Mobile Vouchers are a hybrid customer acquisition tool somewhere between a gift card and a coupon – with one major advantage over both: they come packaged with the ability to follow up via direct mobile messaging, thereby greatly increasing repeat business and customer lifetime value.

With services like Groupon, or similar daily deal providers, a merchant pays a premium to have Groupon promote a product or service to their network (primarily via email and web visits) and then splits the proceeds. Done deal. The merchant is then left to hope that the customer experience is good enough that they remember to return.

In contrast, Mobile Vouchers address the major shortcoming of traditional couponing campaigns by providing a dual service. Retailers deliver the promotion in the form of a set value account, identified by a unique 16 digit number (similar to a virtual gift card). Depending on the type of business and associated margin, this may offer a profitable opportunity in and of itself. Mobile Vouchers then go one step further by including an additional high value asset in the form of a pre-qualified, opted-in mobile subscriber list.

While a detailed breakdown quantifying the benefits of mobile marketing is beyond the scope of this post, a one line summary of the core value proposition might go something like:

“Mobile marketing is best thought of as a parallel to email marketing, but delivered to a user’s most immediate, closely monitored, frequently opened, guaranteed-delivery inbox.”

Sounds great right? The only catch for marketers wanting to access this inbox is that users have to give them explicit permission to do so in the form of an opt-in. Unlike email lists, mobile lists cannot be bought and sold.

This is where Mobile Vouchers really shine as a multifaceted personalized engagement tool. Not only do they offer all the benefits of traditional coupons, but they also serve as an incentive for users to sign up to receive follow-up information via one of the most powerful, ubiquitous, direct communication channels available. These follow-up communications can be as simple as an alert that a voucher is set to expire in 3 days, notification of an upcoming promotion, or fully interactive campaigns allowing users to sign up for email lists, participate in polls, or check out other products they might want (based on what they chose to purchase with the voucher if you like – thanks analytics!).

The above characteristics are are just a few of the ways Mobile Vouchers benefit businesses looking for a cutting edge promotion. Other advantages include the ability to maintain brand equity by offering a set value voucher rather than a discount coupon and tracking data analyzing when a voucher was received, when it was used, what it was used on, where it was used, etc.

While mobile vouchers are a new innovation not yet widely released, it seems a foregone conclusion that they will not remain that way for long. Boasting all of the advantages of traditional coupons, combined with the benefits of gift card programs, and topped with a ubiquitous marketing channel to increase customer return rate and maximize lifetime value, one can expect to see Mobile Vouchers become more widespread in the very near future.

For those folks investigating mobile vouchers, here are three crucial best practices to keep in mind:

1) Margin Matters 

The cost of the goods you’re selling is going to determine the initial profitability of a Mobile Voucher campaign. While it would be nice to have customers receive a $1 voucher and spend $10 on average, that’s not typically going to be the case.  Make sure you understand your average customer purchase compared to the value you want to provide for your Mobile Voucher.

2) Return Business is Key

As I mentioned, many types of businesses will lose money on an initial voucher program. This is the cost of customer acquisition/marketing, whereas true value comes in the ability to maximize the lifetime value of these acquired customers. Make sure you develop your ongoing communication strategy prior to launching any flavor of a coupon campaign.  While Mobile Vouchers come packaged with both a list and channel for follow up communications, it’s still crucial that marketers determine how to provide the best possible user experience (and highest retention rate) possible.

3) Pricing Has A Comparatively Small Impact on ROI

What you pay to a vendor for each voucher isn’t nearly as important as redemption and return customer rates. A technology that offers campaign management tools and analytics to bring customers in and encourages them to return will produce a much higher ROI than a traditional “one-and-done” coupon campaign without powerful underlying technology.

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