July 30, 2010
The online coupon aggregator 8Coupons offers a make-it-yourself mobile coupon platform that enables businesses to generate and send promotions in near real time.8Coupons is primarily a site for consumers to locate bargains from businesses in their area. The site aggregates more than 450,000 "deals, coupons, sales, happy hours, etc." from two and a half million businesses nationwide, in communities of all sizes. Visitors can search for a deal by business name or type and Zip code; and there are tabs for Restaurant, Entertainment, Beauty & Spa, Services, and Shopping that collect all the nearby deals in those categories. Registered users can also share deals they found with the 8Coupons community.
But the site has a business-oriented side as well -- in fact, the tool for businesses was created first, according to founder Landy Ung. The original idea, she told me, came from finding herself without the Val-Pak coupon she wanted to use for her dry cleaning and wondering why there wasn't a way to get coupons on her cell phone. That led to envisioning a way for a restaurant to send out a coupon in the morning for that day's lunch special, and that led to the coupon creation platform. "Local businesses should focus on nearby customers," says Ung. "We recently did a study on where people shop." The results for Manhattan -- where 8Coupons is located, but obviously not representative of most communities -- showed that consumers mostly shop within a ten-block radius of their home or workplace; for lunch, they travel up to five blocks. "In other metropolitan areas," she says, "they shop within five to ten miles of where they live or work." Creating a coupon with 8Coupon's platform is a three-step process. First, you create your business profile, with address, phone number, hours of operation, website address, business category (with subcategories, e.g. Beauty & Spa > Tattoo), logo, and description. Then you create your coupon, starting with selecting a purpose -- for example, to attract new customers, drive traffic during slow hours, or encourage customer loyalty. The site suggests sample promotions for each purpose, such as "Free dessert with any takeout order," "$8 Pedicures Monday - Fridays between 10 a.m. - 3 p.m.," or "your fifth sandwich is free" You then write your coupon: headline, details, disclaimer, expiration date, and so on. Choose whether you want it sent as a mobile coupon in addition to being available on the site, then go pay. Pricing is on a subscription basis -- $265/month, with no contract or minimum time commitment. The site can also track whether your coupons have been redeemed, because each one has a unique tracking code. "A lot of businesses use it as a loyalty or retention platform," says Ung, leveraging the ability to send mobile coupons to those customers who have opted to receive promotions from your business (via the 8Coupons site) or who have used your coupons before. As location-based services such as Yelp and Groupon become more important marketing tools, 8Coupons provides an easy way for SMBs to realize some of the benefits.
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