Monthly Archives: June 2011

Vouchers – part 2

Two weeks ago we introduced vouchers to the platform. These can contain different values such as points or prizes (see the details here) for issuing to customers. At that time we released the self-service portion of the service, allowing customers to take vouchers you had issued or had printed in newspaper adverts and enter the serial number at home to collect their reward. This design allows you to promote your service and to track your advertising response. For instance by printing a voucher in a newspaper and encouraging people to register it (maybe giving them points to do so) you could not only tell which channels produced the best response but also which ones led to sales a few months down the road.

But vouchers can do more and on Monday we are introducing the second element of the service: allowing you to redeem vouchers in-store. 

What You Can Do
Before telling you about the mechanics I’d like to take a minute to outline what you can do with this and how it differs from the self-service implementation. 
Vouchers can be used to manage any promotion you run in any medium you choose but they can also help in managing an array of day-to-day customer interactions. The benefits of the self-service option were outlined in the previous post so I won’t go into them again. The in-store option will now brings added advantages; allowing them to manage store credit,  reduce fraud, track direct advertising and operate limited-time promotions. The best way to understand the different possibilities is to look at some examples;

Preventing Fraud
The biggest issue with the paper-based systems for awarding store credit or gift vouchers is that they are so susceptible to fraud. It is easy for people to photocopy a voucher or forge a signature and you have no easy way to make sure that you catch these without extensive investigation. But using individual vouchers that are limited to one use each gives you a way to check that they are real and make sure that they will not be used more than once. Simply print (or write) the voucher code on your existing credit notes and redeem it when it is used. The voucher itself does not have to have any points on it – a simple message such as “€5 credit voucher” is enough to provide you with a record. And it keeps the revenue commissioners happy too.

Limited-time or Transaction Sales
If you want to generate excitement about your business you can run limited-time sales and promotions; for instance making a particular item half price for one hour. The problem is controlling such promotions since often customers will expect you to extend the terms just for them. Vouchers give you a way to insert these controls. 
For instance you can run a  promotion in the paper highlighting a promotion (“The first 25 people to present this at our till after 8am on Thursday get a  50% discount”). By printing a voucher code on the advert you can easily set the limit to 25 customers and have the system refuse any further uses. This allows you to tell customers that “the system won’t allow it”. It also makes it simple to control such sales across multiple premises.

Tracking Advertising
If you run  an ad that encourages people to come into your business you want to know which ones work and which don’t. By using a voucher code that needs to be brought in at the same time either to avail of an offer or to obtain an extra benefit  you can track the effectiveness of the radio, newspaper or voucher booklet you are advertising in.

All of these uses has the added advantage that, because the customer must have a registered card to use the voucher, they encourage membership of your reward program. And the advantages of this are the extra contact and tracking that becomes available to you.

Where can they be used
Because vouchers can be configured so that they are used multiple times you have the freedom to use them in mass-media. For instance you can print a single voucher in a newspaper or radio ad and limit it to one use per person while allowing up to 100,000 people use it. Or you can text individual vouchers to people and monitor which people respond.

Using Vouchers On-Premises: The Mechanics
There is now a new link on the main toolbar, next to the “DEDUCT VALUE” link. 


This brings you to the voucher page illustrated below. Simply enter the card and voucher number and any values will be applied to the customers account.  If the voucher is invalid for any reason such as having expired, been used too much or not valid for the card then you will also get this information. Remember that you can use vouchers to manage actions other than awarding points (for instance giving a free bottle of wine to the first 5 diners after 5pm). In these cases you are responsible for ensuring the action is carried out along with the registering of the voucher.


