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Few things are as exciting as getting something for free.

But some things are worth paying for. Good shoes, home contractors, high speed internet, vacation experiences, and a good work wardrobe are all things most of us would agree are worth an investment.

In the business world, the items worth investing in aren’t quite so universal. To some it’s reliable software developers, to others it’s an agile CRM system.

To a business, free stuff comes with risks, especially if it’s going in front of customers. At risk is more than just a few dollars - the cost of reputation and customer perception can be enormous.

There is room for skimping in business.

However, if it has your brand on it, it’s worth an investment.member benefits

Operating the nation's largest discount network is lots of fun. We get to work with cool brands, mom and pop joints, amusement parks, and other fun stuff. We help people save money on things they actually need to buy, which is even better. 

For the end user, getting access to a discount program is a little like Christmas morning. It's fun to tear through the program and see all the places you love that are on it, plus inspiration that comes from knowing they can save on places they've never been before. Most Americans probably haven't considered picking up some Pakistani food before, but a mobile coupon for 30% off tends to open minds. (Personal recommendation: start with seekh kebabs.)

In the midst of all that excitement there's also usually a bit of a letdown when people don't see some of their favorite brands. 

"Where's Walmart? Or Whole Foods? Or (insert popular brand name here)?"

Access has spent a lot of time on this blog talking about discount programs because, well, it’s kind of our thing. We’ve talked about what a discount program can do for a business as well as what ingredients go into a program that people will use and love. They’re a tremendous way to bring in new customers and build incremental revenue.

I want to address the merchants, the businesses who provide the meat for discount programs. For the most part, these restaurants, retailers and service providers are just trying to grow their customer base while also continuing great value and service to the people already in their stores.

Merchants get calls and sales pitches all day long on marketing services: Coupon distributors, daily deals, text messaging campaigns, loyalty programs, direct mail pieces, and on and on and on. Sorting through the mess is an impossible task, but necessary if they want to keep their businesses open.

I can provide some help at discerning the differences between discount programs. After 30 years in the space we’ve seen the good, the bad and the scammy in this industry. Here are some warning signs of someone who’s simply looking to take merchants for a ride:

Over the course of my years working with merchants on coupon campaigns, I’ve found one common, recurring question: How can a coupon can help me connect with the right person at the right time?

In other words, the merchant wants to know how to connect to people who aren’t a current customer, at a time when that person is looking to make a purchase.

That isn’t just an issue with coupons, it’s really the key to overall business success, right? If we had a formula to get in front of the right person at the right time we’d all be billionaires.

As the purveyors of the nation’s largest private discount program, we’re frequently asked why so many merchants participate in our network. It’s a fair question, and there are many answers. If I had to peg it down to one reason, bringing our merchant partners incremental business (or customers they wouldn’t get on their own) is one of the primary drivers of participation and it also fuels the overall offer value.

Another key point: if you notice, when we refer to the network we often include the word “private,” which as we’ve pointed out, is one of the hallmarks of an effective discount program. Clients and prospective clients obviously can access our content any time, as well as our members. The general public, however, is kept out. (You're welcome to contact us anytime if you're interested in learning about who's in our network)

Posted by Brandon Carter on Sep 4, 2014 12:56:00 AM

This is a guest post from IT solutions firm TechnologyAdvice. You can find more tidbits of their recent research over on our loyalty stats and millennial loyalty stats collections.

According to recent research from Bridge.Over, 70 percent of Millennials believe their generation is less brand loyal than previous generations. Information firm Nielson meanwhile has found that up 78 percent of customers are not loyal to any particular brand. Given such findings, it’s more important than ever for companies to actively make an effort to court consumers and win repeat business. Loyalty marketing programs are one proven way to accomplish this. According to a recent customer loyalty survey we completed at TechnologyAdvice, people enrolled in customer loyalty programs are up to 82.4 percent more likely to shop at stores that offer similar programs. This strongly suggests that once customers are sold on the benefits of a loyalty system, they actively seek out opportunities to use it.

However, setting up a great loyalty program isn’t easy. With the rise in popularity of mobile devices, and recent trends in gamification, stores are now have to choose between implementing a traditional, card-based loyalty program (such a grocery store rewards card), or using a digital, smartphone-based system. We dove into the results of our research to help provide clarity for companies weighing their options.