Case Study: Overcoming Obstacles When Redeeming Mobile Deals

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SIMerchant: Sea Island Shrimp House and Tiago’s Cabo Grille
Market: San Antonio, Texas
Size: 8 Locations
Platforms: Privy, MailChimp
Bottom Line: Marketers need to find ways to overcome infrastructure barriers if they want to onboard local merchants in a variety of industries.

Digital offers have proven to be an effective driver for customer acquisition, but the infrastructure required to redeem mobile coupons is something that many businesses — and particularly local restaurants — still don’t have in place. Not having the mechanism to scan barcodes prevented Sea Island Restaurant Group from offering digital coupons at its eight Sea Island Shrimp House and Tiago’s Cabo Grille locations until recently, when marketing director Meghan Vincent found an alternative solution using a platform called Privy.

“We really haven’t had a platform that has enabled us to do a lot of online marketing up until now, because we don’t have scanners at our POS systems,” said Vincent. Whereas barcode scanners are commonplace at retail stores, they’re less common among restaurant owners. Without a way to easily track redemptions, Vincent was hesitant to offer any mobile deals. “An offer that lived online would have to be printed, and there was opportunity for a lot of fraud.”

Bypassing the POS
Vincent ultimately found a way around this issue by partnering with Privy, a hyperlocal marketing platform that businesses can use to create and distribute their own offers. “I said right off the bat, ‘We’re not really equipped internally or operationally to do online marketing right now. We don’t have the POS capabilities.’ That was what [the Privy rep] immediately honed in on,” said Vincent. “[He said] Privy is specifically designed for companies that don’t have any other way to truly redeem a mobile coupon. That was really all I needed to hear.”

Vincent uses Privy’s tools to create her offers — like a free appetizer with the purchase of an entrée, or a $5-for-$25 coupon on Father’s Day — and distributes those offers through her company’s website, Facebook page, and Twitter account. “You claim the offer, which then sends an email to the address that you provide,” said Vincent. “Then you pull it up on your mobile phone when you get to the restaurant.”

The redemption process works seamlessly, even without a barcode scanner. “[Customers] visually show their phone to the cashier, and then the cashier gives them their store code, which they type in on their phone,” said Vincent. “Then it basically releases the offer and marks it as redeemed. [It] grays out on their phone, so if they attempted to show their phone to a cashier on another day or at another location, it would be really obvious to the cashier that it had already been redeemed.”

Stacking the Benefits
Although Sea Island Restaurant Group’s partnership with Privy is still relatively new, Vincent says she’s already seeing a return on her investment. A one-day St. Patrick’s Day promotion for a free appetizer with the purchase of an entrée was claimed 165 times, and 28 of those claimed vouchers were redeemed.

Customers are required to enter their email address to claim a voucher, regardless of whether the voucher is redeemed. “[What] I really love is that when they claim it, because their providing their email address, they’re automatically opting in to our e-blast database,” said Vincent. “Now I have a way to reach those people again and let them know about other things that I’m doing down the line, not necessarily having to do with a discount … I find that part really, really valuable.”

Mobile marketing is an entirely new territory for Sea Island Restaurant Group, and Vincent had initially worried that some of her older clientele may bristle at the idea of using their smartphones to redeem mobile offers. To her surprise, that hasn’t been the case at all. “I really thought that when we launched mobile-only coupons at Sea Island, that I would get a lot of pushback from my existing guests,” said Vincent. “We got so little pushback. I just think mobile is really going to be the thing. That’s where people are really engaged.”

The Takeaway
Privy succeeded in onboarding Sea Island Restaurant Group by finding a solution to a problem Vincent was dealing with. In this case, it was redeeming mobile coupons without relying on a barcode scanner. The company also stood out to Vincent because of its integration with MailChimp, the platform Vincent uses for email marketing. Customers are required to enter their email addresses on Privy to claim their discounted vouchers, and Vincent automatically imports those email addresses into her email marketing database. This means she sees a strong ROI from her deals regardless of how many vouchers are actually redeemed.

Stephanie Miles is an associate editor at Street Fight.

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Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.