We had a standing discussion at the Attractions Africa 2016 Conference to discuss the use of coupons (online discount vouchers or deals – offers by sites like Groupon) at Attractions.

We explored all of the advantages and disadvantages of coupons and the group split between those for coupons, those against and those unsure.

  1. Do the math
    Make sure you can afford the discount. Look at the overall profitability, what you can handle and how it will impact administrative overheads.
  2. Plan carefully
    Go with a service that allows you to limit and structure the deal that works best for your profits:

    • Limit the quantity.
    • Limit redemptions to low times/periods/days and the period the coupon is valid for.
    • Limit it to one per person or new customers.
    • Structure the offer to get repeat business.
    • Structure the offer to attract an audience outside of your visitors’ normal geographic/demographic reach, so not to cannibalise existing business.
    • Offer a cash equivalent deal instead of a discount (i.e. R100 off, not 10% off). This doesn’t limit what a person can purchase, doesn’t devalue the core offering (the item is still priced X) and gives you a chance to upsell.
    • Use it to maximise existing resources (fill a class / ride / vehicle/ empty seats).
  3. Read the fine print
    Always read the fine print before agreeing to do a deal! Repeat, always read the fine print before agreeing to do a deal!
  4. Make coupon fine print LARGE
    Make it easy for customers to read the coupon fine print so that there is no confusion over expiration dates, limitations, etc.
  5. Create a unique offering
    Don’t just discount regular tours/activities; create something totally different – you can then determine the costs and revenues for a specific product and not cannibalise core products. This helps to reinforce the value of the deal. You could also consider partnering with other local services to enhance the deal without increasing costs.
  6. Think of coupons as bait
    A good deal/promotion should attract customers, give them a flavour for your products and services, and then let them buy whatever they want at full price.
  7. Prepare your staff
    Prepare your staff for an increase of visitors. Train them to be ready to take advantage of the opportunity to engage with new/different customers and cross-sale (upsell) other products and services (upsell).
  8. Keep track of redemptions
    Who is using the coupon? When are they using it? Why are they using? Are they first-time visitors? How long do they spend at your Attraction? Do they buy anything else whilst at your Attraction? This is valuable information to track the success of a coupon.
  9. Find ways to maximise the return on your investment and reduce the impact on your administration
    Revenue from deal seekers is often much less, so finding ways to reduce administrative (human/staff) costs can make or break the success of a coupon. Force coupon users to do online bookings. This will reduce administration costs and allow you to control how the deal is redeemed and what restrictions are applied.

Coupons are not for everyone – it is up to you as Attractions Managers to make the right choice for your establishment. Coupons are a good option for mass exposure but not for massive boost in profits. See coupons as a marketing exercise. Before committing, do the math. Unless there is a long-term benefit or enough other profitable business to make up the ‘costs of couponing’, sacrificing the bottom line for the top line is the start of the downward spiral to the end!

See the notes from the Attractions Africa 2016 To Coupon or Not to Coupon standing discussion here.