Woman shopping for electronics in the store

Starting the Year on a High (Tech) Note

Driving telecom shoppers back to retail in the first half

Consumers have been trained for years to expect deals in the back half, but with 2021 in the rearview mirror, there are some new opportunities that may provide them with additional disposable income as they begin the new year.

For example, the Emergency Broadband Benefit, an incentive specific to the telecom industry that subsidizes internet use for low-income consumers, is still in effect with no end in sight. Then there are the mega pay dates, which occur when most national paychecks plus assistance benefits pay out on the same week (April 1, April 29 and June 3). Add to this the fight for share among top industry players and the result is more opportunities for consumers to receive, spend and save money. Telecom marketers can capitalize on this if they identify and influence shoppers who have a little extra cash and a lot more incentive.

Of course, there are still headwinds. Almost one quarter of U.S. households have now cut the cord in favor of streaming: By 2024 most will no longer use Pay TV services, says eMarketer. Heated competition for streaming content and better networks has prompted more mergers and potentially more consumer confusion. Consumers are also getting used to greater levels of personalization, despite a concurrent expectation of more privacy, reports PWC.

But these choices in offerings and media messaging just mean that brands must fight harder to be heard.

The importance of driving consumers back to the retail store

The adoption of digital experiences — from shopping to entertainment and eating out — increased during the pandemic, but the retail store still holds significant advantages, and if you can get consumers to visit a physical location, recent studies indicate that it’s worth it.

Why? Because consumers are starved for in-person experiences. Omnicon’s “The Future of Commerce” reports that 49% of consumers globally prefer the experience of in-store shopping, overshadowing the 38% of consumers who state that they like shopping online, where they can find exactly what they are looking for. Another plus to in-store shopping is purchase size: A survey from from First Insight reported that 71% of all shoppers spent $50 or more when shopping in-store, compared to only 54% of shoppers who went online.

And the closer to home that you can make those retail experiences, the better. Our 2021 Consumer Intel Report notes that 61% percent of consumers prefer to shop at local, neighborhood stores. This desire for an in-store experience creates a new opportunity for telecom companies to invite consumers into retail locations for reasons beyond paying a bill or getting something repaired.

To win the day, telecoms need to increase dwell time by giving consumers a reason to stay a while.

How to influence today’s telecom shopper

As telecom shoppers evolve in their preferences for advertising personalization, privacy and choice, they become more of a challenge to convert. But for those who are equipped with advertising solutions that do not rely on cookies, identifying and engaging the target audience is still manageable.

But the challenge of driving consumers to a brick-and-mortar store versus just continuing to click away on a laptop or mobile remains.

The right combination of offline and online communications is likely the best answer. The right mix may vary by brand, but these three important tactics should be on the list:

  • Direct mail. Our research found 56% of  shoppers interested in electronics said that direct mail ads have directly influenced them to make a purchase.
  • Mobile coupons. Digital offers that reach a shopper on the go, with relevant offers and mapped locations to encourage a store visit are great ways to disrupt the routine shopping experience and promote valuable incentives.
  • Streaming TV. Connected TV ads are a solid top-of-funnel option for customizing an offer to a specific audience by message and by location, especially since many consumers don’t mind watching ads when watching TV, including streaming platforms, according to TiVo’s Q4 2020 Video Trends Report. And streaming adoption continues to increase, as 61% of consumers say they are watching more, as reported in our 2021 Consumer Intel Report.

This first half of 2022 will no doubt show some renewed excitement about reconnecting and shopping, as we continue to strive for a more normal lifestyle and — with luck — put COVID-19 in the rearview mirror. More than other years, retailers with physical locations have an opportunity to grab more traffic and sales if they can capture that energy and excitement within their stores. Making the right choices for targeting and activation through the right media channels will certainly help add revenue to the optimism of a new year.

As you evaluate your 2022 marketing plans, you’ll want to know what is important to consumers as they make buying choices in the new year. Vericast recently surveyed consumers to find out what’s on their minds and produced the 2022 Vericast Consumer Outlook. Check out this valuable resource of consumer sentiment insight.

Susan Maurer is client strategy director for Vericast, partnering with clients to drive revenue. She has over 20 years of experience working in verticals such as CPG, telecom, healthcare and finance, with a focus on using insights and strategy to help clients realize their consumer engagement objectives.














Man and woman looking at products in refrigerated foods section of grocery store

Understanding What Shoppers Value Beyond a Deal

A great price is important, but convenience and brand preference matter, too.

