Finding the perfect Mother’s Day gift can be a difficult, if not impossible, task. At least it’s fairly simple to figure out how treat your mother better than the average son or daughter this Sunday. Do you have an above-average mom? Then she deserves an above-average Mother’s Day. There is no shortage of consumer survey data out there concerning projected Mother’s Day spending this year. After an examination the numbers, we present five strategies to employ so that you can at least make the case you’ve gone over and above the average, mathematically speaking, to honor your mother. Spend More Than $168.94 According to the National Retail Federation, consumers will spend an average of $168.94 on moms this Mother’s Day, an all-time high, up 11% from last year’s average of $152.52. These figures don’t necessarily represent spending on a single gift; instead, the average is the total amount the individual consumer spends on Mother’s Day—including restaurant meals, and gifts for one’s mother, as well as wives, mother-in-laws, and such. Among the hottest gifts this year is a category not usually associated with Mother’s Day: electronics. The NRF anticipates American consumers will drop a record-high $2.3 billion on electronics, up from $1.6 billion in 2012. Spend More Than $40 If the NRF’s figure seems a bit too steep, consider the survey data from Offers.com. In its poll, 52% of respondents said that they would be spending $40 or under on a Mother’s Day gift. Go over that mark and you’re good. (MORE: The Passive-Aggressive, Total Cheap-o Gift Guide for Mother’s Day) Buy Something That’s (Yikes) Not on Sale In a PriceGrabber poll, 55% of online shoppers said that free shipping would help entice them to buy a produce for service for Mother’s day, while 44% indicated a price cut would do the trick. Just 23% of shoppers said that retailer tactics would not influence their Mother’s Day buying decisions in any way—presumably because they’ve already made up their minds about the perfect gift for mom, and a 10% off promotional code
After months of abysmal sales tallies, the Ron Johnson era is over at JC Penney. Now that Johnson’s “fair and square” no-coupons pricing policies have proved to be a failure, the department store will have to try something else to win back customers and stop the bleeding. But what? Mike Ullman, who was replaced as CEO when Johnson took over at JC Penney in 2011, and who began serving again as top executive when Johnson was pushed out, told the Wall Street Journal that he wasn’t planning on reverting to the old business model. “I wouldn’t recommend that we go back to the way J.C. Penney was when I left,” he said. “Things change.” And yet, in some ways the department store is clearly trying to resemble the JC Penney of old. Management has already announced that newspaper ads will feature coupons once again. Johnson seemed to find coupon usage distasteful and silly, likening it to a drug that consumers needed to be weaned off. A little over a year after JC Penney went “drug-free,” so to speak, coupons are back. (MORE: The 5 Big Mistakes That Led to Ron Johnson’s Ouster at JC Penney) Some retail experts think that the return of coupons is just the tip of the iceberg. John Sculley, former CEO of Apple, said on Bloomberg TV that it was absolutely essential for JC Penney to “get the cash flow of those old customers back into the store. And how did they do it before?” Sculley asked, before answering his own question. “They did it with sales.” A new study indicates that JC Penney’s shoppers are older, poorer, and more price-sensitive than the average customer at, say, Target or Macy’s. It’s assumed that an announcement of major markdowns is the quickest (and perhaps only) strategy to bring these customers back to JC Penney. Martin Sneider, a retail professor at Washington University, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he anticipates a flood of deals and discounts, at least in the short run while JC Penney is desperate
In the weeks after the Carnival Triumph debacle, cruise analysts and agents were quick to report that cruise sales remained strong, and that cruise lines felt no need to resort to “panic pricing” to fill ship cabins. Lately, however, it looks like Carnival is panicking. The infamous Triumph episode, dubbed the “cruise from hell” and the “poop cruise” due to the fact that passengers were stranded for several days at sea without toilets after a fire in an engine room, was followed by a string of other ugly incidents involving Carnival ships. In the aftermath, politicians have been calling for a new cruise ship “bill of rights” for passengers. And apparently, travelers by and large have simply been avoiding booking Carnival sailings, to the point that the cruise line has felt compelled to offer last-minute cabins at fire sale prices. Last week, Bloomberg reported that four-night Carnival cruises were being offered starting at just $149 per person—or a mere $38 per person, per night. (Normally, a cruise priced anywhere around $100 per person per night is considered a deal.) One travel agent explained to Bloomberg why it’s worth it for Carnival to drop prices so dramatically: “The prices did go down,” said Manny Lubian, president of Futura Travel Inc. in Miami. “An empty ship doesn’t make as much money. They’d rather have bodies in them, buying drinks and spending money.” (MORE: Is $500 Enough for Enduring the Cruise from Hell?) While those prices seem remarkably cheap—perhaps even cheaper than just staying home, considering that meals and entertainment are included—they don’t include several mandatory fees, notably port charges and taxes. The total for two passengers in the cheapest Carnival cabin was $454, according to Bloomberg. Like most cruise lines, Carnival also adds service gratuities automatically onto passenger bills, to the tune of $11.50 per person, per day. Carnival’s $149 sale has expired, but as of Monday the cruise line was offering a May 13 departure out of Miami on the Imagination starting at $179, or “as little as $45/night,” as the
