With the retail market suffering under the weight of a global economic recession, online shopkeepers must take every step to attract more site visitors. Accepting competitors’ coupons in your own online store is a tactic that can help attract bargain-hunting customers, encourage loyalty, and improve traffic.
Last week, I was doing some quick shopping at the grocery store near my house. I saw some oranges that I wanted to buy, but remembered that similar oranges were being offered for a lower price at a competitive store. I asked the clerk about price matching, and he told me it was no problem. He even had a copy of the competitor’s circular at the customer service desk.
The same tactic (offering competitors’ specials) can work for your ecommerce store. Specifically, consider accepting coupon codes from your competitors to boost site traffic and conversions. If you sell against someone who offers 10-percent off on online coupon, offer similar savings using the identical coupon code. You can even reward your customers for telling you about competitive offers.
To find a competitor’s coupon codes check out its site and visit coupon consolidators like RetailMeNot.com. Collect those codes and add them to your shopping cart.
The Rise of the Online Coupon
In an earlier PeC Traffic Report I mentioned that Google searches for the term coupon had risen 51 percent in December 2008 compared with December 2007, according to Google Insights for Search.
Now more data supports the trend as Internet analysts comScore reported on February 2, 2009 that the number of unique visitors (your potential customers) looking for coupons also rose in December 2008 to 31.5 million in the United States, up 46 percent for the same month of 2007. That means that 10 million more consumers were looking for online coupons in December 2008 than had been just a year earlier. If the economy continues to lag, hoards of shoppers will spend their dollars where they can get deals and they search for both products and coupons.
Marketing With Your Own Coupons and Others
Given this couponing trend, smart ecommerce merchants will certainly begin offering online coupons. You can promote those offers via email, on coupon sites like RetailMeNot.com, and then let the deals spread via word-of-mouth.
But why not let your competitors’ promotions help your business, too? You can piggyback on their marketing efforts and create a lot of buzz and traffic for your own site by taking coupon codes from all comers.
Accepting competitors’ coupon codes has a couple of underlying presuppositions that we need to pay attention to.
First, we assume that you and your competitors are on relatively level playing fields. When you start accepting competitive coupon codes you need to make sure that you’re not out matched. If your competitors can purchase merchandise less expensively than you can, don’t try this. Or if they have a distinct advantage in overhead, they might also be too much to match.
Second, we assume that your competitors are not trying to sell themselves out of business. If your competitor is selling items below cost or eating up all of its profit by offering free shipping, don’t copy its mistakes. Just wait until it runs out of cash and take all of its traffic and business.
Third, we assume that your shopping cart can accept coupon codes and that you can develop a landing page to promote your competitive coupon policy. We also assume that your landing page will include a way for customers to submit coupon codes. For example, if you have an online store that sells lingerie, your coupon landing page should have a way for customers to submit Victoria’s Secret’s coupon code for a 15 percent discount on orders of more than $100.
Marketing Your New Coupon Policies
The key to effectively using your competitors’ coupons is to make your policy well known (i.e. marketing it).
Start with a press release. Write (or hire someone to write) a press release about your new competitive coupon. Your press release should (1) recognize the current economic conditions, (2) acknowledge that coupons help customers save money, (3) clearly state that your online store now accepts competitors’ coupons, (4) offer some terms and examples, (5) describe what happens if you don’t carry the exact product, and (6) explain that you have already included dozens of competitive coupon codes on your site, but that there is also a mechanism for your customers to submit a competitors’ coupon codes via an online form or email.
Submit your press release to PR Newswire and to relevant magazines or newspapers. If you sell hunting gear, for example, send the release to Gray’s Sporting Journal or Field & Steam. If you sell auto parts, submit your release to specialty titles such as Hot Rod or Custom Car magazines. Your release will generate a lot of valuable direct traffic and as sites pick up your release you get gobs of inbound links.
Include a banner on your home page and key category pages that promote your competitive coupon policy. The banners should all link to a coupon policy-landing page. All of those banner links will help boost your landing page’s PageRank, so that when someone searches for coupons related to your products, Google will serve up your landing page as a top result, boosting your site traffic.
Finally, consider mentioning the coupon policy in your pay-per-click (PPC) marketing, or start a new PPC campaign targeting coupon- or bargain-related keyword phrases relevant to the products you sell.