Managing Vouchers
Management accounts will also now have an extra section available to them. “Vouchers” is located on the left bar under Communication. Because vouchers are new we have limited functionality for managing them right now. We want to see how they are used before finalising the development of this section. We will develop a range of reporting and other tools based on your feedback but right now what you can do is order vouchers. 
The form will ask you for the various bits of information required. Vouchers will be manually generated so we will screen the information you have given us to ensure they are consistent. There is also a section for you to describe what you are going to use the vouchers for. This will help us to make sure that the criteria you specify for the vouchers themselves are suitable for your needs. If we have doubts or are uncertain about any issue we will call you. Because of this manual intervention it might take a day or so to issue you with voucher numbers so please order them as early as possible.

This is the second functional update for vouchers in the last 3 weeks. I believe the flexibility we have built into this system gives it huge power to help your business. As you can see from the examples above, vouchers can be used in many different ways and all have the extra advantage that they get people registering. Whenever you reach out to customers you should consider how a voucher can be integrated into the transaction.  And if you have any questions about how best to use it for your business please contact us.


Introducing Vouchers

I recently told you that we were working on a new voucher system for This new functionality is intended to do a number of things; allow businesses without internet access to run an advanced Loyalty program; allow you to assess your advertising channels; allow promotions and competitions and more. Today we are launching the first element of this and I wanted to let you know how it will work, what can be done, and the plans for future development. That’s a lot of stuff to cover so let me start with what the additions we are adding today can do for you.

Vouchers are a simple concept: each one has a code that contains a value and when entered into the value is applied to the card. We will be adding an option to redeem these codes within the business but what we are releasing today is the ability to have the customer redeem the vouchers by themselves at home. So what can you do with it?

Self-Service Loyalty Program
Businesses that do not have an internet connection in their store can now operate their own advanced Reward Program either as a stand-alone function or as part of a town card. All they need to do is to print a range of vouchers and, when a customer has made a qualifying purchase (spent €50 or more for example) the staff hands one of the vouchers to the customer. The customer then enters it at home to collect their points. Of course if a business does not have an internet connection they cannot redeem points directly so they will need to run a report every month and post out discount vouchers in the same way that Dunnes Stores do. 
Since the product purchased can no longer be recorded the business loses some information that an internet connection allows but this allows  businesses who do not have the equipment in-store to offer their customers the advanced points-based loyalty programs they prefer. These businesses include not only retailers but also taxis, plumbers, market stall holders and others

Because vouchers can have different values it is now simple to create some excitement amongst your customers. You can easily have vouchers that guarantee customers 10 points – and mixed in among them have 5 that have a prize. This prize could be anything from merchandise to an entry in a  draw or cash. When the customer redeems the voucher online they will be instantly told what they have won and can then contact you to collect the prize. This instant-win aspect makes it exciting and gets customers talking – all of which helps promote the business. It allows you to promote certain lines of goods, encourage custom at quiet times or just generate some excitement a few times a year.

Encouraging Registration
A Reward program is not an instant fix for a business. What it is is a long-term investment that increases in value as time passes and data collects in the database. However a lot of businesses with an existing mailing list like to try and jump start their program by posting cards to customers. In general the number of registrations received this way is not high – only when you get in the habit of asking people if they have a card can you be sure of building your database. However the registrations from a posting can be increased with vouchers. 
You can create a promotion such as outlined above and include both a  voucher and description with the card. Someone receiving this knows that they will be guaranteed some points by registering – but because they can also win a significant launch prize they will be even more enthusiastic about the fact. Not only will a properly designed and explained launch program increase the registrations but it will also get people talking. 

Advertising Monitoring
Existing clients can now monitor the effectiveness of their different advertising channels. The problem with advertising of course is that you can never be sure which channel actually works. You put the same advert in two different papers and get results – but equally from each or is one a waste of time? By printing a different voucher code in each paper you can now encourage people to register the code and get additional Reward Points. Later you can see which one had the greatest response overall or amongst specific demographics and focus your future advertising there, saving you money. 

Secure Gift Card Top-ups
Cash Cards are often used as Gift Cards. By having vouchers in specific values you can now make it easy for relatives to give gift vouchers that are added to the recipients existing Gift Cards. If the recipient doesn’t have a Gift card you can provide one at the time. The other benefit is that you can cancel a stolen voucher or even manually track who you issued vouchers to and double check this against the recipient.

