Nick's Garden Center has moved away from print coupons to focus more on online options. The store honors coupons displayed on customers' phones as an extra incentive, since not all have access to printers.
THINKSTOCK.COM

If this isn’t etched into stone somewhere, it probably should be: “Nobody wants to pay full price.”

This mantra has long influenced the practice of retail and is no less true today. Coupons are a traditional method of piquing consumer interest by offering to save them money on select products. They’ve historically been common in newspapers but are now found in abundance online.

A retailer with a full online ordering and delivery service might not bother with online coupons, but for garden center retailers, there is some value in giving people another reason to walk in.

Nick’s Garden Center and Farm Market in Aurora, Colo., has been hosting online coupons for six years. Customers can print them out or show them on their mobile devices at the store.

Owner and general manager Richard Ortega says coupons for Nick’s used to be printed in newsletters circulated through an opt-in mailing list and to targeted ZIP codes. The coupons started appearing in digital newsletters, but customer feedback encouraged a different approach.

“We started e-blasting a digital version of our print newsletters, which had coupons in the body,” Ortega says. “When customers would get this e-mail with the newsletter, they would want to use the coupons, but to do so they would have to print the whole newsletter to use the coupons. This created a lot of complaints because they were ink intensive. So what we did was blast our newsletter and the customer would read it online, check out the content, and then if they wanted to use a coupon, we had a ‘Print Coupons Here’ link that would take them to a page on our site with only black and white coupons on it in, [which were] much easier for folks to print out.

“It was a decision based on the possibility to create new foot steps in the store,” Ortega adds. “The coupon page is the 2nd highest visited page on our site besides the homepage.”

Ortega says the online coupons not only help to encourage visits to the store, but they simplify the process of directing customers to opportunities for savings: instead of making shoppers clip and carry around binders full of coupons, the Nick’s Garden Center and Farm Market website does it for them.

“Now that we have boiled down our coupons to one page and [they’re] easy to print, we rarely get complaints,” he says. “If someone says they forgot to print a specific coupon they saw online we will honor it. We feel that the coupon did its job and got them in the store.”

On top of seeing a boost in foot traffic, the Nick’s Garden Center and Farm Market staff have noticed a connection between coupon offerings and sales of the products they feature.

“We have seen featured product sales rise with the newsletter coupons posted online,” Ortega says. “We’ve seen many instances where folks bring in all [the] coupons and use it like a shopping list. Cool weather weed killer, pansies, spring bulbs — these featured products sales increase once we post and blast the coupons.”

Ortega says a downside has been the feeling some newsletter subscribers have that the coupons they get aren’t exclusive, since they’re open to all shoppers on the IGC’s website.

“We aim to make those signed up for the e-newsletter feel special by offering exclusive coupons not on the site,” Ortega says. “An example would be to include a coupon a couple of weeks before an open sale to those signed up, giving them first grabs at inventory before the offer is available to the public.”