In service of one of my jobs I once attempted to draw a diagram showing how transactions unfold. It started out simple: the customer gives cash to the vendor and he hands over the goods. My goal was to illustrate how transactions acreet additional events. For example bills, rebates, warrenties, service contracts, coupons, trial periods, six month discounts, and recycling. Pretty soon I’d managed to clutter up an vast whiteboard and everybody cept me had lost interest. It’s was an essoteric interest probably shared only with the most fastidious of accountants, though the intent was to search for business oportunities.
I still find all this stuff far too interesting. Particularly the ways that vendors structure all these aspects of the transaction cycle to their benefit. For example this week Target is has some cell phone prepaid refill minutes on sale: two $25 cards for 42$. Which sounds like a deal. But it’s not since it’s really two 150 minute cards for 42$ and the $50 card gives your 460 minutes.
So given this essoteric interest I laughed outloud when I saw this business. RecycleBank‘s business model requires them to sell four players: the trash company, the town, the citizens, and finally advertisers. They use technology to measure how much each household is recycling. They do that with bar codes on the recycle bins and scanners on the trucks. Citizens, who sign up, are then “rewarded” with coupons from advertisers in proportion to how much they recycle.
I love how this glues a sales & marketing function onto the very tail end of the transaction cycle. I love how they glean (sic) exactly which customers are high volume consumers with a high preference for thrift – e.g. the perfect target for coupons. And I just roll my eyes at the gloss of green combined with the personal data collection. And finally, as I learned from the stamp script, coupons are all about increasing transaction velocity – and isn’t it wonderful how this injects the coupon at exactly the moment when there is space opening up inside the house?
Which makes me wonder, why I’ve never seen coupons on toilet paper?