By Jared Keen, managing director, Couponstar
The abuse of Internet Print at Home (PAH) coupons and vouchers continues to be a barrier to their wide-spread adoption within marketing campaigns, however the fears raised by campaigns such as those undertaken by Threshers and GAP recently can easily be overcome by investment in the correct technology.
No technology-driven distribution method is without valid concerns over security, especially one where the consumer is responsible for the printing. However certain basic steps can mitigate most of these concerns.
However, first, it should be noted that Internet coupons are far less likely to be malredeemed than the average coupon. When the percent of malredeemed coupon volume is indexed against the percent of paid coupon volume for various coupon distribution methods, Internet coupons were found to have an index of 20, well below the base index of 100 (couponinfonow.com)
Many marketers are now employing sophisticated security measures as part of their viral and even non-viral online promotional campaigns to combat the associated risks such as multiple printing, photocopying, face value or barcode manipulation and poor print quality.
These risks are averted primarily through the use of a printing application where consumers are required to download a small piece of software that sends their coupons straight to their printer.
Print application software can allow marketers to maintain control over the printing process and print quality by controlling printer diagnostics. It can also prevent coupon data from being written to a consumer’s hard drive and displayed on the computer screen, making data and images impossible to capture, and thereby manipulate. It also gives marketers the ability to control the number of coupons printed per individual, device and across the entire campaign.
Another important security measure for PAH coupons are bar-coded unique identifiers that tie to data in a marketer’s database. These unique identifiers enable each coupon to be tracked and linked to a specific consumer.
Fraud can be detected through the reconciliation of redemption data feeds (through cooperation between the Coupon Clearance House and Internet coupon technology vendor) to the marketer’s print-activity database. If a duplicate coupon is detected, it can be flagged and the consumer’s machine restricted from any further printing.
More recently, Internet PAH coupons are now being printed with certain embedded patterns that allow photocopiers to detect them as currency just as if they were £20 bills and deny them from copying.
However, there is still a need to educate both the consumer and retailer to ensure it is understood that attempts to redeem coupons against the wrong product or copy coupons for multiple redemption is fraud.
As a member of the ISP Coupon Committee, Couponstar is working to improve education and further reduce incidents of both misredemption and malredemption. Critically, the company is working with retailers to ensure the coupon barcode has a direct link with the product barcode to minimise chances of fraud.
In fact, by combining this education with improved coupon security, organisations are attaining significantly more value from targeted PAH coupons than the traditional in store and paper based coupon programmes of the past.
Until now, FMCG companies have had a valid reason or two for eschewing the rapid shift of marketing spend online. But times are changing.
For the first time the use of coupons has moved from a traditional push based approach to the efficient pull based marketing. In the UK, printable coupons are expected to attain a 10% share of the 4 billion coupons redeemed annually by the end of 2008.
Without doubt, PAH coupons & vouchers can be a highly effective method for marketers of all sizes to engage with their customers and drive in-store sales if correctly harnessed.
The use of secure printable voucher technology gives marketers a tangible, quantifiable, measurable way of achieving direct consumer to brand interaction all within a safe and controlled environment.
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