Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Coupons by RSS

This weekend I was up in North Conway with the family and inlaws doing our yearly tradition of getting a jump on the Christmas shopping at all the outlet malls. Without fail, I watched every cashier at every register ask "Would you like to recieve coupons via email?" I did not see anyone give out an email address. It really demonstrates the performance of the whole email marketing model -- sure, if you ask 100 people and get 2 to sign up, hey, you got 2 people you didn't have before...but you lost 98 people!

Imagine instead of these cashiers didn't ask anything, they simply flashed you a little card and said, "And if you're interested, here's some information on how you can use a computer to subscribe to our coupons. There's a web site address and directions on it, what happens is you just add that to your internet browser and then whenever we have new coupons they show up on your browser." I can only use the metric that I'm most familiar with -- myself. I would sign up for such a service. Why not? What does it cost me? Nothing.

The technology business opportunity comes in hosting coupon feeds for a bunch of companies, who otherwise are going to have no clue how to do it. They want to track this information as best they can and get an idea of who is using the coupons. At the end of the day the answer is easy -- you put some sort of identifying mark on the coupons and then you track which coupons come back into the store. But maybe you could experiment with regional feeds if you are a national chain. Or allowing users to sign up to personalize the feed to get coupons that are relevant just to them.

The real hurdle here is not technology, it is faith. When a marketer comes back with 2 email addresses, he knows for a fact that he can send out 2 emails. They may not be read, or converted, or heck, even opened. But at least it's something that can be reported upon. It's an implied "one valid email address per person". With RSS you have to rebuild all of this. What constitutes a set of eyeballs? If somebody has their reader set to ping your feed every 15 minutes, how do you determine whether the user is actually reading it? But all that will come with time. None of that is a reason not to give it a try. I find it hard to believe that getting that 2% of response on "Can I have your email address?" is really more valuable than at least attempting something a little new and different in the coupon biz.

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blogsurfer said...

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