The impact of COVID-19 on the world around us has been profound, driving dramatic changes in consumer shopping behaviors and wildly new perspectives on the products and services we buy. Though the crisis is not over, one thing is clear: America is ready to get back to business.

During this period of continued uncertainty, it’s especially important to stay connected with consumers. Now is the time for brands to regain what they’ve lost by connecting — in new ways and old — to raise product awareness and grow share.

Enter the coupon marketing strategy.

In a series of blog posts, we have discussed the multifaceted role of coupons during a downturn: to deliver a small gesture of hope and caring while keeping brands within reach of consumers who have to tighten budgets.

In this, the fourth and final installment, we will explore coupon strategies and solutions to drive purchase and loyalty — both critical for recovery — as we march forward to our new normal. Whatever that is.

If you haven’t yet read the other parts of this series, we’ve covered lessons from the Great Recession of 2008how the pandemic could change consumer behavior, and how to tailor coupon strategies to address the changing (and unchanging) behaviors of key buying groups.

 Adjusting Tactics to Maximize Impact

Much has been written around the need to continue messaging throughout the pandemic. History provides many examples of advertisers that stayed the course, winning sales in the short term and building longer-term preference.

In this early recovery stage, brands have a tremendous opportunity to capitalize on recession-enhanced savings behaviors with a targeted coupon marketing strategy. Though the exact tactics will vary from one brand to the next, these strategies will go a long way to engage your customers at this critical time:

1. Strengthen offers. Aggressive incentives can often help brands recover critical household penetration. Consider incorporating “buy one, get one free” offers or gift card rebates into your coupon marketing strategy.

2. Extend timing. Shorter expiration periods may not accommodate ongoing out-of-stock conditions in stores due to pandemic pantry-loading behaviors. Temporarily extending expiration dates until product distribution returns to pre-pandemic levels may encourage shoppers to watch for your product and ease supply chain frustrations.

3. Increase frequency. Take the lead in the race for share of mind as the crisis slows. Frequent, pulsed, relevant incentives will win in the long run to keep your brand in the consideration set.

4. Scale comfort. Within scale or group events, prioritize comfort brands to provide a “feel good” while capitalizing on consumers’ desire to maintain variety and enjoyment — a welcome respite from a pure focus on needs.

5. Consistent voice. Align coupon strategy — and creatives, if possible — across media and platforms. This will help maintain a unified brand message and heighten awareness of your coupon offerings in the market, accelerating redemption response and further recouping share.

Long story short, slight tweaks to your tactics have the potential to make a meaningful impact on your sales. As with any campaign, tailor the messaging and savings to your target.

Distribution Solutions Aligned to New Behaviors

While brands have many options to motivate buyers, the free-standing insert (FSI) is one of the best ways to reach customers in broad strokes. FSIs do double duty, appealing to current buyers while also attracting more than 53% of new/lapsed users, according to Valassis’ response analytics. Use the scale of the FSI for national reach of a target audience, and then digitally amplify that message for other audiences that spend more time using digital than print.

With more and more consumers embracing e-commerce, brands need to enable a seamless experience. Incorporate “add to cart” functionality to move both products and coupons to the checkout phase. You might also leverage the valuable ad space in an FSI to communicate QR codes or SMS messaging to facilitate an e-commerce action.

Quarantine-inspired or not, staying in has become the new going out. As consumers continue to spend more time at home, brands can cut through the noise by delivering incentives right to people’s homes with direct mailers. Delivering relevant offers and high-impact messages through the mail will provide tangible engagement that lasts in the house for days.

No matter which methods brands ultimately choose to apply, those able to adapt their coupon strategies to stay in touch and offer something of value will do more than maintain share of mind — they’ll endear themselves to consumers, which can help establish loyalty for the long haul. In a world where behaviors have fundamentally changed and consumers recalibrate brand preferences, winning loyalty means everything.

Please feel free to check out Valassis’ CPG content hub for more information on CPG marketing strategies. For additional insights, you may also want to visit our COVID-19 marketing and advertising information page.