A new Pew survey has it that one-third of Americans actually like doing their taxes. Perhaps more surprisingly, the prospect of free cinnabons and free curly fries on Tax Day has nothing to do with it. Among fans of filing income taxes, the most popular reason cited for not hating the process is the likelihood of getting a refund. Some folks also like doing their taxes because they “just don’t mind or are good at it,” because it gives them a sense of control, or because they enjoy the feeling of doing their duty and paying their fair share. Marketers have come to like Tax Day for very different reasons—because it gives them yet another opportunity to generate publicity and goodwill among consumers. In recent years, April 15 has become a popular day for freebies and deals from all sorts of restaurants and retailers. The filing of income taxes is now an annual event that marketers use to get on the good side of consumers with promotional giveaways, alongside Valentine’s Day, free ice cream cone day, and other random freebie days. This year is no exception. Here are some of the best deals offered in honor of Tax Day 2013: AMC Theatres: Concessions stands at theaters are giving away free orders of small popcorn from April 12 to 15. (MORE: Your 6 Biggest Tax Time What-Ifs — Answered) Arby’s: Use the linked coupon for a free order of curly fries or potato cakes on April 15. Cinnabon: Two free Cinnabon Bites offered per customer on April 15, while supplies last. California Tortilla: Give the password (“1040″) for a free order of chips and queso (with any purchase) on April 15. Great American Cookies: Each customer gets a free Birthday Cake Cookie on April 15. Office Depot: Make copies of up to 25 pages of your income taxes (in black and white, single-sided) free of charge on April 15. (MORE: The Hidden Cost of Tax Refunds) For more Tax Day deals, check out the lists rounded up by sources such as
There’s just no stopping the madness. From Hooters restaurants to businesses selling books for homeschooled children to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, everyone seems to be pursuing a marketing tie-in to March Madness, a.k.a. the NCAA basketball tournament. This week, the nation’s attention turns to the college basketball tourney—if not the actual games, at least to office pools. It’s a costly time for American businesses; by one estimate, the loss in productivity due to the tournament will run a total of $134 million just on Thursday and Friday. Any time an event is on the minds of millions of American consumers, there will surely be businesses seeking a piece of the action. Here are some examples: The Bracket Racket The NCAA’s bracket format lends itself naturally to a series of face-to-face vote-offs on the Internet. Just substitute products, or movies, or even regional hot dogs and sausages, and wah-la! You’ve got a customized bracket that (hopefully) will be a magnet for clicks on your site, as viewers vote and check in—and probably, reveal lots of personal data that’ll help your marketing efforts further—throughout the course of the tournament. (MORE: March Madness Will Cost Businesses $134 Million. Why Aren’t Employers Concerned?) The Consumerist’s “Worst Company in America” tournament has been taking place for years, but it’s hardly the only one. Last year, in meta joke fashion, the Atlantic put together a bracket of brackets, in which Internet viewers voted for their favorite oddball brackets, from Worst Sci-Fi movie to Jezebel’s Sex vs. Chocolate showdown (the missionary position won, beating out brownies in the final), and beyond. This year, among the many brackets seeking your attention are some fairly straightforward ones, like the battle for the best sitcom at Vulture.com and the best music single of the past year at Billboard.com. Redbox, meanwhile, has a Movie Matchup, and picking winners yields points that can be used for free movie rentals. There are also curiously specific vote-offs, like the top player in Houston Rockets history at Bleacher Report and the Cooking
Sure, Valentine’s Day is the ultimate Hallmark Holiday, when restaurants are crowded and overpriced and people buy gifts mainly because they feel obligated. But February 14 is also a terrific day for snagging free stuff—cookies, donuts, DVD rentals, and more. Here’s a selection of freebies for Valentine’s Day 2013: Denny’s: Print out a coupon for a free coffee, only through 2 p.m. on Valentine’s Day. Krispy Kreme: February 14 is the last day to get Valentine’s cards good for 12 free donuts—with the purchase of a dozen donuts at normal price. (MORE: Shopping for a Soul Mate? Stores Host Dating Events This Valentine’s Season) Panera Bread: Use Treater.com to send a credit for a free cookie to a friend—or just to yourself, if you’d rather. Log in via Facebook is required. The resulting “Treat Card” doesn’t expire, but you must order the freebie by February 14. Pretzelmaker: Like the pretzel chain on Facebook, and when you buy a heart-shaped pretzel, you’ll get a second one for free. Qdoba: It’s buy-one-get-one-free entrees on February 14, so long as you share a kiss with someone when placing your order at the register. Quiznos: Use the link to print out a coupon, good for a free toasted cookie with the purchase of a regular or large sub, on February 14 only. Redbox: Enter the code SWEET online or at a Redbox kiosk for a free one-night DVD rental, on February 14 only. (MORE: Valentine’s Day Deals: Romance in the Form of Heart-Shaped Meat, Fast Food by Candlelight) Ruby Tuesday: Make a reservation online for February 14 to 17, and you’ll get a coupon for a free dessert. Starbucks: Head with a friend to Starbucks between 2 p.m and 5 p.m. today, when a buy-one-get-one-free promotion is in effect for three hot drinks: Vanilla Spice Latte, Caffè Mocha, and Hot Chocolate.
