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Posts Tagged ‘Coupon’

The Brand behind the Brands We Love

In brand-building, Healthcare, innovation, retail, Shopper Marketing on January 2, 2014 at 1:01 pm

Inmar leads the way in digital promotions

by Jeff Sandgren

As we wrap up another round of holiday shopping mania, there’s a powerful force at work behind the scenes. For more than 30 years a company you may not know has been quietly helping you shop every day, and lately they’re ambitiously working to change the way you’ll shop tomorrow. In the ‘Emerald City of Retail,’ the hidden Oz who’s helping to enhance your shopping experience (while not bothering to attract your attention) is a company called Inmar, and their ‘Intelligent Commerce Networks.’

Inmar Inside

Sometimes the brands you know and trust deliver on their Brand Promises by relying on other brands. Think ‘Intel Inside®[i]’: a great advertising slogan, catchy, memorable, succinct and effective. When you buy a computer, you’ll hopefully never even have to see the Intel chip, much less actually touch it; but the little sticker on the outside telling you it’s in there could easily sway your purchase decision. Another example, wordier but similarly powerful, is BASF’s old slogan:

We don’t make a lot of the products you buy. We make a lot of the products you buy better®[ii].

In both of these cases, the B2B company wants you, a consumer, to value their brands in order to make you feel better about buying – not from them, but from their customers, the B2C companies that sell finished consumer goods to you. It’s unlikely that you ever bought a chip directly from Intel or a drum of chemicals from BASF (unless you’re a bigger geek than the editors of BrandTech News, or go by the street name “Heisenberg.”)

But while you almost certainly know who Intel is, and probably have heard of BASF – the largest chemical company in the world (even if you don’t know what the letters stand for) – you might not know who Inmar is. And you might be surprised to learn that the financial transactions they process en masse daily have an annual aggregate value of about $44 billion across their promotion, supply chain and health care networks.

If you’ve ever clipped and used a paper coupon, chances are good that it was processed by Inmar. This was their first competency, and remains a major component of the company’s business. They started handling coupons back in the early 80’s, as Carolina Coupon Clearing, a company formed by the son of a Reynolds Tobacco exec who brought in a team of former IBM associates to elevate the process from one which, at the time, relied on weighing masses of paper coupons by the pound. The solutions they built, and the refinements that have evolved since, now enable a smooth, secure processing of billions of coupons from thousands of brands in countries around the globe. They currently process coupons for a large share of US companies; and they serve a global customer base with their broader promotional solution portfolio that has grown to include not only paper coupons, but also rebates, sweepstakes and now digital coupons – more on that in a minute. This approach of harnessing technology and smart thinking to improve complex processes still steers the company.

David Mounts, Inmar CEO

David Mounts, Inmar CEO

“It all starts and ends with people,” explained Inmar CEO David Mounts, at a recent interview. “We strive to find the best minds and intellectual capital we can, then we direct our investments to make it easier for bright people to deliver great solutions to our customers … and ultimately great experiences to consumers.”

Inmar innovation

In the coupon world, paper still dominates in sheer volume, but the most impressive growth percentages there days are being posted by digitally discovered coupons. Digitally discovered coupons fall into two major groups. The already familiar Print-At-Home (PAH) coupons – those discovered online and printed with home computers – increased in use by more than 12 percent in the first half of 2013, relative to 2012. The newer kid on the coupon block is the use of completely paperless “e-wallet” coupons, where the reward is either loaded to a consumer’s loyalty card or stored on a smartphone app. While still a small segment, the use of these promotions increased by more than 230 percent in the same period.

The targeting and personalization capabilities of these digital offers provide powerful new ways for marketers to engage and entice consumers with increasingly relevant offers, and to gain insights on what consumers preferred (and what provided the best return on investment). But with this new sophistication comes the matter of new complexity. To help brands and retailers cut through the cyber-maze, Inmar has developed their Offer Management app, which lets marketers easily create offers, aggregate performance data and score the promotional effectiveness of multiple offers across all channels.

The rapid development of these solutions by Inmar has, in part, been accelerated by two recent acquisitions: the first, a company that pioneered an innovative technology to facilitate the secure distribution and redemption of digital promotions; and the second, a company with deep expertise in shopper behavioral analytics. By combining Inmar’s own knowledge and experience of couponing and promotional strategies with the added power of analytics and shopper insights, and with the real-time, on-demand delivery of offers to smartphones and tablets, Inmar’s innovations are changing the promotional game for brands and retailers – and delivering offers to consumers on products they want, with promotion types they like, across the digital platforms they individually prefer.

Inmar integration

One shopper insight that everyone knows is that shoppers in the checkout line don’t want to be delayed. Retailers are keenly aware of that, and they are particularly (and rightly) sensitive to the impact of any new technology at checkout that might slow things down. So the big hurdle that digital couponing has had to clear has been one of achieving a seamless and super-fast digital redemption when the paperless coupons are presented. No one wants to download a coupon offer to their loyalty card or unique identifier, then have to wait for an elaborate network to validate the coupon, in a setting where passing seconds feel like minutes. But the validation can’t be skipped, either, because coupon fraud can cost retailers millions. Inmar’s point of sale technology, developed by acquired company M-Dot achieves secure, accurate, real-time redemption by leveraging the speed and scalability of cloud technology. In fact, prior to Inmar’s acquisition, M-Dot was chosen as the winner of Amazon Web Services’ Startup Challenge. The solution is so scalable that it has been demonstrated to execute over a million concurrent transactions in a 10th of second.