Consumers love a good deal, whether it’s in the form of a coupon or a discount. But there is more to value in these deals than getting a better price. Our recent consumer research suggests that shoppers incorporate several factors into their purchasing decisions to buy, such as brand preference, brand loyalty and convenience. And it’s all affected by what pundits refer to as the stay-at-home economy. The result: Deals matter quite a bit, but for several reasons beyond the dollar value.

Convenience is king

With people enjoying staying at home, convenience has become an even bigger deal for them when making purchase decisions. Online shopping increased significantly across food, household goods and health and beauty care products in 2020. Yes, it’s partly out of necessity. But they also find it more convenient.

Our consumer research found:

  • Three out of four said it’s easier to learn about new health and beauty products online.
  • More than a third find it easier to stock up on health and beauty products online.
  • Even after stores reopened, only 9% of people cut back on shopping online.

However, this does not mean the end of in-store shopping, especially for certain categories. Case in point: 81% of people still shop in person for food at a local store.

Online shopping for food, household goods and health and beauty care products also seem to have peaked, as the latest numbers have dipped to pre-pandemic 2019 figures.

Still, COVID-19 has forced many consumers to try online shopping for the first time. This presents an opportunity for brands to elevate their online and in-store experiences to complement one another and adapt to new consumer patterns and preferences.

The power of brands 

Brands still have a strong influence on shoppers. After all, people look for stability, familiarity, consistency, trustworthiness and transparency in their buying decisions. And as great brands offer these, consumers will choose them by default. Three-fourths are more likely to buy from a brand or store they trust.

However, brands cannot be complacent. They must reflect the values that are important to their target market. People are increasingly socially conscious as consumers. Over half of people in our survey said they prioritize buying from companies with values matching their own.

So, it is critical that marketers offer a consistent customer experience, a relatable marketing message and an authentic image. More than half of consumers typically purchase from brands they’re familiar with because of their brand communications.

Deals still matter

Brand values that are relatable and authentic are important to consumers. But so is getting a good price— perhaps even more. Around 41% are now less loyal to specific brands and half are less loyal to food brands due to rising prices.

That is why 60% are looking for more coupons, discounts and deals to offset higher prices. According to the 2021 Deals & Coupons Report, 57% said coupons, discounts or deals have a high or medium influence on their purchasing decisions.

People feel good about buying from brands that care about similar values. At the same time, they also feel good about getting a good deal. They feel more satisfied with their purchase when they get to use a coupon or discount. In fact, almost 40% get excited when they do so.

Context as a consideration

You may be wondering what exactly consumers want? Is it convenience, brand preference or deals?

The answer is more nuanced: It’s about context. People want different things depending on what they are buying. A deals shopper buying household items may be a convenience shopper when purchasing groceries, for example.

Consumers know exactly what they want in each CPG category. When it comes to groceries, nearly half want quick and convenient shopping, and 45% want to buy their favorite brands. Deals still help, with more than a third wanting discounts and money-saving coupons to help cope with rising prices.

For household items, there is a greater need for a good price. Almost half of shoppers prioritize value. Thirty-six percent want coupons and discounts and 34% need to counteract rising prices. It’s the same priority in health and beauty. Forty-five percent expect the best value at the lowest price. Approximately one-third want discounts and money-saving coupons. Almost the same percentage want to find their favorite brands and manage rising prices.

Brands should adjust their marketing strategy and message by focusing on the priorities of their target market based on each category.

More to value than deals

People appreciate a deal, but just throwing coupons and discounts at them misses the point. Your target audience also values things like convenience and socially responsible brands too much for price-cutting to be your only focus. Sure, the deals need to be good, but so do the brands — and the brand experience.

Challenging and complex, to be sure, but that’s what it will take to engage shoppers. For an even more holistic view of the CPG consumer and what they value, check out “Riding the Waves of Change: Four Things Your Shoppers Wish You Knew,” a recent report from Vericast.

Sarah O’Grady is the svp of brand for Vericast. A veteran of content, brand and social media marketing across CPG, beauty and technology, she brings an experienced yet experimental point of view to b-to-b and b-to-c brand-building and customer engagement.

Two women enjoying a meal together at restaurant

Restaurant Marketing Has Changed: What You Should Do Now

Since the start of the pandemic in early 2020, customer behaviors have changed, restaurant employees have left in record numbers and the world has accelerated toward digital. How should you approach restaurant marketing in the post-pandemic era?

