Up until recent times, consumer-packaged goods companies considered much of their online media spends as brand-building activities. After all, most don't sell any product directly on their website. Then social media came along which gave brands a new call-to-action for their ad creative: "Like us on Facebook!" or "Follow us on Twitter!" These have led to a firestorm of new case studies and articles. Quick on their heels, deal sites like Groupon and Living Social captured advertisers' attention, especially when larger brick-and-mortar retailers started testing them out. Recently, General Mills became the first CPG to run a test on Groupon.
As a marketing vehicle, coupons have long-attracted CPG and retail companies. Certainly, they're a way to stimulate sales and fend off competition. Replicating the traditional print coupon in an online environment has not been easy for CPGs and retailers, however. The process has been wrought with problems like counterfeiting and fraud, software, and site integration complexities, and, as anyone in shopper marketing will tell you about any coupon, getting a complete handle on shopper data is either impossible or very expensive. Until now.
A New Kind of Coupon
Enter Coupon Factory, a digital couponing and promotions engine conceived specifically with the retail or CPG's own site in mind. The idea for Coupon Factory's easy solution came from common pains expressed by several retail customers of its developer, Rockfish Interactive:
In an attempt to solve this problem, Rockfish went to work and after a year of beta testing with a handful of large retailers and CPGs like White Cloud, Pepperidge Farms, and SC Johnson, the company felt confident to launch the Coupon Factory solution on a wide scale.
A Widget-Based Platform
Run through a widget that mimics an on-site ad, Coupon Factory's technology only requires the site owner to copy and paste basic code into a web page, really revolutionizing and simplifying the online printable coupon process. Instead of waiting days or weeks to have an online coupon program generated and activated on their site (or on microsites, affiliates, or on in-store kiosks), companies can now have an offer up and running in minutes. All the marketer has to do is create an account in the Coupon Factory dashboard, complete a few fields that define the coupon components, upload creative brand assets and UPC codes, choose distribution options and geographical limitations, and they're off!
Coupon Factory's widget-based platform has other valuable features such as built-in social media sharing and fraud protections such as unique identifier numbers printed on each coupon and total or by-user print limitations (since the entire coupon generation is server-side, no coupon is ever presented in its full digital format, only print-to-page).
Analytics and Other Features
One of Coupon Factory's most appealing features for marketers is its built-in real-time analytics, also housed in the tool's dashboard. It tracks offer (widget/ad) impressions, clicks, and prints. If retailers can pass back their redemption data via batch file or API access, Coupon Factory can add that information into the dashboard analytics as well. It's also currently in talks with a third-party clearinghouse that handles CPG coupon redemption data to be able to give marketers access to and view this information in the system too.
Using Coupon Factory's system is surprisingly affordable. There are no set-up fees and no monthly fees. For "enterprise" accounts, there's a $500 one-time activation fee and then a per-print charge ranging from four to nine cents depending upon volume. Coupon Factory also appeals to agencies (there is a white-labeled version) and publishers, since the entire interaction is done directly on their site.
Up next, by summer Coupon Factory wants to use a mobile app it's created to give local small businesses a means to promote coupons too. Coupon Factory does think this kind of solution would compete against Groupon-like platforms, but it believes that small businesses cannot profitably sustain the deep discounting required by deal sites and it wants to fill the void with a different kind of means to deliver customers.
Pretty appealing, huh?
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A ClickZ expert columnist since 2005, Hollis Thomases (@hollisthomases) is president and founder of Maryland-based WebAdvantage.net, an online marketing company that provides results-centric, strategic Internet marketing services, including online media planning, SEO, PPC campaign management, social media marketing, and Internet consulting. Author of Twitter Marketing: An Hour a Day and an award-winning entrepreneur, Hollis is the Maryland 2007 SBA Small Business Person of the Year. Hollis speaks extensively on online marketing, having presented for ClickZ, the American Marketing Association, SES, The Newsletter and Electronic Publishers Association, The Kelsey Group, and the Vocus Worldwide User Forum. WebAdvantage.net's client list has included Nokia USA, Nature Made Vitamins, Johns Hopkins University, ENDO Pharmaceuticals, K'NEX Construction Toys, and Visit Baltimore. The agency was recognized as a "Small Giant" by the Greater Baltimore Tech Council and was chosen as a "Best Place for Business Women to Work" by "Smart Woman Magazine."
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