Friday, May 2, 2014

Remember Coupons? Think Click, Not Clip

Decades ago, shoppers awaited the Thursday newspaper to clip coupons for Saturday's grocery shopping. In 1978, the dollar value of coupons issued exceeded $72 billion, and continued to rise year after year due to competition and shopper expectations.

Fast-forward to the great recession, when super coupon clippers became media stars and taught mainstream shoppers some tricks to save big. By 2013, an estimated 315 billion coupons were being issued in the United States...with less time between issuance and redemption deadline. Marketers clearly wanted to increase the sense of urgency and encourage consumers to buy now. Yet fewer Americans said they redeem coupons, mainly because they weren't able to find coupons for the products they prefer to buy.

Today, savvy shoppers looking for bargains appear to be in favor of mobile coupons, accessed via smartphone or tablet computer. Waiting in line in local stores, I often see cashiers scanning coupon codes on a customer's phone. With a click, not a clip, shoppers save money and stores avoid the hassle of bundling paper coupons for return to manufacturer. Fast, easy, and no more little pieces of paper to handle.

Yet another approach is card-linked couponing, which involves consumers registering their payment cards with the couponing service so that discounts are automatically applied after the shopping transaction. This couponing method streamlines the entire process for buyers and sellers. Just as important, it allows marketers to evaluate the results of every coupon offer and analyze who's buying, when, where, and how often.

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