During the recent Fast Casual Executive Summit, this was the topic in a session entitled “Eating Out Again: Restaurant Insights for Marketing in the New Normal.” The panelists included Matt Lukosavich, Director, Industry Strategy – Restaurant at Vericast, C.J. Ramirez, SVP of Marketing for Dog Haus and Mandy Shaw, CEO of Blaze Pizza.

This conversation addressed the rapid shift to digital campaigns as well as a pivot to online deliveries that the restaurant industry has experienced. However, the panel acknowledged that traditional marketing continues to play an important role. The conclusion: Restaurant brands must give consumers the full, omnichannel experience that they want while being agile in the face of rapid change.

“It’s been a common theme that COVID didn’t really start new things. It just accelerated what we were already leaning into a little bit,” Lukosavich says.

Give the best digital customer experience

Creative advertising, enticing promotions and targeted marketing are important in bringing in customers. However, for restaurants, it still boils down to great food and great service. “In the restaurant business, the best marketing strategy is a great experience. That’s not going to change,” Shaw points out.

The problem, of course, was that the pandemic took away the store experience. Fast-casual restaurants such as Blaze Pizza, which was an 80% dine-in business before the pandemic, had to transition online. So, it was crucial to deliver customers a great digital experience.

For instance, Pi Day was a major in-person event for Blaze, when it offered $3.14 for a pizza. But with the pandemic, it had to quickly turn the PR event into an online experience. Blaze extended the offer to online customers through its app, promoting it through social media. And it worked.

Over 260,000 people downloaded the app, making the now digital campaign a huge success. “It’s just really about being a little bit more agile and playful about the things that we do,” Shaw shares.

Even as customers return to stores, restaurant brands should ensure that people who still prefer online deliveries are given a great digital experience.

Leverage traditional marketing

While digital marketing is certainly the new way for acquiring and retaining customers, restaurant operators cannot abandon traditional marketing channels, such as direct mail, paper coupons and billboards.

Vericast, which provides print and digital marketing solutions to the restaurant industry, found itself reassessing its direct mail offerings during the pandemic. Surprisingly, people looked forward to their mail. As Lukosavich recounts, “Everyone was working from home. People were telling us that the mailbox was the most exciting part of their day.”

For Dog Haus, coupons remain an important part of the promotional mix. Ramirez notes, “Our franchisees love the mega sheet. There are multiple offers in there, and we just time them.”

Brands also need to be hyperlocal, especially in making use of radio spots and billboard ads. As Ramirez shares, “Talk to any outdoor salesperson or any radio station. They got inventory. They are now willing to talk to smaller brands.” One franchisee had the largest billboard on the most major intersection in the entire area, promoting free hot dogs on National Hot Dog Day. For the huge discount he got for the billboard, the franchisee was able to offer free hot dogs for a month, generating a huge amount of brand awareness.

Humanize your brand

Restaurant operators need to listen and talk to their customers, like real people. Shaw points out that being more intimate with customers is the best way to communicate with them.

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Brand love, she adds, is having customers say, “Maybe I can’t even articulate why I love you, but I love you because you talk to me.”

An example is how Dog Haus uses two-way SMS communication with customers. Ramirez says it’s the perfect peer-to-peer channel “to be able to just get into their ear and answer their questions about our products.”

He recalls having loyal customers report to them that another restaurant had ripped off their chicken sandwich called Bad Mutha Clucka. It turns out it’s a virtual brand launched by Dog Haus. Ramirez shares that he not only appreciates that their customers are looking out for them, but that opened opportunities to talk about their products in an organic manner. Real, human conversations happen “when you open the floodgates and you let people just talk to you,” Ramirez points out.

Be flexible in addressing the labor shortage

With the restaurant industry dealing with staff resignations and hiring challenges, brands need to be more flexible. Vericast, for instance, held off some marketing campaigns as brands would not be able to meet demand. Lukosavich says, “For a digital solution, rather than doing offers or driving app downloads, we put out hiring campaigns.” This helped their clients address their staffing problems.

Dog Haus dealt with the labor issue by being hyperlocal in their marketing and allowing campaigns to be opt-in for franchisees. Ramirez explains, “We were able to turn promotions on and off and to very specific locations. We also stepped back a little bit on our national campaigns.” His advice: Make sure your franchisees are ready for what you’re going to put out there.

Blaze runs campaigns aimed at customers who could be potential hires. Shaw says, “I don’t care if you got tattoos or purple hair. Are you pleasant? Do you know how to make great pizza? Then come work for us.” By showing behind-the-scenes photos of team members on its Instagram account and email campaigns, Blaze gives people a glimpse of their work culture that could attract job candidates.