More recently, Inmar built on that impressive back-end integration with a promising new front-end partnership. They recently announced a strategic relationship with NCR, one of the top Point Of Sale (POS) system providers for retail. The new offering will integrate Inmar’s digital coupon solution with NCR’s marketing and POS applications, providing retailers with a powerful new platform for quickly and easily planning and implementing digital coupon campaigns, offering paperless coupons to shoppers across multiple touchpoints … including mobile phones and tablets.

According to Mounts, “Retailers that ‘opt in’ will be able to introduce digital promotions into their marketing efforts with remarkable speed – and at minimal cost.”

It’s a win-win-win solution: shoppers get the added savings of digitally discovered coupons, without slowing down their checkout experience; retailers get an easy platform for implementing their digital coupon campaigns; and consumer goods manufacturers get a much more targeted delivery mechanism that can yield new insights in minutes.

Inmar involved

For all the technology focus, Inmar hasn’t lost sight of its ‘human goals’ either. Ever since opening shop in Winston-Salem, Inmar has remained true to its community, where it is one of the area’s major employers. This part of North Carolina has seen economic decline over the past decades with the erosion of three of its major industries – tobacco, textiles and furniture – the latter two primarily declining due to relocation of the industries to cheaper offshore markets. Inmar, by contrast, has stayed in the game locally, opening three different offices as headquarters for its coupon, product returns and pharmacy solutions groups. Supporting operations in the supply chain, health care, and coupon redemption networks occupy around 30 additional facilities across North America.

Exterior_8.29.12

Now the company is upping its ante by consolidating all three local offices into a beautiful new complex in downtown Winston, with almost a quarter million square feet of modern office space, renovated from an old tobacco processing plant. Located on the edge of the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter, a cornerstone of the Renaissance of Winston-Salem, the new facility clearly underscores Inmar’s corporate social responsibility and its commitment to the local jobs it has created.

When Mounts says it all starts and ends with people, he clearly means it. – JTS


[i] Registered trademark of Intel Corporation

[ii] Registered trademark of BASF SE

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New Valassis Survey Reveals Fresh Insights on Millennials’ Shopping Behaviors

In brand-building, mobile & tablets, retail, Shopper Marketing on September 13, 2013 at 3:00 pm

by Jeff Sandgren

This week Valassis released the results of its Sixth Annual RedPlum® Purse String Survey, to gain insight from today’s shoppers and learn more about their shopping behaviors – especially where and how they look for deals. The study, based on insights from more than 5,100 respondents, found something surprising about Millenials in particular: although they are more ardent digital devotees (no surprise there), they prefer good old paper coupons.

Lisa Reynolds, Valassis Vice President of Consumer Engagement

Lisa Reynolds, Valassis Vice President of Consumer Engagement

“The RedPlum Purse String Survey results are somewhat counter intuitive from what you might expect based on what we know about Millennials,” said Lisa Reynolds, Valassis Vice President of Consumer Engagement. “While they are heavy digital users, this group also embraces tried and true methods for savings, as much as any other age group … they area a true testament to the use of savings from both print and digital sources.”

Perhaps most surprisingly, 51 percent of Millenials indicated that print is their first choice for savings. Unlike other groups, they rely slightly more on in-store coupons and deals than retail circulars; but like other groups, their top four sources are newspaper, emails/coupon alerts, Internet searches and their mailbox.

We wanted to learn more, so we were fortunate enough to get some Q&A time with Lisa Reynolds. Here’s what she had to say.

BTN: Millennials are seen as being less brand loyal than other demographics.  What strategies do your most recent findings suggest for Retailers and CPGs to at least hold ‘share of wallet’ with this segment?

LR: When asked to self-identify as promotion sensitive, price conscious, brand loyal or time crunched, Millennials like all other respondents indicated they were promotion sensitive (69 percent  versus all respondents 75 percent). Given their desire to seek out savings from a variety of sources and the multitude of influencers along the path to purchase, retailers and CPGs must utilize an omni-channel approach, using not only digital but also print and in-store initiatives to reach this consumer.

BTN: You mention various vehicles for conveying offers – have you observed any correlation between offers types and conveyances?  i.e., what types of offers work best as retail circular deals versus mobile coupons?

LR: While we didn’t specifically ask a question correlating offer type, what we do know is that Millennials use their smartphones to a higher degree for savings and in a variety of ways. For example, 45 percent (compared to 24 percent all respondents) of Millennials accessed a coupon in an email on their smartphone; 38 percent downloaded a savings app (versus 21 percent of all respondents); and 36 percent compared deals on their phone (versus 20 percent overall). The RedPlum Purse String Survey also found that these promotion-sensitive Millennials are getting their savings the same way as all other consumers across age groups and income levels with 51 percent indicating newspaper is their first choice for savings.

BTN: You note several differences between Millennials and all age groups.  What trends are you observing in these gaps – are Millenials pulling away from the herd and becoming more distinctive in their behaviors over time, or are any other age groups (if so, which) becoming more like Millenials, closing those gaps?

LR: The RedPlum Purse String Survey confirmed Millennials’ penchant for all things digital. They are leading the way using more mobile coupons and using their smart phones to access a coupon in an email, a coupon code, compare deals and download a coupon to a loyalty card. These trends will continue. We also found some distinctions between the Haves (those with an income over $60,000) versus the Have-Nots (those with an income under $60,000). Haves spend about 10 percent less time looking for deals to achieve the same savings. Both use their savings for basic necessities; the Have-Nots to a higher degree (65 percent versus 52 percent for Haves). Next, the Haves use their savings on dining out while the Have-Nots put it toward paying down debt. As a result, besides groceries, the Haves are more interested in coupons and deals on dining out and entertainment.

BrandTech News View: Regardless of demographic, consumers embracing digital coupons still rely heavily on paper coupons. Wise retailers and brand marketers need to tightly integrate their omni-channel offers and messages to make sure they engage all consumers at the Zero Moment of Truth.

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