Reach into their (mobile) wallets
A digital coupon system puts local advertisers in customers’ smartphones
The owner of a media company based in West Virginia is testing his own digital coupon system that is available to local businesses without the need of an app.
"The idea behind it is, well, everybody carries their phones around with them," said Brian Jarvis, president of NCWV Media in Clarksburg, W.Va., and a new board member of SNPA.
Also, Jarvis notes, no one turns off their text message function. His system inserts coupons into the mobile wallets on smartphones and encourages consumers to text businesses to obtain coupons, discounts or a free gift.
NCWV Media consists of 14 print publications and about the same number of digital properties in West Virginia, parts of Maryland and southern Pennsylvania. The mobile wallet and digital coupon system is his idea.
"I haven't found anyone else trying it. My whole reason why I did it was I was trying to find a better way to show ROI to our print advertisers," Jarvis said.
One major difference from large-scale retail digital coupons is that a specific app, such as a national fast-food franchise, isn't needed on a consumer's smartphone. Instead, a code number can appear in a local print ad, on a website or even on a window sign offering a specific discount, coupon or gift.
If the customer texts the code to the number listed, back comes a coupon or gift certificate that goes into the individual's mobile wallet. Depending on the terms of the deal, it remains in the wallet until the expiration date or until it is used once or many times. The parameters are specified by the advertiser.
Clients can also reach their entire customer databases through the system without a media advertisement, if they already have a database built and want to target existing customers.
"Once we've got it in their wallet, we now can do two other things. We can continue to send them text messages to encourage them to use their coupon in their wallet," Jarvis said. "But also, [if] they get within about two football fields of the location, whether it's walking, driving, whatever it may be, it will send them a push notification again encouraging them to use their wallet."
Geofencing, reaching out to smartphones as its GPS passes through specified boundaries, so far seems especially effective with strip malls and restaurants, Jarvis said. The owners of one strip mall bought ads for every occupant to boost overall sales for the group in an effort to retain occupancy.
Jarvis said he needed about a month to develop his idea and implemented it just over two weeks ago, so revenue numbers are not yet available. Rates are based on the number of ads purchased per month, though some large regular advertisers have been given the system to try out for free. So far, about 50 clients have bought in.
"It is selling very well because the key is that I'm able to package it as a way to track return on investment," Jarvis said.
If the system proves successful, Jarvis hopes to market it to other newspapers or media companies nationally.
"A lot of businesses already have something similar to this. I've just made it extremely simple."
For more information, reach Brian Jarvis at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jane Nicholes, a regular contributor to the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association's eBulletin, is a freelance writer and editor based in coastal Alabama. She is an award-winning veteran of more than 30 years in the newspaper business. Reach her at email@example.com.