Use e-coupons to generate in-store and online sales

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in Office Technology

Even in the Internet age, consumers still have a love affair with coupons. And now may be a good time to jump into the growing trend of electronically delivered coupons.

Why? Competition in the "e-coupon" industry has weeded out the weaker players, leaving those with the strongest technology and brand marketing. Also, consumers are slowly taking to the idea: 30 percent use e-coupons today, up from about 23 percent in 1999, according to a survey of 1,982 consumers by research firm NPD Group.

You can deliver e-coupons in various ways:

Post them on popular mega-coupon sites or use the online service of a direct-mail marketer. Among the most popular coupon-on-demand sites: Coolsavings.com, ValuPage.com, Hotcoupons.com, Valpak. com, MyPoints.com and eCentives.com.

Before you post your coupons on those sites, ask about the site's reach. Example: Coolsavings.com boasts a potential reach of 107 million unique monthly visitors, based on hit tracking.

Also, insist on pay-for-performance pricing. Prices for listing your offers vary widely, so just make sure you're paying for results. Some dealers charge a monthly membership fee; others base fees on a cost-per-click rate.

Use software to create your own. You can post coupons on your Web site using coupon-generating programs. Some e-commerce software also includes tools for creating e-coupons that are delivered to your customers via e-mail. They can be redeemed at your location or online via a special security code that's provided in the e-mail.

If you plan to generate your own e-coupons, go for preconfigured software tools.

Opt for simple, less expensive tools available on CD-ROM or through Internet downloads. Among them: Coupons.com's "Bricks" (www.solutions.coupons.com/solutions/main/SubTechBricks.asp) and CPrompt's "SendSafe" (www.c-prompt-dev.com/ jsof_product.asp).

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