Recreating the essence of coupons in a coupon-less world

By Cale Guthrie Weissman , written on September 17, 2013

From The News Desk

Remember when coupons were a thing? Every Sunday you (or maybe your aunt) would comb through the endless coupons in the newspaper, cut out the best deals, and the next day go on a discounted shopping spree. Well, some 'people' have decided that physical 'coupons' are just too 'burdensome.' So new, more technologically savvy coupons have arisen, with programs like Groupon and Living Social.

Meanwhile others want to be even more frictionless. For example edo, which deems its services "personalized card-linked offers." This means that edo partners with credit and debit card issuers and can target consumers for retail offers.

Here's how it works. Let's say a restaurant wants to attract more locals. Edo collects information from the credit and debit card issuers with which it has agreements. It offers the restaurant, let's call it Mel's, data these card companies collect about who lives nearby and their spending pattern. Mel's is then able to take this data and make marketing campaigns tailored to specific card-holders. So if it finds a group of locals who frequently dine at the establishment and spend over $50 each time on Mel's famous burgers, it can then offer them a tailored reward of 10 percent off their next $50 burger binge. Further, the 10 percent will be automatically deducted from their account without the need for a physical coupon or a point-of-sale (POS) system.

The company has been testing its self-serve marketing platform, edo Marketplace, for about a year now and today is publicly launching its latest version for small businesses.

This platform is edo's tools for allowing merchants to launch individualized campaigns. It allows merchants to see anonymized information about card users' geographic location and spending behavior. With this data, merchants can launch targeted offers to specific people who fit a certain geographic and economic criteria. Only the spending and economic data can be accessed -- no personal or demographic data whatsoever is shared. So while a merchant will know that I frequently come in and spend over $100 per purchase, it will have no idea about my identity or my economic background.

Edo's concept is useful, especially given its auto-enroll feature. In essence, this means that every consumer who is tied to an edo-associated card carrier can automatically receive discount offers. The coupons/rewards space is currently is replete with actors -- take for instance, Living Social, RetailMeNot,, ScoutMob, Google Offers, to name just a few (and there are dozens more out there). But most of these services need both an opt-in and a physical representation of the coupon or reward.

But there are still others out there who may prove to be a real challenge. Take Cartera, for instance, which is a card-linked rewards companies. Last year Cartera launched OfferLink Local, a service very similar to edo's Marketplace.

But edo refuses to be perturbed by these competitors. According to Lauren Meagher, the company's VP of operations, edo has partnerships with three of the top six card issuers in the country. She wouldn't, however, name them. In addition, she told me that thousands of merchants have already used the platform, with more than 500 campaigns currently being executed.

But the company is hoping that starting today this number will only increase. With today's public launch, the company is banking on more small businesses adopting it. That could be the case, as the Marketplace platform is free to use, and edo only takes a cut of the commission from each campaign.

I emailed one of edo's customers, a Columbus, Ohio-based restaurant called Roosters, and its directors of marketing and PR, Nicole Cox, told me that the campaigns it's launched on edo have seen relative success. As she put it, "we had a good redemption rate."

Edo's director of product Chris Cambell would probably use a brighter superlative than merely 'good.' According to him, one of edo's customers saw an overall return of over 800 percent after it started offering campaigns. And the average ticket value increased by over 25 percent. Of course, we must contextualize the source of this data -- he is the company's director of product.

In the end, the real question will be if merchants continue to use edo's services. Places like Roosters seem to be pretty happy, but that's just one restaurant in a sea of many. In addition, the real hump edo is going to have to go over is making sure consumers don't construe its offers as spam. This could be a potential hindrance, and Campbell is definitely aware. He told me that company is working hard to drive redemptions and avoiding "the spam effect."

Meanwhile, I'll wait for that coveted text offering me a $5 General Tso's Tofu discount from my local haunt, King's Palace. If that happens, then maybe I'll become a believer.