Go online in search of customers

Home Editorials Go online in search of customers

by Al Wahnon

While the economy is still sluggish, a retailer must explore every marketing approach to attract consumers, every merchandising tactic to encourage sales and every strategy to stimulate business. In your quest for customers, your most prolific source of potential buyers might well emanate online. Figures revealed in a recent survey were startling. It indicated that people respond strongly to online coupons. That’s right, coupons. Women and college graduates are among the most likely consumers to say they love online coupons. Actually, women are 67% more likely than men to be online coupon lovers.

It is no surprise that men are only 27% more likely to be online coupon abstainers. And, here’s a shocker that’s somewhat counterintuitive: Wealthy consumers earning $100,000 or more per year are roughly twice as likely as overall consumers to love online coupons. However, consumers with household incomes of less than $50,000 per year are only one-fifth as likely as overall consumers to be coupon lovers. Is there a link between education and income? College-educated people are 78% more likely than non-college educated to be coupon lovers.

Then there are those who identify themselves as extraverts and imaginative and they are 47% and 25%, respectively, more likely than others to favor online coupons. In contrast, self-identified insecure, temperamental people are 33% more likely to be online coupon abstainers. Detached, careless and procrastinating people are also at least 20% more likely to eschew online coupons. Floor covering retailers should give some serious consideration to developing an online coupon program. Think about your constituency. How many college-educated women are in your neighborhood and how many are in the higher income bracket? How many are socially confident—extraverted and involved? Well, you can reel them in with online coupons.

Whether it’s the economy or quirks of nature, education or income, gender or personality, another survey showed that 80 million people saved $57.4 million using 1.6 million printable and downloadable coupons from 66,883 retailers during the first six months of 2010. Businesses are distributing online and printable coupons using Facebook, Twitter and blogs, a trend that accelerates as we approach the holiday season. If you decide to enter the coupon competition, here are three tips to ensure your success.

Be clear and simple. Online shoppers scan. They don’t read. Most are educated and solvent and socially secure. They are people in motion and use time wisely; reading coupons is hardly worth the time. Make your offer BIG and bold. Make the time frame of the offer easy to see. Specify qualifications and put the terms and conditions upfront in large type.

Go low involvement. Stay away from high tech descriptions and provisions. Don’t make customers download software to print coupons. Offer PDFs and simple ways to print or store the coupon quickly. The more time lapsed, the less likelihood of redemption. The simpler the process, the greater chance for success.

Do the backend first. Don’t even begin the coupon caper until you’ve road tested the underlying technology. Make sure the POS and other material are in order and made ready for processing and printing.

Interesting to note is that six of 10 adults, 61%, with a household income of $100,000 or more have redeemed a coupon in the past six months. Additionally, four of 10 adults in this income bracket have redeemed coupons printed from an online source in the past six months.

It would not be Panglossian to suggest that online coupons for flooring dealers who’s business is lagging could boost sales. With the family holidays ahead, people might be inclined to fix up the house; a coupon could make a difference.

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