Consumers love coupons. Coupons make customers more likely to visit a store, increase basket size, close the deal if they are wavering, generate loyalty and build brand awareness. (For all the facts, see this great research by Sucharita Mulpuru of Forrester Research and RetailMeNot.) According to a Think with Google study, 42% of consumers say they will leave a store if they forget a coupon at home.

Keep SMS Coupons Active

Smart retailers make coupons easy to store, retrieve and apply with add-to-wallet functionality. For every retailer deftly handling digital coupons, there are many fails. We have seen a long tail of response for SMS, despite the oft-repeated nugget about 90% of SMS being read within 3 minutes. Hundreds of customers will click on a coupon link weeks or even months after expiration. Rather than send them to a blank page or an expired coupon notice, send them to the current coupon, offer or promotion.

Make Coupons Legible

Tiny coupons with tinier fine print are an epic fail for customers and checkout clerks alike. The same goes for 16 digit codes, especially those that aren't broken up into smaller sets of 4 numbers. Even better is an easy-to-remember code that reinforces the offer, e.g., Save15. The gold standard is currently employed by Gap, which offers a "tap to apply" button that adds the offer to your mobile shopping cart. If you can't make codes work with your POS, a simple solution is "Show this text at checkout." It may make tracking difficult, but it makes life easier for customer and cashier alike.

Keep Coupons Top of Mind

Remind customers when coupons are about to expire with a follow-up SMS or use iOS notification functionality (which is free!). Add urgency with a countdown timer on the coupon landing page. You can also request information from the customer as they go through the add-to-wallet function. Home Depot requests ZIP code and asks the customers if they'd like to be alerted when near a store.

Don't Get Burned

Many retailers avoid coupons, citing their impact on margin and opportunities for fraud. Tiered pricing, exclusions on the landing page and single-use coupons help allay these concerns.

Despite its relatively long history, retailers have been reluctant to add SMS programs and few are pushing the envelope. It is a chicken-or-egg problem: we don't have many subscribers, so we don't put much effort into our SMS program; we don't put much effort into our SMS program, so we don't have many subscribers. I have seen some amazing results from retail SMS with impressive contributions to the bottom line. It's essentially 160 characters, once per week. Surely every retailer has something worthwhile to communicate to their customers on that schedule.

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