Coupons are hot, and given the persistent hang of the “new frugality”, they seem likely to remain so for a good while. But getting those coupons into the hands of shoppers who will redeem them – and even more, getting them to shoppers who are likely to return to purchase again once the couponing’s done—have proven to be difficult problems.
Sara Lee’s Jimmy Dean sausage brand took note of both these obstacles in designing a coupon campaign around its Jimmy Dean D-lights breakfast sandwiches in January 2011. To solve both the distribution and targeting problems, the brand reached out to social marketing firm SocialTwist.
Basically the coupon campaign, which ran for a month, allowed online users to print off a coupon worth $1 off a 4-count pack of D-lights. However, if they chose to share the offer with three of their friends via email, Facebook Twitter or MySpace, they could score a coupon worth $2.50 off the same merchandise.
Users were led to a Jimmy Dean D-lights coupon microsite via ads on sites such as Walmart.com and AllYou.com, a homemaking tips Web site published by Time Inc. and linked to All You magazine, which is distributed in Walmart stores. Once there, they were presented with the choice of printing the lower-priced coupon or opening up a software widget that would publish the URL of the microsite to their social network account or wall, or open up their email address book in Google, Yahoo, MSN or other email platforms to let them send the URL to those friends.
SocialTwist’s Tell-a-Friend platform was then used to keep track of how many users shared the offer via social or email. Users who did so received a reward email containing the coupon for the $2.50 package rebate.
According to metrics provided by SocialTwist, in the 30 days the Jimmy Dean D-lights coupon campaign ran, more than 64% of users who came to the microsite opted to refer the coupon to their friends and get the higher rebate. Of those referrers, more than 70% of the sharing was done via email, while 27% of users shared over Facebook, and 1% each over Twitter and MySpace.
However, when it came to which channels produced the most clickthroughs from those referred friends, Facebook won out at almost 41% of shares, compared to only about 30% for email. And although it had fewer users, Twitter proved almost as effective as email in terms of driving traffic from referred friends: 29.35 of those who saw the referring tweet from someone they followed went on the click through to the microsite.
“Social couponing offers unique benefits to marketers,” Sara Lee’s manager of shopper marketing Michael McDowell said in an email. “We know that direct friend-to-friend referrals are highly credible because consumers know their friends personally, know their likes and dislikes, and naturally target the shared messages better than any demographics or psychographics.”
The month-long campaign actually reached its target distribution goal within a week, Sara lee reports. And SocialTwist metrics show that the largest proportion of the traffic to the microsite (46%) came from referrals on the Tell-a-Friend platform as opposed to display ads (ranging from clickthrough rates of 145 to 2%) or direct traffic from search (8%).
“We are a highly ROI-oriented program with a unified way of measuring all users,” SocialTwist founder Vijay Pullur says. “We can track how people are coming back and responding to your offer, what channels they used to share your offers, the clickthrough rates for each of those, so you can get a single view across all the channels.”
In this case, the stats show that the Jimmy Dean D-lights social coupon primarily reached shoppers in the southeastern states. SocialTwist was also able to show that, as one might expect, coupon referrals occurred mostly among people who lived close to one another. So the assumption could be made that social couponing outperformed in driving coupon use in specific markets.
The strategic aim for this campaign was simple household penetration, rather than encouraging users to take further actions such as signing up for email from Jimmy Dean. “We did not drive permissions or opt-ins,” McDowell says. “However, it is something we will explore going forward.”
According to McDowell, the D-lights/ SocialTwist campaign provided some key takeaways that Sara Lee is likely to incorporate into future coupon planning: “Social couponing is highly effective, Incentives are a great motivator for social referrals, and $2.50 was a very attractive offer for the target audience.”
Most attention given to social couponing recently has come in the Groupon/ LivingSocial group-buying space, where coupons “tip” if enough users purchase them in advance.
CPG companies such as Sara Lee have only begun to explore applying incentives shareable coupons in the last few months. SocialTwist has also run an online coupon campaign with Kimberly-Clark’s Huggies diaper brand that offered shoppers a choice of $1.50 off a single package of Huggies or a rebate double that amount for sharing the offer with three friends.