In one of my recent conversations with our merchants, Chuck Bruce of Bruce's Sew Handy in Coarsegold, CA, he had one of the most eye-popping figures I've heard recently.
"My absolutely best coupon redeeming experience I've ever had was through MerchantCircle. I've advertised coupons in the local newspaper offering free gifts with no purchase necessary and got nothing. With one MerchantCircle coupon I had 43 coupons redeemed!"
I have to warn you first off, that that number is not common. Coupon sites have been notoriously hard pressed to gain much traction - Zixxo, Judy's Book - even well-funded and well-publicized sites like Edgeio have gone out of business. While the major reasons lay in consumer apprehension, a lot of it has to do with merchant resourcefulness.
There are a number of great lessons we can learn from Chuck. He started off by collecting email addresses of all his regular and new clients - which is very important when taking advantage of MerchantCircle's free tools. He uploaded them onto his MerchantCircle account and started sending his customers newsletters and coupon deals.
The coupon that generated 43 redemptions was a 'buy one, get one free' which he broke even on. What he did gain from the coupons was customer loyalty and a number of 'extra' added-on purchases. Since opening in April of 2004, Chuck has seen a 30% increase in business every year. So, while the analysts predict gloom, there are many proactive ways a merchant can continue to attract new customers - starting with themselves.