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New Spin on Coupons

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Target’s new digital coupon program, called Cartwheel, has some customers turning flips.

The program, which bridges social media with in-store shopping, encourages shoppers to select digital coupons online, choosing up to 10 deals from several hundred offers. The deals can be printed to take to the store or saved on a mobile device and are scanned at checkout just like any other coupon.

What sets Cartwheel apart from other online deals is the scope of the program. The number of deals increases -- along with the rate of savings -- based on a user’s level of activity. Target shoppers are encouraged to share their excitement about the deals online, encouraging Facebook friends to join Cartwheel in return for more benefits. Users are awarded ‘badges’ indicating their activity level.

Along the way, the Cartwheel system delivers posts to the customer’s Facebook page, which can cascade to other friends’ Facebook pages, along with an invitation to Cartwheel.

Wharton School of Business marketing professor Barbara Kahn recently noted the value of driving shoppers into the store to redeem these deals. It “encourages people to come in the store, where they are going to buy more things,” she says, noting that several retailers are trying to figure this out.

“The multiplier effect of doing things through social media was why the Facebook IPO was so huge,” she says, adding that the risk is that social media posts about someone getting a good price will just become “noise” on people’s Facebook pages.

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