persona of their customer base. For example, if you are a new sporting good company and you notice that customers in your area frequent the local soccer field, you can increase your in-store traffic by offering mobile coupons on your soccer equipment.
The second use of location based SMS marketing is SMS geofencing. SMS geofencing is when customers not only allow companies to know their locations, companies also have the ability to send location-specific SMS messages. When customers are in range of your business, triggered messages will be sent out with deals and coupons to lure customers in. Locations can be as broad as a U.S region or as narrow as being in a physical store. By targeting customers in specified locations, businesses can make the most of their mobile marketing – especially when it comes to mobile coupons.
Cross Platform Integration
Multi-platform integration is a large essential in every digital marketing arsenal. Going from mobile app, to SMS notifications, to in-store or online purchasing will soon be a seamless experience. Mobile coupons will be no different. Many apps, such as Sephora’s, have an all-in-one mobile shopping experience. Not only can you shop from the app, it also tracks your beauty rewards, provides beauty tips, and (of course) sends you digital coupons for your next purchase. In 2016, this will become far more common place as more stores opt for the all-in-1 integration model.
Big Takeaways for Mobile Coupons in 2016
No need for the crystal ball, we have seen the future for retail and mobile commerce: SMS coupons are on top.
It is estimated that mobile coupon usage will exceed 1 billion users by 2019 (Juniper Research). This means that to implement mobile coupons, you must have a thoughtful mobile strategy. To summarize, the two big takeaways are:
1. Allow an option for customers to opt-in to your location tracking services to effectively target the customers you need. Digital marketing can be costly, so make sure that you are sending your mobile coupons to the right consumers in the right places.
2. Make sure that your digital integration includes mobile coupons, and that they are seamlessly integrated. Cohesiveness is key if you want your mobile coupons to increase customer traffic.
Mobile coupons are not only a great way to tie multiple digital platforms together but, they help to build customer relations. Motivate your customers by providing incentive to their #1 shopping companion: their smartphones.
Sources: Skyhook Wireless, Multichannel Merchant
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.
The spookiest time of the year has descended upon on us!
While everyone is busy carving pumpkins, planning costumes, and inhaling candy by the handful, it’s fun to utilize this time for creative marketing with a Halloween themed SMS marketing strategy. Taking the time to plan your Halloween marketing strategy allows you to show customers a silly side while differentiating from stiff competitors. If you’re stuck on what to do, here are a few ideas to help you get started…
Send a Treat to Your Mobile Database
Just because consumers are too old to fill a trick-or-treat bag doesn’t mean that they don’t want a treat of their own. Create a mobile coupon with a special offer to wish your customers a fun and safe Halloween. Saving is fun, after all.
Host a Spooky Contest
Halloween contests can go far beyond scavenger hunts and bobbing for apples. Hosting a text-to-win contest is a fun and easy way to drive customer engagement and get people excited for Halloween. You can apply the contest to the costume contests and scavenger hunts too! Invite participants to take a photo of their best costume and text it in. For a spooky scavenger hunt, consider making it a photo-hunt where folks need to take photos of spooky stuff and text it in each time.
Scary Costumes are a Success for Retail and Restaurants
If you are looking to drive customers into your brick-and-mortar location, have a special for people who show up in costume. The most notable example of a successful costume promotion is Chipotle’s recent campaign. Chipotle offers $3 burritos to customers who show up in a particular themed costume (this year it is costumes with unnecessary additions). Push out an invitation through SMS to your consumer database telling them to stop by your store in costume, and offer a free treat to the kids and a special offer to the parents.
When in Doubt, Freak Them Out
Everyone loves a good scare so send out something for a fun fright. Just make sure it isn’t too scary for your SMS database or else you might have some people opting out. If scary doesn’t fit your particular company image, opt for an alternative with scary situations. A plumbing company, for example, could send out a message like “Imagine you’re home alone in the bathroom…and you run out of toilet paper. Nooo!”
Halloween is a fun time for all and companies shouldn’t miss out on the festivities. Halloween may not be as high spending or revenue generator as Thanksgiving or Christmas, but a good Halloween SMS campaign idea can leave a good impression on your customers. Find the best way to make your company stand out.
And have a happy Halloween!
With such a plethora of options for entertainment, it is important for entertainment venues to make a strong impression with a well developed SMS marketing plan. Here at 3Seventy, we are fortunate enough to work with several clients in the entertainment industry – from bowling and sports to live music and more. In collaboration, we’ve implement smart SMS marketing strategies. Here are some tips on how to incorporate SMS marketing into your entertainment venue business.
1. Make the Most of Your Mobile Club
A great sms database is an effective way to keep customers in the loop about promotions, events, and giveaways. Invite your customers to opt-in by using an incentive, and keep them engaged by scheduling a bi-monthly text message update letting them know about fun things happening at your business and special offers.
2. Keep People Entertained Between Activities
Want to have your guests keep the fun going as they wait their next turn to putt, rock climb, or bowl? Make waiting time a little more fun with interactive text trivia and polls. Create a dialog campaign so that when customers see a question on the digital signage or tv monitors, they can text in the trivia answer and see the results on the screen in real-time.
3. Using SMS to Stay on Schedule
During peak times such as summer vacation, it is important to keep the traffic moving effectively in your entertainment venue. Set up a system where customers can receive an SMS alert with real-time updates about the next available go-kart, bowling lanes, movie showing, etc.
4. Try Out Mobile Coupons
Instead of having people fumble around with cutting out and bringing in paper coupons (and possibly losing them along the way), make the experience easy. When you provide customers the convenience of using mobile coupons via SMS, it increases the redemption rates and drives traffic faster to your venue.
