CHICAGO — Most drycleaners (84.0%) issue coupons as part of their marketing strategy, according to this month’s Wire survey, and use a variety of media to get them out there. But they differ on how effective those coupons are in getting business and realizing profits.
Many (43.5%) operators say they use coupons “Often,” while 15.3% make such offers “Every few months.” About one quarter (25.2%) issue coupon specials “Occasionally,” and 16.0% don’t use coupons at all. “Coupons are lousy for the drycleaning business,” one operator says.
Direct mail leads as the top way to issue a coupon with 31.9% of operators, but offers made via a company website or social-media presence (28.8%) and house-generated e-mails (24.3%) are gaining fast. Only one in 10 operators (10.8%) still employs newspaper advertising, and only 5.4% have tried an e-mail service such as Groupon or Constant Contact.
“Our company has had weekly coupon offers in the Sunday newspaper for more 50 years, and 40% of our base uses them,” says one operator. “We also offer lesser coupon discounts on our website 24/7, and their use is growing. We offer direct-mail coupons in a slick coffee-table magazine four times per year with good results. People are looking for deals, especially on drycleaning services."
Other coupon media used include a “new movers” program, a coupon book, a texting service and in-store offers. “Our best is a coupon mailed in-house,” one operator says. “It is a thank-you postcard to all our new customers—a welcome back with $5.00 off. It’s a great way to get them into the store a second time."
In the next year, operators plan to shift more coupons to their websites and social-media pages (34.5%), and 31.9% of coupon issuers will use direct mail. Some 15.0% expect to generate e-mails in-house, and e-mail services such as Groupon will grow to 14.1%.
“A word of caution about Groupon-like programs: Unless you can find an offer that brings in a lot of added dollars, you are effectively giving a 75% discount on your prices, and most likely not getting many new converts to your business,” an operator warns. “With the advent of Groupon and Living Social and the rise in gas prices, consumers are very price-sensitive.”
“A report I saw a few years ago indicated that drycleaning ranked along with home maid service as things easily given up during recessionary times,” he adds. “We need to maintain [our] margins with a loss of volume; well-thought-out coupons can be part of this strategy.”
While American Drycleaner's Wire survey presents a snapshot of the audience’s viewpoints at a particular moment, it should not be considered scientific. Subscribers to Wire e-mails—distributed twice weekly—are invited to participate in an industry survey each month. The survey is conducted online via a partner website, and is developed so it can be completed in less than 10 minutes. The entire American Drycleaner audience is encouraged to participate, as a greater number of responses will help to better define operator opinions and industry trends.
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