Quick Guide: Digital Coupons for Restaurants

Posted on December 17, 2015

Like other forms of print marketing, paper coupons are dying. Once the highlight of Sunday mornings, they no longer need to be cut, organized, and boxed. They are no longer paper and ink. Sure, 72% of consumers are using more coupons than they did last year. But they use digital coupons, not paper ones.

According to NPD’s study, “National Eating Trends,”, over 25 million Americans use digital coupons per month. By 2016, that number will rise to 90 million. And in 2019, mobile coupon usage will surpass 1 billion users.

Though digital coupon usage rises, only 12% of Americans have used a digital coupon at a restaurant. Why such a low percentage?

Two reasons.

For one, many restaurants have yet to create digital coupons. Either stuck in print marketing, or unaware of its digital growth, many restaurants don’t offer a digital discount. Secondly, if they have created a digital coupon, they haven’t properly marketed them. They haven’t integrated digital coupons into their overall marketing strategy.

Luckily, we’ve worked with digital coupons before. So, here is our quick guide to creating and marketing digital coupons.

1. Hire a Designer that Knows Your Brand.

First, who will design your digital coupons? You have many options here. They could be graphic designers in your area, employees of your restaurant, or third party marketers.

But whoever you choose, make sure they know your brand. All your digital coupons should articulate the nature of your brand. Colors. Logos. Fonts. The text on the coupon. All of these should reflect your restaurant’s identity.

2. Digital Coupon Necessities.  

Furthermore, no matter the identity of your brand, your digital coupons should always contain a few things.

They should have a barcode that scanners pick up from a smartphone or tablet. In addition to the barcode, include a promotional code, a set of numbers and letters that employees can type into a computer in case the scanner doesn’t work. And, if you want them to be time-sensitive, an expiration date.

In any case, you should not require customers to print out the coupon. That defeats the purpose of digital couponing.

3. Email Digital Coupons to Customers.

Once you’ve branded your coupons, you need to send them. And since your coupons are digital, they should be sent electronically.

That’s where email comes in. Embedding a digital coupon into an email increases its open rate by 14%, its unique click rate by 34%, and its revenue per email by more than 48% (when compared to other types of email marketing).

So, yes, emailing coupons is effective. What you must do, then, is create a strong email list.

To do this, you have many options.

You can create an online form–discoverable on your website and social media accounts–that requires an email address to receive the coupon. In your brick and mortar store, you could ask customers to leave their email address in exchange for digital coupons. Or, if you’re really ambitious, you could offer a discount in exchange for an email address.

4. Share Digital Coupons on Social Media.

If your restaurant has a strong online presence, then you should have no problem broadcasting your digital coupon across your social media accounts. An effective idea is to offer a double discount for those who share, reTweet, and rePin your promotions.

5. Integrate Them into your Website.

In addition to the online form mentioned above, we suggest two other things. Place a banner at the top of your website, such as “Eat More. Spend Less. Sign Up for Promotions Now.” Create a landing page that instantly offers your customers a digital coupon (or an exchange of email address for coupon).

You could, also, write blog posts about your digital coupons. These don’t have to be long. They could be a more detailed description of the promotion with a call to action at the end.

6. Use GEO Targeting.

With today’s mobile technology, you can send coupons to customers when they are near your restaurant. It’s called GEO messaging.

Studies have shown that people actually like this form of coupon delivery. 47% of mobile consumers prefer retailers to send coupons to their devices when they are in or near the store. And considering that 40% of Americans use smartphones to redeem a mobile coupon, it’s smart to send the coupon directly to their smartphones.

7. Offer Digital Coupons More Than Once.

Let’s say you’ve tried email marketing. You’ve tried GEO targeting. You’ve even tried text messaging. But no matter what you do, your digital coupons don’t seem to be used.

Well, if you’re in this boat, and few are, you shouldn’t give up. Sometimes, you must run a mobile coupon campaign twice, even three times, before you see results. Once customers know of your digital coupons, they will start looking for them and telling others.

8. Keep Your Customers.

Now that you have your customer base, keep them. Don’t bombard their emails with content unrelated to coupons. Don’t send them too many text messages. Don’t even call them. You promised them digital coupons, and that’s all you should send.


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