There are other uses of self-service vouchers such as fundraising opportunities and community cards but these are some of the highlights for an individual business. The question now is how do the vouchers actually operate?

Voucher Controls
While vouchers are a simple concept, we have designed our system to be flexible and comprehensive, with each individual voucher having a range of controls.  
 – Start and Expiry Dates: vouchers will automatically be refused outside of this date range.
 – Card Type: Vouchers must specify if they are valid for Cash Cards or Reward Cards. This prevents what is intended to be 50 points instead giving 50 Euro.
 – Place of Use: At the moment we are only allowing vouchers to be redeemed by the user themselves. In the next few weeks we will activate a function to allow you to redeem the vouchers in store. This opens up a new range of uses which we will discuss at that time. 
 – Total Uses:  A vouchers can be used once or multiple times. Most vouchers you issue will only need to be used once but if tracking advertising for instance, you will not want to print a different code on every newspaper. In this case a single voucher per advert is used and you can set this to a  maximum of 10,000 or more uses.
 – Uses per Customer: In addition to total uses you can set a limit to the number of times a single account holder can use the voucher. Again this is most likely to be 1 but under some circumstances it may be more. This is more likely to be greater than one when we release the in-store redemption feature.

In addition to these overall controls each voucher can also have a range of values. These specify the message to be shown and the value to be awarded and they specify which businesses the specific set applies to. By including multiple values on a  voucher we have ensured maximum flexibility – so some vouchers can have 10 points while others have 10 points plus a message letting the recipient know they own a prize. These are recorded as individual transactions in the database, making it easy to identify prize winners.

Customer Activation Process
Customers receiving a voucher must have a registered card before they can redeem the voucher itself. Once they have done so they will now see a new button on their detail page. Once they click this button they will be given some instructions and the space to enter the voucher code. If the voucher meets the criteria set such as usage and valid dates then the values are awarded and the voucher details are displayed for the customer in the way show at the top of this post. Both the business and customer can then see the voucher number and the details in the transaction history. This allows businesses to run reports on specific voucher usage.


I’ve spent some time on trying to get the pricing low. I wanted to keep this free for the majority of businesses but given the computational and database requirements involved I needed a system that ensures overuse does not lose money. The compromise I’ve settled on is that each business that uses for their Reward Programs can will have 10,000 vouchers or redemptions (whichever is largest) per calendar year. What does this mean in practice?
A business can issue 10,000 unique vouchers in a year free of charge, allowing a sole trader to issue 38 vouchers to customers every work day. Alternatively a single voucher can be  redeemed by 10,000 individual customers soa  business can run 10 adverts each of which get 1,000 actual responses. Or you can mix them and have 5,000 unique vouchers and 1 that is redeemed by 5,000 people.  The first 10,000 in a calendar year are free of charge. For those who do exceed these they can then obtain extra on a pay-per-use basis of just 1 cent per voucher/usage, allowing you to control costs. This means a further 10,000 vouchers/uses for just €100. 
I think under these conditions the majority of businesses will pay nothing for their vouchers and the minority that do will not pay more than €100/year. It is the fairest method I could devise that meant I could continue to offer this service without risking large losses.
Allowances cannot be carried forward to the next year, but this means that your full 2011allowance is now available for use in the next 6 months.

Getting Vouchers
As we are rolling this service out in stages there is currently no direct way to create your own vouchers. I want to see how they are used before settling on a  final interface for that aspect. If you want vouchers drop an email to with your requirements. I’ll get back to you quickly with any questions or clarifications and generate a spreadsheet of codes for you which you can distribute in any way you wish. Similarly if you have any questions please drop a line.

I am excited about this element of I think it’s going to be one of the big innovations on the platform and one that can change how you use your Reward Programs as well as opening the service to many new businesses. I will be monitoring it carefully over the next few weeks and will let you know when the next stage is implemented.