Gone are the days of clipping coupons out of the newspaper. According to the NPD Group, more than 25 million Americans now use coupon apps, and families with children are the most active users.
With Apple’s Passbook — which stores retail coupons, boarding passes, movie tickets, loyalty cards, and the like all in one place — integrated into later-model iPhones, this trend seems poised to grow. Here are three ways that small businesses can use mobile phones to offer deals to customers and drive sales.
1. Mobile Coupons
Mobile coupons open up new possibilities for businesses, such as allowing merchants to send coupons to customers that target to their individual tastes. Mobile coupons can also point customers toward clearance racks or let them know that certain items are “buy one, get one free.” And, using GPS technology, coupons can also be sent to customers when they’re near a specific store.
Meanwhile, shoppers are turning to mobile apps like Cellfire, 8coupons, and Yowza to find deals, The New York Times reports. These services allow consumers to save coupons and vouchers to their mobile phones to redeem later with merchants and indicate which types of deals they would be most likely to use.
2. Text Messages
In lieu of a mobile app, consider using text messages to provide deals to customers. For example, if you’re a restaurant, you could offer a free dessert to anyone who texts a certain code to a designated number. If you’re a retail store, you might offer a 10 percent savings in exchange for a text, which will allow you to capture customers’ information for future offers. Of course, you should always let customers know how to opt out of future messages, if they so choose.
Be sure you let your customers know that your texts are going only to an exclusive group of patrons who have signed up, and honor this pledge. Do not provide the same deals to everyday customers as you do those on your text list. This will make your text customers feel as though they are part of an exclusive club, receiving offers only available to them.
3. Loyalty Programs
In addition to mobile coupons, consider implementing a rewards program that uses your customers’ smartphones as the conduit. No one really wants to carry around a bundle of loyalty cards in their wallet. Offer to let people store your rewards program information on their smartphones.
Belly, a “universal loyalty program,” works through the iPhone’s Passbook to let consumers store your loyalty-program information within the app. By signing up for its service, you can bring in customers you wouldn’t have otherwise, since Belly has its own group of consumers that you’ll have access to — approximately 200,000 of them, according to CNET. However, the service’s cost may be too exorbitant for smaller businesses, with fees ranging from $50 to $100 per month.