Market to both new and existing customers

With labor shortage and supply chain issues during the pandemic, Lukosavich notes, “A lot of brands started to focus just on their most loyal customers. Like that was their sweet spot.”

Post-pandemic, it continues to make sense to market to them. Shaw explains, “Even our existing consumers aren’t necessarily aware that we have gluten-free, or we have a keto crust.” She adds that this gives opportunities for existing customers “to eat more frequently or mix it up.”

For Ramirez, marketing to existing customers allows Dog Haus to introduce its virtual kitchen. He says, “By going to our existing database and telling those individuals that we have these other brands that are available to them for delivery or pickup, we’re creating a new customer experience to our existing base.”

However, even as only 20% of customers drive 60% to 80% of revenue, brands should not neglect new or non-loyal customers. As Lukosavich asks, “What are you doing about the other 40% of that revenue?”

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Third-party delivery apps are critical in reaching new customers. Even though margins are eroded because of commissions and discounts, brands cannot afford to ignore these platforms. As Shaw says, “That’s like a school bus of kids showing up at a restaurant. You just closed the doors on them. Why would you not want the business? It’s a reality of where we are today.”

The key for brands is to get their customers to switch to their app or website. Shaw explains, “You do have to figure out competitive ways and continually ideate on how to convince customers to use your native platform.” Ramirez agrees, “You have to have an acquisition strategy to bring them over into your own communication system.”

And don’t forget to measure everything

The reality is that no one really knows the exact best strategy out of the gate. But each marketing campaign can and should make you smarter, getting you closer in on your target audience. That’s why Lukosavich emphasized, “Some media just doesn’t make sense in some markets. So, measure as much as you can. Test as much as you can. Then you are truly understanding what’s working.”

In reaction to Lukosavich’s remarks about measurement, Shaw commented, “If your partner is not talking to you that way, you need a new partner.” Her point seems to be that while rigor and due diligence are usually present in the initial campaign targeting, too many restaurant marketing efforts fail to capture and leverage the results to sharpen the focus of the next program. The ability to measure, the willingness to analyze, and the commitment to act on the data are marks of best-in-class marketing and media partner relationships.

Brands have learned to pivot and to be more agile during the pandemic. As a result, they have created new product lines, challenged their delivery channels and tested new marketing tactics. The ability to carry these skills post-pandemic will dictate continued success.

To get more insights on restaurant marketing, watch the full video of “Eating Out Again: Restaurant Insights for Marketing in the New Normal” available on demand.

Matthew Tilley is executive director of content marketing for Vericast and leads content marketing for the company. He has more than 20 years of experience in digital advertising and consumer promotions to develop, communicate, and distribute ideas to make modern marketers more effective. 

Man interacting with wireless devices in the store

Could Tax Refund Season Be Holiday 2.0 for Wireless Marketers?

In 2021, a majority of taxpayers received an average of $2,800 in tax refunds which, to some, felt like the holidays all over again. The pandemic changed some of the tax return ritual rules: more time to file, a bigger IRS backlog of refunds to process and delayed refund payouts. But when the money finally arrived, it provided a quick boost to discretionary spending and to retailers everywhere.

According to NRF’s 2021 Tax Return Study, some consumers planned to use their refund to pay down debt or save, but 10% wanted to indulge with a big purchase, 8% noted a “splurge” purchase and another 12% wanted to move forward with home improvements.

This appetite for splurges and big ticket purchases is likely to come around again for the 2021 tax season, especially as consumers continue to be optimistic about the future. And wireless providers could be among the winners if they capitalize on the market trends and this influx of funds.

Getting consumers to switch from postpaid to prepaid (or vice versa) is tough, but it’s an even more difficult challenge to get them to switch to a new carrier. Only about 13.8% of consumers plan on switching phones or providers within the next six months to a year, according to the October 2021 Prosper Insights & Analytics Monthly Consumer Survey. Still, capturing just 1% of switchers represents millions of potential new customers. So, the opportunity is real, and the desire for new devices and services is too. The challenge for the 2021 tax refund season is finding the best way to reach these consumers when they’re ready to spend.

Timing is everything — and April is the time

Engaging the prepaid and postpaid wireless subscriber audiences in the second quarter when refunds begin to arrive will be a challenge, given the expected noise in the marketplace at that time — March Madness, Easter, Mother’s Day and college graduations. But with a third of consumers traditionally filing taxes in February and another 26% filing in March, April 2022 will be a key month for wireless marketing.

