I had lunch yesterday with an old colleague who moved to Toronto a couple of years ago to work with Transcontinental Media. We had an interesting conversation about couponing, which is apparently a big thing in North America – much bigger than it is here in the UK. My ex-colleague was concerned that, as a consumer publisher, Transcontinental’s use as a channel for distributing coupons was falling.
He blamed this on two things: firstly, most of the bigger multiple grocers/retailers have increasingly large loyalty schemes which are replacing magazines as distribution channels with which brands can reach consumers with coupons. Replacing rather than working alongside because the data-driven loyalty schemes can be much, much more targeted because they hold much, much more data. And secondly because these same grocers are using mobile to traget their consumers with coupons: print is once again losing out to digital.
I was intrigued by all of this. I have a Tesco loyalty card, and they send me a DM piece through the post every now and again. It’s packed full of vouchers that either go staright in the bin or sit in a pile of other post for a couple of months before going in the bin. I pop into Tesco on the way home from work on a whim if I need something for dinner that night. I don’t plan to pop into Tesco that morning, or even that lunchtime, it’s usually as I leave the office, or even as I walk past the store. I don’t carry the vouchers with me just in case I do that.
More to the point, the idea of standing at the checkout faffing with bits of paper whilst the huge queue of people behind me builds and builds and gets more and more frustrated and annoyed doesn’t appeal either. When I see other people doing that I (totally unreasonably) want to scream at them that they’re eating into my tiny and extremely valuable leisure time just so they can get a penny off a bunch of bananas.
So, given all of that, would couponing, mobile style, work on me? Well the answer to that is…maybe. If I could tell Tesco that I’m interested in, say, offers on wine and pizza. If Tesco could detect, via geo-location, when I was in their store and either mail or SMS me an offer for wine or pizza. If I could present that offer, on my phone, at checkout. Then, I MIGHT think about using couponing.
So what does all of this mean for my friend at Transcontinental? Well, either find a new revenue stream, or think about getting your data up to scratch. And all the time keep a very close eye on the development of the slate market and the way people use slates. If they, as many people expect, start to replce magazines, then maybe they can also replace magazines as a distributor of coupons.
This post originally appeared on my company blog, here.