In-Store or Online, I Just Want to Use My Coupon!

Lesley MattAs a shopper extraordinaire, I pride myself on being able to find the best deal on most any item I choose. As part of my savings strategy, I sign up for any and every coupon program I come across. I willingly give out an email address and mobile phone number so that I can receive coupons and special offers. However, some recent shopping experiences have started to make me question the value of these loyalty programs when they’re not properly executed. Those sweet deals intended to lure in business can quickly sour the brand relationship if you don’t manage the details.

Case in point: A few weeks ago, I was visiting some of my favorite stores to stock up on some fall fashions. In preparation for my trip, I took time to organize my emails and print out my coupons – until I realized that my printer was broken. Hey, no big deal, right? I had multiple forms of coupons in emails and text messages available to me on my smartphone. However, I was rudely awakened when I got in line at each checkout.

Store #1

While waiting in line at store number one, it was brought to my attention by another patron that they had an extra 25% off coupon online. Being the deal catcher that I am, I hopped on my phone and found the coupon. I also was carefully observing that the checkout people were not, in fact, scanning people’s coupons, so I thought I was safe. When I got up to the register, I told the checkout girl about my printer predicament and showed her the coupon on my phone. To my surprise, she let me use the coupon! However, my boyfriend was not as lucky in his checkout line. He explained the same situation, and she said that he needed to have a printed paper coupon… period. Not a good experience. (Lesson: As a retailer, be sure to have some sort of all-or-nothing policy concerning how you can accept online coupons. The inconsistency sends a strong negative and makes for a bad shopping experience.)

Store #2

I love money-saving surprises while shopping, so when I entered a store that had a sign up to save 15% today by texting a keyword to a short code, I was ecstatic. I got to the register ready to make my purchase, phone in hand. However, after three unsuccessful attempts to make it through the opt-in process, I gave up. Since the checkout girl needed the unique coupon code contained in the final text message, I never saved my 15%. I also consider myself to be a tech-savvy shopper and I cannot imagine someone less experienced to the texting game being able to get to that final coupon savings.(Lesson: SMS couponing needs to be simple without an excessive opt-in process.)

Store #3

A while back, I signed up for mobile alerts and coupons from one of my favorite stores. I was ready to cash in one of the mobile coupons sent earlier that week. But when I got to the checkout, I was told that the text coupon could only be redeemed on the mobile website, and not in the store. I understand the push from retailers to try and get customers to shop on their mobile sites, but when I am standing in your store ready to buy something, it’s not a bad strategy to make sure that the coupon is honored.

Lessons Learned

Like my mom always said, if you can’t do something right, don’t do it at all. Your consumer doesn’t really care that your mobile marketing department decided to do a specific coupon promotion that the in-store marketing team didn’t prepare for. To them, it doesn’t matter. All that matters is that your store or brand did not live up to expectations. In the consumer’s mind, savings is savings – no matter what channel they use to access it. Consistency is the key. Finding the right partner for your direct digital marketing can make all the difference.

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