Best Coupon Ever? Maybe

“Best coupon ever!”

That’s what the smiling woman one register over said to me a few weeks ago as I was checking out. Like her, I was at a local Bed Bath and Beyond, the big box retailer, late on a Saturday morning. It was my last stop of the day, and I only had a few purchases in mind when I walked in.

“Best coupon ever!”

That’s what the smiling woman one register over said to me a few weeks ago as I was checking out. Like her, I was at a local Bed Bath & Beyond, the big box retailer, late on a Saturday morning. It was my last stop of the day, and I only had a few purchases in mind when I walked in.

That was the plan, anyway, and you know about how the road to Hell is paved. Forty minutes later, my cart was half-filled with a new iron, some grill tools, picture frames, a Scrub Daddy, and a few other newly-essential items. Lucky for me I was holding a fistful of store coupons.

BBandB_01You know the ones I mean. Most of them are for 20% off a single item, others are for $5 off and come on a flyer. There are some showing bacon-and-eggs in a frying pan forming a smiley face – those are good for 20% off an entire purchase. They even have coupons that offer 20% off for a limited time, after which the discount drops to 10% off.

Regardless of the amount, they’re designed with one purpose in mind – to get you in that door.

And sure enough, it still works. Most of the people I saw in line waiting to get rung up had the coupons also. It’s an everyday example of why simple direct mail can still work so well at driving customers to the store, and getting them to buy something, or quite a few somethings.

BBandBEMailThe coupon has become such a staple of their marketing that it’s been adapted for their email as well. Quite a few people at my store had both the physical coupon and the digital one on their smartphone ready to go as well.

It may that people have become so conditioned to expecting their arrival, in one channel or another, that they won’t make a purchase there without them. Ron Johnson eliminated coupons at J.C. Penney and we know how well that worked out.

I was curious. I checked my Who’s Mailing What! files to see if there was any BB&B mail that didn’t include a coupon. Nope.

BBandBLike_01I did find mail from other companies that mailed coupons that looked like Bed Bath & Beyond’s. That’s flattery, I guess, or maybe it’s stealing smart.

How long this strategy can continue is a good question with no easy answers. If you give away too much margin with the discounts, how much will sales decline by scaling them back? Will customers who expect discounts keep coming in without them?

Maybe Bed Bath & Beyond should look at incorporating other ways of making the shopping experience meaningful to the customer. Think of how to be relevant in their lives, like delivering high-value content, and providing service above and beyond what other retailers do. From there, the coupons can be pulled back, but the loyalty will remain. In the meantime, I have some shopping to do this weekend.

Let’s talk about those coupons! Do they still make sense to mail? Do you use them?

Email Marketing to Acquire High Quality Facebook Fans

How much are Facebook fans worth? The answer depends on the quality of the relationship between fan and brand. There is a low entry threshold to become a fan—all it takes is a click or two. When Facebook is the only connection, financial support is unlikely. The best and most valuable Facebook fans are the ones who actively support your business or organization across channels. They are the ones that will respond to promotions and share real experiences with their friends.

How much are Facebook fans worth? The answer depends on the quality of the relationship between fan and brand. There is a low entry threshold to become a fan—all it takes is a click or two. When Facebook is the only connection, financial support is unlikely. The best and most valuable Facebook fans are the ones who actively support your business or organization across channels. They are the ones that will respond to promotions and share real experiences with their friends.

Encouraging people who subscribe to your emails to join your social networks is a best practice because it significantly improves the quality of your fan base. The process is more challenging than it used to be because Facebook eliminated the option for custom landing pages. It can still be done, but there are a few issues with the experience. The email from Belk Department Stores (the first picture in the media player at right) provides a good example.

There are several components that make this a good email for motivating people to cross channels. They are the same items that make all emails more successful at generating a response.

  • The email includes a specific call to action with a reward for connecting via Facebook.
  • There are multiple opportunities to click and connect via Facebook and other channels.
  • The primary promotion is the focus while secondary options are available.
  • The offer is time sensitive.
  • There are clickable links for shopping categories.
  • A web link is available if the email images aren’t available.
  • Unsubscribe, preferences, and privacy links offer control to the recipient.
  • Alternate text for images to encourage people to download images or visit webpage

Three days after sending this email, 16,708 new fans have joined Belk’s network and 34,465 coupons were claimed. How could this be if “liking” the brand is required to claim the coupon? Remember the issues mentioned earlier?

The ability to gate the coupon disappeared when Facebook eliminated custom landing pages. It is technically impossible to require someone to like the page before receiving the coupon. This means that the coupon is available to anyone who visits the page and explains why more coupons were claimed than fans acquired.

If an email increases fans and sales, it is successful even when the two aren’t codependent. The loss of the custom landing page requires good communication on how to access the coupon. Clicking the link in the email takes the recipient to Belk’s Facebook timeline. Scrolling down is required to see the offer. Obviously people are finding it because thousands have claimed the coupon. The unanswered question is how many more would have been claimed if the offer were more obvious?

What if the Belk Rewards tab was temporarily replaced with a 20 percent off offer so it appeared above the fold?

The functionality of the Belk coupon promotion is provided by Facebook. When someone clicks “Get Offer” an email is sent with the offer code. Whether you choose to use Facebook’s advertising products or do it yourself, here are some tips for making it successful:

  • Follow the best practices used in the example email.
  • Tell people how to claim to coupon in the email.
  • Put information about the promotion above the fold so people see it when they land on the page.
  • Include the expiration date on the Facebook post to increase the sense of urgency.
  • Test different strategies and measure everything.

Measuring the results for fan acquisition is a challenge because there is limited data available. Email metrics are much easier to acquire. If you have good benchmarks you can gather enough information to gain insight to the results from fans and Facebook activity.

There is a tendency in social media to acquire quantity over quality. When the focus is the number of fans instead of the relationship, the return is minimal. The best strategy is to encourage top customers to cross channels and join your networks. They will share your information with friends and family. This introduces your company to the people most likely to support your business.