Add in the fact that April also has two “mega pay” weeks (the 1st and the 29th) — times when a number of workers and benefit recipients get an extra paycheck — effective marketing could make the temptation to splurge even more attractive.

Effectively engage the mobile and wireless audience with an omnichannel approach

It may be tempting to assume that your Gen X customers can only be reached via social media and addressable TV advertising while you need to send mailers to baby boomers. It’s true that these demographic segments clearly have very different media preferences, but they both still consume print and digital channels, so to lean too heavily one way or the other in your media mix runs the risk of missing an opportunity to truly engage at a critical time. Instead, try a balance of some direct mail drops which saturate a particular geographic area and use an always-on digital display or dynamic mobile approach to reinforce the message and remind those switchers about your brand’s value during each campaign.

Delivering print mail inserts around an ideal radius of a retail location or at the neighborhood/sub-ZIP code level has also been shown to drive significant store traffic. Finally, with consumers’ renewed focus on thinking and acting locally (detailed in the 2022 Vericast Consumer Outlook) neighborhood-focused targeting is now even more critical.

Making the most of this marketing moment 

The U.S. consumer already considers mobile devices and the related accessories and services as essential components of daily life. As such, this category represents a significant investment for many people. But this coming tax season may be exactly the time and opportunity for service providers to give consumers that extra nudge to make a switch or splurge on a new device.

To learn more about the trends and influences shaping how people are making decisions about shopping, buying and planning, check out the 2022 Vericast Consumer Outlook or download the report summary.

Susan Maurer is client strategy director for Vericast, partnering with clients to drive revenue. She has over 20 years of experience working in verticals such as CPG, telecom, healthcare and finance, with a focus on using insights and strategy to help clients realize their consumer engagement objectives.

Woman eating from takeout container

What Makes a Patron Loyal to Your Restaurant?

It has been a long road for restaurants through 2020 and 2021. As eateries try to keep their collective heads above water, they are faced with wave after wave of change. Our new 2021 Restaurant Report shows that customer demands are changing, and restaurants can build loyalty with insightful marketing moves.

While dining plummeted in March and April of 2020, diners have steadily been returning to restaurant tables. As of October 2021, the number of American diners is back to levels reported in 2019.

Even though the numbers are hitting the same volume as pre-pandemic, the atmosphere of the restaurant setting has changed.

A good deal is hard to refuse

One thing that hasn’t changed is that many restaurant-goers love a good deal. According to Vericast’s 2021 Restaurant Report, 54% of potential guests are willing to try a new restaurant if they receive a coupon or discount. Additionally, 61% of respondents indicated that coupons, discounts or promotions are influential in their decision on where to order from. Forty-five percent have a more positive feeling toward restaurants that offer coupons or discounts.

Respite offers spark last-minute decisions

Many Americans in today’s world are caught up in managing their work-life balance. To reduce their workload, people frequently look for a place to eat out so they can take a break. This has led to many restaurant-goers making last-minute decisions for things like ordering pizza (69%).

Good marketing, pricing and quick service are all qualities that will help make your restaurant more appealing for impulsive decisions.

Mobile solutions provide convenience within reach

Loyalty program platforms, to-go ordering apps and other digital tools allow customers to access your restaurant on a whim. A smart digital tool will keep your brand icon right on their screen for repeated visual reminders. Relevant pop-up alerts can provide helpful reminders to customers to consider your spot for their next meal.

Connect all app offers to your site, since many people browse the internet to find deals for restaurants (46%). Forty-nine percent use their smartphone or mobile device to save on restaurant dining, and millennials are the generation most likely to download restaurant apps to receive coupons and discounts.

Multi-channel messaging offers easy access

Today’s customers are using apps, looking through print ads, watching social media and searching the internet to make choices on restaurant dining. Using a multi-channel strategy allows your restaurant to get in front of more customers to help increase impact and build authority. For example, nearly a third (32%) of customers go online to review the menu after seeing a restaurant print ad.

For more information on gaining loyal customers, download our 2021 Restaurant Report

Matthew Tilley is executive director of content marketing for Vericast and leads content marketing for the company. He has more than 20 years of experience in digital advertising and consumer promotions to develop, communicate, and distribute ideas to make modern marketers more effective. 

Man shopping at grocery store considering a product with phone in hand

It’s Time to Make Coupons An Omnichannel Marketing Tool

Coupons work.

