Just look around. There are vouchers, offers, discounts and deals everywhere. They’re constantly flooding your inbox, they’re popping up in the middle of your computer screen and being plastered on big posters in shop window after shop window.

2 for 1. 25% off. Free delivery. Free meals for kids. £20 off your order. Buy one get one free.

That’s because they work – to an extent. They drive a surge in sales – driven by the ‘urgency’ principle (discounts tend to only be available for a limited time). They give you access to customers – many of whom would exchange their email for a voucher. But the benefits are, for the most part, short-term.

The problem is, brands that constantly offer discounts risk ‘normalising’ their customers so they begin to see the ‘discount state’ as the norm. Over time, this could affect the way that brand is perceived by its most precious audiences.

In the UK casual dining market specifically, 29% of consumers use discount vouchers and this can vary wildly for different chains – some have very high voucher usage (40%) and some very low (5%).

Brands that are tempted to move away from vouchers (due to too-high voucher usage) face a considerable challenge. Perhaps the question should not be ‘if’ you should do vouchers but ‘how’ you should do them. Brands need to explore mutually beneficial partnerships, exclusive loyalty tiers, or even ‘club’ membership fees – strategies that minimise deterioration of a premium image.

Where established models like Groupon, Wowcher, Tastecard and Time Out are widespread and accessible, particularly for ‘dining out’ vouchers, there also appears to be a new wave of more niche and exclusive discount models.

Vitality health and life insurance for example offer a host of offers for customers that lead a healthy active lifestyle. There are also highly localised services such as the Woffa app or the Victoria Privilege card, which offer exclusive promotions for people working in certain areas of London.

Discounts and vouchers are here to stay, but the way in which they’re offered is constantly changing. Rather than attempting to move away from vouchers completely, brands should see them as an opportunity for growth. An opportunity to innovate and shape a solution that benefits customer, business and brand.

What’s next for discount vouchers? We’re watching this space!

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To find out more about our Big Restaurant Survey (BRS), which has been tracking the UK restaurant sector for the last 6 years, get in touch!