Digital coupon use growing, but old-fashioned paper still king
by Lauren Zumbach, Chicago Tribune
As more and more shopping moves online, the humble paper coupon is proving oddly resilient.
Companies are sending out more digital coupons and a greater share of shoppers are using them, but paper still dominates the coupon world. In 2015, there were more than 289 billion print coupons distributed compared with just 6 billion printed or clipped digital offers, according to a report from Kantar Media. Even millennials reported using paper coupons as often or very nearly as often as older shoppers, Valassis, the company behind the RedPlum coupon circular, said in a 2016 report.
But a growing share of consumers also look for coupons online and brands, retailers, and coupon distributors have been getting behind digital to reach shoppers where they spend their time. Retailers also are trying to be smarter about using deals to drive sales.
Deerfield-based Walgreens announced last month it was making it easier for customers to find coupons on its website and app. News America Marketing, which owns weekly coupon circular SmartSource, purchased rebate app Checkout 51 last year. Earlier this month, Valassis introduced a program that can "listen" for TV, radio and online ads and send personalized offers to consumers within earshot through a smartphone app or mobile wallet.
"Even the paper circulars are looking to get greater presence in mobile and digital. But paper is still where value-seeking shoppers go first," said Dan Kitrell, vice president of account solutions with Kantar Media.
Clicking to "clip" a digital coupon is quicker than breaking out the scissors and the Sunday circular, but paper is still more user-friendly, said Jill Cataldo, a shopping expert from Huntley who runs supercouponing.com and teaches couponing classes.
Online — where shoppers might find deals on brand websites, retailer apps and other savings websites — there's no equivalent to the newspaper circular that collects coupons in a single, easy-to-check spot.
That fragmentation is an issue for brands and retailers too. The ability to reach people in 75 million households on a specific Sunday leading up to a product launch or holiday as they're planning their weekly shopping is "pretty powerful," Kitrell said.
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