They motivate consumers to act and promote loyalty and positive feelings toward the brands that offer them.

That’s why marketers have been using coupons in some form for over a century. And in the CPG space, around 1.7 billion are redeemed every year. That doesn’t even count how many restaurant and apparel offers that people use.

Whether these coupons present as pieces of paper or fully digital offers, consumers use – and love – them, now more than ever. However, advertising and point-of-sale technology just haven’t kept pace with the demand for truly omnichannel distribution and redemption.

With grocery coupons, we’ve had some innovations along the way: The free-standing insert made print coupons widely available and print-at-home coupons introduced the world to the idea of getting a coupon online. But today, advertisers who want to give digital deals must rely largely on the “load-to-card” offer format — enabling digital distribution but requiring the deals to be used in conjunction with a specific retailer’s loyalty program.

All the while, consumers and marketers fluidly operate in an omnichannel world:

  • Consumers buy their favorite brands at virtually any retailer and can pick the experience they prefer – buy online and pick up in-store, have it delivered or just go to the store and buy. And they expect each experience to be consistent and satisfying.
  • Marketers reach their audiences through an ever-growing and changing mix of digital and analog media. Traditional tactics like direct mail and television quickly blur with social media timelines and mobile device screens. Modern marketers don’t choose one channel, they find the best mix to deliver their message across all the appropriate channels.

With omnichannel marketing being the way of the world, coupons remain slow to evolve.

The universal coupon changes the game

In such a heavily omnichannel context, making a universal coupon available just makes sense. Our industry needs this kind of innovative coupon offer to allow advertisers to distribute a single cents-off digital offer that can be taken into any retailer and redeemed, much like the traditional printed coupon … but with even more controls.

The Coupon Bureau, an independent non-profit organization, working with industry committees at the Association of Coupon Professionals, has developed exactly this sort of industry-standard coupon format.

Marc Mathies, SVP of Platform Evolution at Vericast, has been part of that industry evolution. “It’s amazing to see how the coupon industry has come together to realize this transformation to couponing,” said Mathies. “We’re proud of our company’s deep involvement with the Association of Coupon Professionals and The Coupon Bureau to shape the new standard. We are confident that this work will ensure that the resulting vehicle is a win for everyone — consumers, retailers and, of course, brands.”

Making omnichannel coupons a reality

As a result of that work, a new Universal Digital Coupon, which uses the 8112 barcode format, is currently redeemable at one chain with 146 stores. However, retailer adoption has naturally slowed in recent months while these companies have weighed the technological and financial impact to their business. But, once this diligence is done, and adoption starts to take root, the stage will be set for truly omnichannel distribution of coupons.

To fully take advantage of the new omnichannel reality, the next generation of coupon solutions must revolutionize paper distribution as well as digital. Only then will the industry deliver the flexibility that brands need to connect with consumers in today’s world — giving them choices to map to the variety of audience and retailer-specific marketing goals.

It became apparent to the industry early on that the 8112 barcode standard behind the Universal Digital Coupon has tremendous application to paper coupons, promising to reduce fraud and improve accuracy without impacting the well-established consumer experience.

With both print and digital distribution addressed by the new coupon form, deals can be directly integrated with all the available and emerging advertising channels. Brands will have the flexibility to allow consumers to redeem these offers in virtually any store, but brands also need to be free to use a variety of media — from addressable TV to direct mail — to engage consumers with the offers.

Given recent advancements, it is realistic to anticipate a future where brands don’t have to tailor their incentive and coupon marketing tactics to the specific delivery channel. Instead, omnichannel coupons can unburden marketers from the technology and distribution friction that exists today.

Evolving the effective and reliable coupon

With the introduction and widespread use of the universal coupon format across paper and digital offers, coupons can enter the omnichannel world that marketers and consumers all want. But the benefits don’t end there. Due to three key technical features, universal coupons will be an even more powerful, omnichannel promotional marketing tool:

  • Data centralization. Made possible by the work of The Coupon Bureau, this enables brands to distribute discount coupons to consumers through various channels while being universally redeemable.
  • Real-time serialization. The serialization in the new coupon further mitigates fraud for coupon issuers, making possible for each unique coupon to be identified and tracked.
  • Global Trade Item Number (GTIN) validation. This validation enables limits that can notify the retail clerk when a consumer attempts to redeem coupons outside of their intended use.

All of that adds up to brands enjoying the benefits of this powerful marketing tactic while minimizing the cost, amplifying the impact and tracking the results.

