Voucher codes, mobile coupons are key audience, advertising engagement tools

By Mark Challinor

Media Futures Consultancy

London, United Kingdom


A recent INMA article from the CEO of Schibsted highlighted a “popcorn” scenario for news media. That is, if we were a cinema and just sold tickets to a movie we would not survive. However, if we added on extra products or services (like popcorn) we could start to monetise our future better.

One such “popcorn” which has started to generate literally millions of dollars in new revenue is the area of voucher codes and discounts.

The Telegraph’s voucher programme helps reach new potential readers.
The Telegraph’s voucher programme helps reach new potential readers.

In my days at the Telegraph newspaper in London, we realised no matter what your social status was, everyone wanted a deal. Everyone wants to pay the best price for the product or service they are buying. It’s not just about the lower classes, the mid-tier tabloids, or who want offers, because everyone does.

That’s why promotional marketing is a staple tool for engagement and revenue for most UK newspapers today irrespective of the readership. Sure, packaging and marketing reflect the brand and its positioning. And, indeed, the types of brands offered matter, but the concept of discounts and deals is appreciated by all. Hence, the Telegraph’s voucher programme, for example, is a new way to monetise new audiences with premium brands and top-quality deals.

Promotional or voucher codes allow us to market products on our e-commerce Web sites by providing customers with a discount on certain items from selected brands. The discount associated with the code takes money off individual products (or, maybe, the total order). The discount can be a percentage or a specific amount of money.

Promotional or voucher codes provide customers with an incentive to buy, which benefits both the customer and the business. Readers and customers get the goods they want for a lower price, and the e-commerce brand generates revenue.

One of the most beneficial things about voucher codes is they work well with both new and returning customers. These incentives even have a direct impact on the overall shopping experience, according to research by the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies at Claremont Graduate University in the United States.

“Getting a coupon, as hard as it is to believe, is physically shown to be more enjoyable than getting a gift,” the research reveals. The study showed people who received promotional codes had heightened levels of oxytocin, a hormone creating feelings of happiness.

A mobile coupon is an electronic ticket delivered via a mobile phone that, in the same way as above, can be exchanged for a financial discount or rebate when purchasing a product or service.

Commonly used by retailers to be used in retail stores as a part of their sales promotion efforts, they can also be used to attract customers, readers of your media, and partners you may or may not already work with (e.g. entertainment attractions like amusement parks, zoos, and museums, and services like beauty shops and spas). They are often distributed through SMS, MMS, Bluetooth, and other mobile means like app notifications.

The beauty of mobile coupons is there are different and more creative ways to send coupons. These include money-off discounts; buy one, get one free (or similar); time release (coupons with different expiration dates to encourage “action now”); self-destruct (coupons printed to overlap and consumers choose one deal or another); and personalized options (the coupon can be redeemed only at specific locations, such as a chain of stores by a specific person).

The creative canvas and rich media environment that mobile offers opens up a whole new world to us.

For our advertisers, the mobile phone is an ideal medium for communicating promotions to targeted consumers. Advertisers are increasingly launching campaigns that include mobile coupons, driving retail traffic and increasing sales. Mobile phones are always with the consumer at checkout.

For that reason, industry stats show mobile coupon redemption rates today exceed print coupon redemption — on average, 5% to 6% versus a newspaper’s 2%. For that reason, maybe this is a “popcorn” we should be offering as a new revenue service to our advertisers?

Mobile coupon users are on the rise, according to eMarketer.
Mobile coupon users are on the rise, according to eMarketer.

To learn more, I reached out to Panayotis Nikolaidis, CEO of Savings United in Hamburg. Working in 13 countries worldwide, Savings United is the leader in this space for media companies worldwide. I asked him for his thoughts on the shift to mobile for his business and the media partners he works with.

Challinor: We know mobile is the future. How will you transition your essentially desktop business to a mobile one? How easy will that be to do?

Nikolaidis: Mobile is the future, and at Savings United, it is also the present, given our strong focus on fully responsive, mobile-optimised Web sites. Our developments for mobile follow the trend where more than half of our traffic comes from mobile devices. For instance, if we focus on the UK market, over half of our sales came from mobile during Q2 and Q3 2018.

Challinor: Are clients asking for it? Do you want to lead the industry with this?

Nikolaidis: Advertisers want to be where their customers are, and today that concerns mobile. Therefore, in addition to technological developments, we are providing creative mobile solutions that enable advertisers to engage with shoppers even from offline to online. For instance, together with our media partners, we have launched offline-to-online campaigns with QR codes in print magazines, which persuade traditional readers and deal seekers to buy online with coupons through mobile.

Mobile coupons offer a great variety of possibilities for media companies to connect advertisers with shoppers wherever they are, which also incrementally drives mobile traffic at the media site. Mobile couponing is a compelling way to attract a significant new audience. Media companies have now realised that and are demanding this — something we have recognised for some time now.

Challinor: How will a mobile couponing service change the type and value of offers? Do you think the offers will be different on mobile as they are on a desktop?

Nikolaidis: The value of a coupon is not necessarily influenced based on whether it is published via desktop or mobile. Nevertheless, to stimulate mobile sales, advertisers may increase the value of mobile coupons in comparison to those offered via desktop. It depends on the advertiser’s strategy.

Regarding the type of offer, mobile coupons are also related to proximity marketing. Through SMS, in-app notifications, and mobile wallets, mobile coupons are used to drive customers to brick-and-mortar stores.

According to a study by Boston Retail Partners and Windstream Enterprise reported in eMarketer, 65% of U.S. shoppers would be more likely to buy at a retailer if they received a proximity-triggered mobile coupon. An example of in-app coupons is the case where Burger King offered a Whopper for a penny through its app to consumers within 600 feet of a McDonald’s. With creativity, this example could be extrapolated even to the news industry!

On the publisher side, from offline to online and vice versa, mobile enables them to offer a huge variety of creative coupon solutions that boost engagement with advertisers, readers, and savvy shoppers.

Challinor: Will it change the service you offer?

Nikolaidis: Mobile coupons have opened a window of opportunities to increase our offerings. For instance, while complying with GDPR, mobile coupons will enable us to offer more automated and personalised coupons in addition to blurring the boundaries between the online and offline worlds.

Challinor: Do you think the addition of mobile couponing will change the market? What timeframe would you put on this?

Nikolaidis: Mobile couponing is already changing the market, becoming dominant in the couponing industry. A study from Juniper Research found that mobile will account for nearly 80% of all coupon redemptions by 2022. If this happens, by that time, the market will have had to evolve to offer the technology and solutions to meet those demands. Voice-activated coupons, geofence-triggered mobile coupons, and personalised coupons are some examples of developments that might play key roles in this future market.

Challinor: Will mobile coupon offerings increase revenues and expand the marketplace?

Nikolaidis: As eMarketer estimates, mobile coupon users in the U.S. alone will have increased from 124.1 million in 2017 to 142.4 million by the end of 2019. Looking at these figures, we notice the huge potential of mobile coupons to boost the market and its offerings in their path of growth.

Digital coupons in general have already proved to be an effortless incremental revenue stream for media companies. Leveraging mobile coupon potential will empower them to lead a market that generates billions of dollars worldwide.

About Mark Challinor

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