Four Steps to Retain Coupon Customers

So you’re finally going to do it.

You, business owner, are prepared to run a coupon. It’s surely going to bring in lots of new customers and give your business the jumpstart it needs.

And you’re right to think that way: over 90% of the population uses coupons, and a deal serves as the tipping point for 64% of people sitting on the fence. Nearly three billion coupons were redeemed in 2013, so there’s a near certainty the tactic will work.

But then what?

What happens to the masses that discover your business through that coupon? Are you prepared to keep them around, and convert them into loyal customers?

How Can I Retain Coupon Customers?

This is one of the top questions I receive from Access merchant partners. People know what a coupon can do to bring a crowd; many are unsure what needs to be done to ensure those crowds aren’t full of faces who’ll never return.

It’s a common question, but there are answers. These are the four keys to keeping a coupon customer:

1: Put in your hardest work before your coupon

When a coupon customer walks in the door, it’s kind of like a first date. They’re sizing you up, looking for negatives as much as positives. 

Like a first date, you need to make sure everything is set up for a wonderful evening before it begins.

Are your bathrooms clean? Do you have sufficient product or the ability to service a sudden large capacity of customers? Are your employees fully educated on your products and prepared to put on a helpful face? Do you have a website or mobile app, or another method for people to find you?

Nothing will chase people off faster than a business that isn’t ready for prime time. You want to ensure the customer’s experience is good enough to warrant a second date.

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2: Coupon smarter

Capturing a successful coupon customer has a lot to do with the coupon that’s bringing them in. Make sure to set an offer that clearly shows value to the customer and is still profitable for you.

For instance, let’s say your average guest check is $70. An introductory offer for $20 off $40 offers great perceived value (50% off) to the customer. People know what they can get with an extra $20 in their pocket and that deal is usually aggressive enough to entice the prospective customer to pass up their favorite place and try you out.

As a business owner, you know that your staff is well trained and that the food or merchandise speaks for itself. Odds are the customer will spend $70 on the visit and your $20 discount really only equates to 28% off the guest check.

More importantly, you’ve successfully added a new customer to the mix whose lifetime value and profitability will only increase during subsequent visits.

(See my Smarter Couponing series of posts for more details about running a successful coupon campaign)

3. “Capture” Customers

One of the simplest ways to bring a coupon customer back in for a second visit is being able to communicate with them. That means having a loyalty program, text marketing club, email list…something a customer can “opt in” to that will keep your foot in the door.

Even getting a social follow (such as a Facebook like or a Twitter follow) will keep the doors open. Social follows are great because they increase your visibility within the customer’s social network, but there’s a lesser chance of the customer ever truly seeing your messages.

Your odds of earning that opt-in are much better if your employees ask. Signage helps but won’t be enough. Another good idea is to incentivize customers by offering up a freebie if they’ll sign up/follow.

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4: Offer MORE Coupons

One of the common criticisms of coupons is they’ll bring in people who will only use coupons. While this can certainly get out of hand (see this post about JC Penney’s attempt to move away from coupons), it’s actually a trait you can use to your advantage.

There are multiple types of coupons. Deep discounts are designed to bring in a crowd, but you can utilize a lesser discount to ensure repeat business.

When a coupon customer comes in, offer them another deal to come back – say, 10% off their check, a free appetizer, or $5 off a $20 purchase. If the customer had a good experience the first time around, they’ll be excited about the follow-up deal, even if it isn’t a truly “deep” discount. For most businesses, none of those offers hurt profitability, so it’s a win-win.

Here’s a great example of a local restaurant that offers multiple deals on the Access network – a “one time only” deep offer, and an unlimited lighter offer.

Relationship Building 

Running a coupon campaign can be intimidating. Like a first date, there are a lot of nerves, maybe a little self-doubting, but a lot of hope.

With some smart prep work and some smart tactics, you can turn a lot of those “first dates” into successful, ongoing relationships that are profitable for you and enjoyable for the customer. 

Want to test the waters? Access offers free visibility to millions of members across the US. No public-facing offers, no pressure. Click the banner below to get started. 

(Coupon ticket courtesy of hobvias sudoneighm on Flickr)

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Topics: Retail, customer loyalty, retaining coupon customers

Written by: Dave Bona

Dave Bona is the Vice President of Partnership Marketing at Access Development. He oversees the company's relationships with over 300,000 local and national merchants - the largest private discount network in the nation.

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