Bringing even more consumer-friendly tactics to the party

Because universal coupons open new avenues of marketing, they will add to ­— not replace — the earlier generation of retailer-specific digital coupons. Retailer loyalty programs will remain a key tactic in the marketing mix. But universal coupons will provide a currently missing element for today’s promotional strategy toolkit: direct-to-consumer digital coupon advertising.

What’s next in the universal coupon journey?

If you’re a CPG brand marketer, you can connect to The Coupon Bureau and request an account, so you’ll be ready to distribute universal coupon offers — both print and digital — when retailers are ready to accept them. Both retailers and brands may also want to begin discussing with each other the marketing opportunities a universal coupon would provide each other. And, of course, consider connecting with us here at Vericast to discuss how you can be part of the omnichannel revolution by distributing your own universal coupon offers.

Download the 2021 Vericast Deals & Coupons Report for inspiration and to understand exactly why the universal coupon format may help you deliver what your shoppers are seeking right now.

An industry veteran, Meggie Giancola specializes in connecting the dynamics of the CPG ecosystem and the Valassis/NCH suite of solutions, providing strategic thought leadership in marketing strategy, analytical solutions, media activations, and performance measurement. She is a graduate of Miami University and an active member of the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation.














Woman at checkout scanning her phone

Prepping for 2022: How Has COVID Impacted Shopper Trends?

As we round out Q4, businesses are prepping their strategies for 2022. The COVID-19 pandemic has sparked consumer shopper trends that will affect the upcoming holiday season and beyond. This reality comes with good news for businesses — consumer hopes, confidence and shopping habits are looking up.

The National Retail Federation (NRF) forecasts that holiday sales for 2021 will increase by 8.5 – 10.5% compared to 2020. Our new consumer report sheds light on what behaviors will stick around and what priorities have shifted for shoppers. Read on for a glimpse into how COVID-19 has impacted shopper trends.

Consumer hopes are high for 2022

There is still a lot of anxiety swirling around unknowns, but American mindsets are still trending up. People are feeling better about their physical health, personal finances and work-life balance. Consumers say the most important thing to them when celebrating the holidays is spending time with immediate family (62%).

Staying close to home offers peace of mind

One of the biggest sources of concern for many Americans is the feeling that the pandemic still isn’t under control. Fifty-one percent of consumers say they will stay home this holiday season more than in the past, and we expect this trend to continue into 2022. This shift toward staying closer to home comes with consumers placing more importance on supporting local businesses, which is a strong win for smaller brands.

This trend also means people have shifted focus for personal investments; consumers are putting more time and money into their homes. They are enjoying stay-at-home activities, like cooking their own meals and joining virtual workouts.

Deals will be a key strategy to attract shoppers

Baby boomers in particular are placing importance on finding deals for the 2021 holiday shopping season. The NRF reports that income across the board is rising, and household balance sheets are looking better than ever. However, improved financials aren’t completely stopping consumers from feeling concerned about potential bumps in the road ahead.

Consumers say they are most interested in receiving discounts for grocery items, restaurants and beauty items. These money-saving shopper trends are likely to remain into 2022, so brands should consider setting up reward programs to offer deals in exchange for loyalty.

Self-care becomes a top priority for consumers

Another trend brands can plan on for 2022 is a strong focus on protecting mental, emotional and physical health. Different generations vary in their approach to self-care:

  • Gen Z consumers are interested in home décor.
  • Gen X wants deals to splurge on beauty products.
  • Baby boomers prefer restaurant deals.

For Gen X and baby boomers, there is an emphasis on finding discounts to help sweeten the deal. However, Gen Z wants to feel inspired for self-care by creative content, such as decorating ideas from brands.

How brands kick off the new year strong

Understanding changing shopper trends will help brands close out 2021 powerfully and fully prepared for 2022. If you want to learn more about what is changing for consumers, check out the 2022 Vericast Consumer Outlook.

Matthew Tilley is senior director of content marketing for Vericast and leads content marketing for the company. He has more than 20 years of experience in digital advertising and consumer promotions to develop, communicate, and distribute ideas to make modern marketers more effective. 

Young woman taking picture of check with mobile phone

Cultivating Loyalty to Financial Institutions Among Gen Z

Managing finances is challenging at any age, but especially for Gen Z, the newest group of financial services consumers. Defined by Pew Research as born in 1997 or after, Gen Z represent 27% of the population. Recent research from IRI and The Female Quotient also found that on average, Gen Z drive 14 times greater dollar opportunity than other generations. So, reaching and solidifying a relationship with this generation represents a critical investment for financial institutions.

