By Traci Yourse
The advancements of technology, coupled with a down economy, have catapulted the use of coupons to levels that surpass those in recorded history.
Those interested in learning how to save have numerous sources to aid them in mastering the art of the deal. TLC’s new series Extreme Couponing, which launched in April, features everyday people who show you how they save hundreds of dollars on shopping trips thanks to discount coupons. And there is no shortage of blogs and websites dedicated to offering advice on how to save, the tools and resources to use, and daily and weekly posts on the best deals available.
Out With the Old, In With the New
Coupons typically have spurred thoughts of consumer packaged goods and cents off a product. Think again. Today, a myriad of products, services, and retailers are enticing consumers with deals that quickly add up to more than a mere $.50 savings on a bottle of ketchup.
Major retailers, local restaurants, and beauty services (to name a few) are partnering with collective-buying websites such as Groupon.com. Groupon is a deal-of-the-day website localized to major markets. Each day, Groupon features unbeatable deals on things to do, see, eat, and buy in your city. If the minimum number of people sign up for the deal before the offer expires (typically 24 to 36 hours), they charge each consumer’s registered credit card and send a link to print the Groupon. If enough consumers don’t opt in to the deal, it is canceled.
Groupon has experienced extraordinary success since its launch in 2008. With over 80 million members in 35 countries, it has been deemed the fastest-growing company in Web history. The numbers speak for themselves. Groupon turned down a $6 billion buyout offer from Google late last year and is said to be planning a $25 billion initial public offering of stock.
The Sincerest Form of Flattery
Groupon’s success has spawned imitators. There are hundreds of copycats, but the largest and most flattering is the social media giant itself: Facebook. Last month, Facebook Deals launched in five U.S. cities where they are testing their version of the daily-deals market.
Digital Coupons Unleashed
Dedicated coupon websites, blogs, and collective buying are the newest craze; however, there are tried-and-true methods to distribute coupons via Web and mobile such as SMS promotional text campaigns, email deals pushed to consumers who have opted in, and the use of QR codes in traditional media. Research indicates that numerous advertisers have reported great success with such initiatives.
Key benefits of digital vs. traditional distribution are the ability to target specific consumer profiles, the ability to reach consumers closer to the point of purchase, and electronic redemption that eliminates the need for costly and complex manual processes. And digital coupons are more cost-efficient: no paper, printing, or mailing costs. Last but not least, digital media efforts can have a viral component through social media outlets.
We’ve marveled at the wealth of information shared via social media, and marketers stand to gain from this word-of-mouth marketing. Saving $.25 with a traditional coupon is not news that is likely to be shared. But telling your network of friends about the fabulous local restaurant you just discovered (oh, because a deal incentivized you) – now that is worthy of sharing. This viral or word-of-mouth exposure is possibly the most beneficial form of advertising.
Bargains offered digitally have lessened the required “hunt” used by the first generation of penny-wise consumers and have opened the floodgates for those who are less willing to seek out coupons but who appreciate the deals that are so plentiful and easy to redeem via the Web and mobile.
What we’re seeing is that more educated, affluent, and young consumers are realizing the value of, well, value and are readily cashing in, much more so than the scissors-wielding housewife of the last century.
The unsettled economy has attracted more consumers to coupons, and technology has made it easier to find and cash in on bargains. Manufacturers and retailers looking to increase trial or attract new users will continue to have real opportunities to engage this new, deal-oriented society. Consumers – you and me included – enjoy saving money.