Successful marketers know that the end game isn’t just acquiring new customers. Effort must be applied to engaging and retaining that customer. In fact, savvy marketers are well aware that it costs more to acquire a customer than it does to retain one. In an effort to retain customers retailers will often resort to sales and special offers that are virtually ongoing. Today’s consumers know that they can usually find “deals” by searching for “coupon codes” when making a purchase.
Using that type of strategy, though, can quickly erode a brand, as JCPenney famously learned. Instead, retailers need to be strategic in considering how they will use discounts and coupons to build better relationships with customers—relationships that will stand the test of time. That’s where single-use coupons can come into play.
The Power of Single-Use Coupons
Single-use coupons are coupons that can be used only once and only by a specific customer. Unlike standard coupons that can be redeemed multiple times until the coupon’s expiration date, single-use coupons convey a sense of exclusivity.
Importantly, these are coupons that can’t go viral online and can’t be accessed by anyone except the individual they were sent to. That means that marketers can clearly target consumers at specific stages along the customer journey—acquisition, engagement and retention. For example:
- An introductory offer to try your product or service (acquisition)
- A personalized offer to a regular customer who needs an incentive (engagement)
- A special offer presented to a customer who hasn’t purchased from you for a specific period of time (retention)
Using single-use coupons strategically at the acquisition, engagement and retention phases of the customer lifecycle can help you build a strong network of loyal customers who, through word-of-mouth can keep your sales funnel full.
Beyond Promo Codes
Promo codes are problematic on a number of levels. Perhaps most importantly, they’re problematic because they’re not special. Today’s savvy consumers know full well that anybody with a computer and a browser can search for and find promo codes for a wide range of retail products. If everybody can do it, the special nature of these codes fades away. The deals become commoditized.
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Single-use coupons, on the other hand, provide exclusivity, making consumers part of a “special club.” That represents value in a very powerful way to consumers; the psychology of the interaction binds them to a retailer in ways that generic promo codes simply can’t. Single-use coupons offer a number of benefits to retailers:
- The ability to make personalized offers;
- The ability to specifically target offers to niche market segments, or to consumers at specific phases of the customer lifecycle;
- Control over the distribution of special offers—your offer won’t go viral and erode the ROI of your campaign;
- Improved A/B testing and measurability to help drive better results;
- Higher redemption rates;
- Individual behavior can be tracked end-to-end to enable further personalization.
There’s power behind the perception that a consumer is getting something special that is not accessible to others. That’s exclusivity. The kind of exclusivity that drives loyalty.
Key Requirements for a Single-Use Coupon Marketing Campaign
While single-use coupon campaigns can provide maximum measurability, this requires retailers to have systems in place to ensure that the coupon can be tracked from issues through redemption and expiration. Each single-use coupon, therefore, must have a unique code; coupons must be delivered to specific individuals, or through a specific device; and coupons must be set up with consideration of the multi-channel environment that today’s consumers operate in—to retain their value single-use coupons must, by definition, be used only once.
The key to success with a single-use coupon strategy is ensuring distribution and redemption security, something that has been somewhat elusive for most retailers. Your single-use coupon campaign must ensure that:
- Consumers can use the coupon only once, whether online or in-store, providing a true omni-channel experience;
- Unique codes allow tracking down to the individual user level to allow for both targeting and deep analysis;
- The experience should be seamless and immediate;
- Coupons should expire immediately upon redemption.
While single-use coupons convey an aura of exclusivity, in truth retailers often want to generate coupons for thousands, hundreds of thousands, even millions of potential and current customers. Any system used must have the technology and capabilities to ensure a seamless experience for the consumer and a high level of accuracy and tracking capabilities for the retailer.
The bigger the world gets and the broader the online environment, the more power there is in providing an exclusive, personalized experience to consumers. That’s what effectively managed and competently delivered single-use couponing campaigns can do.