5. From Text Message to Trophy
If your entertainment venue is host to a league or other competition, then consider creating a targeted SMS campaign for that competition. Participants can receive text messages each week with rankings, highlights, and upcoming events/tournaments. Send out a “Congratulations” text message to the entire SMS database too. This can increase customer satisfaction and leave a positive reflection of your venue’s brand with the competition participants.
A day to the rink, arcade, or alley should be nothing but fun for the people who come through your entertainment venue’s doors. You will roll a strike with your SMS marketing strategy when you provide an easy way for customers to engage with you business both in and outside of the times they visit.
How To Create a SMS Coupon Campaign in the 3Seventy Platform
Creating a SMS coupon campaign is pretty straight-forward inside of the platform. It is just like a basic SMS campaign, but with the additional step of your coupon code setup. The setup defined here assumes that you are not integrating SMS into your point-of-sale system (POS), and that you’ve chosen to use 3Seventy’s coding system or that you’ve uploaded your own codes.
STEP 1 – SETUP THE BASIC INFORMATION
- Along the left navigation, choose “Manage Campaigns” from the Campaigns menu.
- Once the screen refreshes, you’ll see the “Create Campaign” button along the right side of the screen. Click on Coupon from the dropdown menu
- The campaign wizard begins. Fill in the basic details of your campaign:
- Name of the Campaign. Make it something specific, memorable, and clear
- Subscription should default to the one you use across your account.
- Coupon Type: Choose from Static, Dynamic or External
- Language should default to English, but if it does not you can click inside of the box to choose it.
- Static: This delivers the same coupon code to everyone your SMS message goes out to
- Dynamic: Our system creates a unique code per phone number/contact (10-11 digit Alpha-Numeric Codes)
- External: You can upload your own list of coupon codes
STEP 2 – PERSONALIZING YOUR SMS COUPON
The next step in the campaign wizard provides you an opportunity to personalize how your SMS coupon will work and look. If you choose a Dynamic Code, then you will see…
- Add a prefix to your coupon code. This is an optional step that allows you to add a static-fixed code to the beginning of your coupon code. It works on all coupon code types.
- Max Uses asks you to set a limitation on the number of times a contact can use a code. If you leave it set to zero, then it will be an unlimited number of uses for dynamic codes.
If you choose a Static Code, then you will see…
- Static Code: This is where you type in the SMS coupon code that you would like to use. Since it is a static code and you are most likely using it to reach a broad audience, make it easy for the customer to remember.
- Max Uses asks you to set a limitation on the number of times a contact can use a code. Make sure that this is set to at least 1 when you are using static codes.
The Advanced Settings are primarily for those integrating their POS into 3Seventy’s SMS platform. However, you can make use of the data validation tool. You may either set it to Static dates or Rolling dates. Either way, the dates will be inserted into your SMS coupon message.
- Static Date Validation sets up a specific date range when your coupon is valid (i.e. 10/1/15 – 10/31/15)
- Rolling Date Validation allows you to have your coupon be valid based upon the day that the contact texted in or that you pushed out the message to him/her. For example, if you want to offer all new SMS VIP Club members a discount then you might use this option. As someone texts-in to join your SMS club, he will receive a coupon that is valid for use beginning tomorrow and good for 7 days (Offset = 1 and Valid days = 7).
STEP 3 – ADD A MESSAGE TO YOUR SMS COUPON
The last step is very important. You see some dynamic placeholders inserted into your message before you even begin writing. Those placeholders are part of the setup you did in the first two-steps.
- Write your message. Make it easy to understand, stay within character count, and include a link to your website for offer details.
- Do not touch the placeholders for the coupon code or valid dates. If you do, then the code and dates will not appear in your message.
WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT SMS COUPONS? REACH OUT TO US!
We’d love to hear from you and help you find the best solution for your needs.
The average person is bombarded with about 360 advertisements per day from TV, radio, Internet, and print media alone. In such a saturated marketing landscape, it is no wonder so many people opt for ad-blockers on their browsers or DVR shows so that they can skip the commercials. Since mobile marketing is so direct, mobile marketers have to rethink their strategies so that they can be effective without feeling like an annoyance. Here are some of our favorite tips for smart SMS marketing that won’t pester your customers.
1. Send the Right Message to the Right People
I know this is Marketing 101 but, it is still common mistake. Many mobile marketers might cast their nets a little too far, incorporating people who are in the wrong location (like the wrong country) or are not the target audience. Once you have incorporated the correct user segment, make sure that the message is clear, appropriate, and engaging. If you are sending mobile coupon code or links to digital coupons, make sure that those codes and coupons work.
2. Timing is Everything
Just like with telemarketers, no one wants to get a marketing text message late on Friday night or 6AM Sunday morning. Make sure that if your customers are subscribed to receive periodic messages from your company that the messages are going out during an appropriate time. So, when is the best time? That tends to vary based on your particular audience and product/service. However, research shows that text messaging is most effective between 10:00am and 8:00pm.
3. Don’t Be Clingy
Every company wants to have a positive and profitable relationship with their customer. However, like with romantic relationships, companies shouldn’t come off as overly attached. Try to limit the number of text messages sent to as few as possible as to not bother your customers. According to a survey conducted by Autosend, 67% of customers said they would like to receive texts from businesses at least 1-5 times a week.
By now we all understand how beneficial smart SMS marketing can be to a company however, maintaining customer opt-ins can be a delicate process. It is important to strategize effectively to limit the number of opt-outs as well as to have a successful return on your campaign. Again, like romance, a good SMS relationship can grow into something much more valuable.