Coupons & Customer Loyalty

April 13, 2011: Coupons & Customer Loyalty

As small business owners, we play dual roles. Many of us sell “stuff” for a living. But all of us business owners buy stuff. And the trendiest way to buy stuff these days is with coupons. Couponing is so hot that TV network TLC just launched “Extreme Couponing,” a show devoted to saving while shopping.

First let’s talk about your shopping habits. Even though we’re talking about business purchases, you should still use coupons and take advantage of store promotions whenever possible. According to a poll by ShopSmart magazine, coupon usage is widespread among women with 91% using coupons to get a better deal, including 51% who print coupons from the Internet, 29% who use competitor coupons and 11% who use coupons directly off their cell phone.

Consumer savings expert Andrea Woroch generally advises consumers how to save money using coupons, but some of her advice is relevant for business purchases as well. One of Woroch’s best tips is to take advantage of loyalty programs and membership rewards offered by many retailers. As Woroch says, “These programs are usually free and have many savings perks, like rewards points, cash back programs and double points” for money spent. Big office supply chains like Staples and Office Depot offer these programs, and they’re well worth joining.

Woroch also advises you to shop judiciously. She says, “Only shop for items you actually need. Remember, a bargain is only a bargain if you can actually use the purchase.”

But the biggest takeaway for small business owners is that your customers-whether they’re individuals or businesses–are now shopping, coupons in hand, with big expectations. They want you to offer coupons and special promotions. Even though the recession is (hopefully) a thing of the past, they’re still looking for value and good deals.

Take Woroch’s advice and make it easy for customers to use coupons in your store or on your website. Start a shopper loyalty or membership rewards program. The competition for dollars is heating up, and you need to pull out all the stops to attract and retain customers.

CRMTrends has some useful information about how to set up a customer loyalty program. Check it out.