Bync, a new startup launching today, will sync with your bank and credit cards in order to provide you with more relevant deals, offers and coupons which are sent out via email. You can think of it as the daily deals email that you actually want to read. The company began its life as Budgetable, a more comprehensive personal finance suite similar to Mint.com, but with offers. However, following user testing over the summer, the company found that it was the deals which really engaged customers.
The service currently works with 10,000 different credit card companies, banks and credit unions across the U.S. and Canada. To use Bync, users sign up and add credentials for their banks and credit cards, again similar to Mint, and it will then begin to sync their data to see which deals they would be interested in.
Bync CEO and founder Ryan Bales says he came up with the idea based on his own frustration with his daily deals emails - the offers just weren’t relevant to his tastes. “A lot of the daily deal sites are based on your location,” Bales explains, “but just because I live in Boulder, Colorado that doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m interested in spas and the other things they offer. I starting thinking, it’s not a very good way to determine what people will like and what people will find useful.”
It would be better to target users based on actual spending behaviors, he realized. Of course, this is not an original idea. Banks and credit card companies are also competing this market, as well as other card-linked offers providers like Cartera Commerce, Edo, Placecast and others.
That being said, people love to get deals, so there’s still room for a new company to try its hand at the game. During Budgetable’s private beta involving 5,000 testers, the service saw very high click-through rates on deals emails, at around 12 to 15 percent. That’s around four times higher than the average daily deals email, Bales says, citing data from MailChimp’s extensive study.
Users can configure Bync to send them emails on either a daily or weekly basis, and currently, the offers will include a variety of online coupons, promo codes and other exclusive deals Bync itself has brokered with merchants. At launch, only around 10 percent of Bync’s deals are exclusive, as opposed to being aggregated by third parties, but Bales says this will change as more merchants come on board. He says the company is now in discussions with some bigger names, but isn’t permitted to reveal details of those potential pilot programs at this time.
The site will effectively operate as a middleman between merchants and customers, as Bync will only store anonymized spending data, not personally identifiable data. Part of Bync’s business model will be to charge merchants a fee to reach their loyal customers, but this aspect to Bync’s service has not yet gone live.
However, Bync will be monetizing at launch by offering a freemium subscription plan. Users can sync one card or bank account for free, but have to pay to sync more. For two accounts, it costs $3.99/month, four accounts is $5.99/month, and unlimited accounts cost $9.99/month. An annual subscription is less. A mobile application is in development, too.
Bync is a small, bootstrapped team of three based in Boulder. It’s in discussions with angel investors, but deals are not yet closed.
Amazon has a minority stake in deals site LivingSocial—but it’s large enough that it prominently contributed to Amazon’s disappointing financial earnings last month. LivinSocial, of course, competes with Groupon and other similar ventures that are also struggling. So on Thursday, costs began to get cut as LivingSocial announced it’s laying off 400 employees—around 10 percent of its total workforce.
Spokesperson Andrew Weinstein told CNNMoney the company would be moving the bulk of its customer service staff from Washington, D.C. to Tucson, AZ and that its sales and editorial teams have been “streamlined.”
“We’ve gone through two years of hypergrowth, from roughly 450 employees to 4,500,” Weinstein added. “The space has gone through such growth that we needed to catch our breath.”