Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Distributing coupons: twtQpon

While I don't seem to usually have the time to post here regularly, I just need to get back to yesterday's contribution, as I became aware of twtQpon this morning, which allows you to distribute coupons via Twitter. In order to do this, you just need a picture for your coupon, a coupon code, its expiration date, a redirect URL and some information you add (title and what your coupon is for in 140 characters). The URL should point to the site where your offer is made available (prominent example is DellOutlet). Not really suited for mobile use, as only the information about the coupons come to you, but not the coupons themselves, which most likely are not on mobile websites. If you want to regularly get informed about coupons of a specific retailer, then you might try that out, but usually I would rather think people are interested about coupons relative to a given area (e. g. close to where you live or work) and related to one's current needs or context. As an example, coupons on computers are only interesting as long as you need one, and coupons on goods from a department store would probably be considered as spam.

I somehow seem to like the main idea behind coupon distribution via Twitter, but it needs to be improved. First, by associating location data to each coupon (if related to a retailer in town), second by adding keywords describing the article(s) a coupon is related to, third by offering customers a shopping (or wish) list for the things they need or want, with an option to add an expiration date after which the item on the shopping list can be considered to be obsolete. Then, it would be possible to match customer needs and available offers (identified via coupons).

Somehow I seem not to be so sure whether Twitter is the right channel for coupons, as these may be missed if you have many followers, plus only a minority of people interested in coupons are actually using microblogging services (at least at the moment).

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Social couponing

With the increasing popularity of mobiles, turning from phones into computing devices, plus the concept of app stores, we see a digitization of services and concepts, one of them being mobile couponing. Originally, you found a coupon in a newspaper, magazine or flyer and cut it out, then presenting it at the next opportunity along with a purchase to which it was applicable. The advantage of this is that from a customer perspective it is totally technology-free, but of course seeing it in a broader perspective, being closely related to purchases, coupon lifecycles must be seen in relation to producers & retailers.

Enter internet-based coupons, being offered through a variety of portals, either referenced via codes or distributing them in PDF format. One disadvantage of paper coupons is that you need to collect them & carry them around. Thus, it would be nice to be able to digitally pick them up with your mobile device and redeem them in the point of sale. But then, you depend on your mobile being capable of handling coupons, which is a limiting factor.

Another option would be for a loyalty program to participate in couponing. Then, coupons could be associated to your own loyalty card, either by picking them up via a loyalty portal after login, or at the point of sale (for coupons that are related to a purchase or to a specific store). An option would be to choose between loyalty points and coupons, depending on your needs. You still would need a kind of digital coupon manager that handles the coupons you get in digital form, depending on their validity period and other constraints, whether they are of continued interest to you (perhaps you may want to get rid of coupons you no longer need), and whether they are already redeemed or not. This could be linked to a community of coupon users so you may be able to give coupons to others or exchange them.

This may well change the current nature of coupons, being a resource between end customers and retailers. Any further ideas related to social couponing would thus be of great interest to me.