And the 18–24 sub-group of Gen Z is particularly important. These young consumers are more independent and, for many, are being taken off their parents’ “payrolls” for the first time. They are being launched into the real world of working, budgeting and responsible spending. While many parents encourage good choices for Gen Z, this decision-rich time of life will benefit from help on topics from grappling with college expenses, looking for an apartment and getting started in a new job.

Gen Z Demands a Real Financial Education

Older Gen Z consumers have reported looking for help in understanding financial products and best practices because they find most of the available financial literacy education to be lacking. They want advice for savings, loans and investing.

  • According to The Financial Brand (citing an Experian study), only 19% of recent graduates felt that they had a good understanding of credit, and about two thirds said they had not received any education on personal finance in school.
  • A Laurel Road survey found that 53% of Gen Z respondents believe they can improve their financial literacy, but don’t know how.
  • Nearly half (49%) of Gen Z consumers surveyed by Experian noted they found financial topics to be somewhat interesting or interesting — and 11% said they loved learning about them.

However, this upskilling must be done with Gen Z specifically in mind, and they should not be considered “millennials 2.0.” For example, while the generations have similarities, Gen Z are more debt-averse and have fewer credit cards (avg. 2.2 vs. 2.9) says a survey from The Ascent. According to our 2021 Consumer Intel Report, this generation reported feeling most negatively impacted by COVID-19 in 2020 and they are less optimistic about their personal finances than the average consumer.

Reach Gen Z on Their Terms

To reach Gen Z, it’s important to be helpful and supportive, meeting them on their terms, wherever they are, delivering an authentic experience and delivering it across communication channels. Nurturing a long-term, loyal relationship with Gen Z simply cannot be limited to a “one-and-done” campaign.

Social Media: For media to be effective it must be “informative and authentic.” And that almost certainly includes social media, since Instagram (57%), TikTok (52%) and Snapchat (41%) are the top three social platforms Gen Z turns to for financial information, found a Credit Karma study.

Direct Mail: While social media is their “base,” heavy cross-platform consumption means there is also opportunity to reach them with other media. In a recent study, Vericast found that over half of Gen Z are aware of direct mail and 22% of those people will make purchases based on an offer they receive via direct mail. Prosper Insights & Analytics also reports that one-third of the media influence for Gen Z in the Financial Services category comes from online media, followed by 22% for print and 18% from mobile.

Connected TV (CTV): CTV represents a huge opportunity for banks to deliver important messages and incentives to Gen Z. The 2021 Consumer Intel Report notes that 74% of Gen Z are watching more streaming video/TV shows since the pandemic. Our February 2021 CTV survey found that 55% of 18- to 24-year-olds agree they are more inclined to research or purchase a product/service they see on streaming TV than traditional cable TV.

To engage them, just be sure to give them a quality experience that they can easily recognize across all their favorite channels. Financial institutions who connect with Gen Z who watch CTV can also collect a goldmine of deeper data to power and improve future campaigns.

Banks Win When They Invest in the Newest Influential Generation

Many older Gen Z consumers are ready for a relationship with a financial institution and have stated as much. Cultivating loyalty with them means delivering convenience, responsiveness and authenticity because, as the first digital natives, they expect nothing less. So, meet them on their terms: Give them helpful information delivered in an engaging way and think differently to capture their hearts and minds. For instance, a study from Civic Science found out that two out of five Gen Z individuals were more apt to find it at least a little bit important that a bank offer free snacks or refreshments when they visit a branch.

Another strategy might be to shore up relationships with parents since Gen Z may look to parents for advice on banking as they begin to establish credit. The first place parents might go for advice is to their existing bank, and so the legacy of a good relationship with a financial institution is handed down in perpetuity.

Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) companies have made an art out of brands being passed down through the generations: Brands such as Dove and Colgate exist in homes when kids are very young, and they are oftentimes the first brand choices as these new adults go out on their own. There is no reason why the legacy of a good banking relationship shouldn’t continue as well. It just takes a willingness to understand a new way of thinking.

But the investment that banks make in understanding the Gen Z consumer now will pay dividends in the future.

If you want to learn more about what’s on the mind of consumers right now, download our 2021 Consumer Intel Report.

Susan Maurer is client strategy director for Vericast, partnering with clients to drive revenue. She has over 20 years of experience working in verticals such as CPG, telecom, healthcare and finance, with a focus on using insights and strategy to help clients realize their consumer engagement objectives.