It shouldn’t come as a shock that people are turning to good old-fashion coupons to help keep a little more change in their pockets during the recession. The kinds of coupons people are turning to, however, may be a bit more surprising. Like most things in the world, today’s coupons have gone the way of the Web and are now available online and even via cell phone. Coupon usage has surged about 10% in the past four months and online coupons comprise the fastest growing segment with a 140% increase in redemptions last year alone.
Increasingly, big name retailers and manufacturers are committing themselves to delivering coupons online. Kmart will soon offer printable manufacturers’ coupons on its website, joining the likes of Kroger, CVS and Walgreens, all which launched printable coupons last year. Kroger even recently expanded a pilot program allowing Kroger customers to use their cell phones to load coupons (barcode and all) from Kimberly-Clark, General Mills, Clorox and other brands and redeem them at the checkout.
So why this surge in online printable coupons? For one thing, digital coupons have a 13% redemption rate — far surpassing the 1% redemption rate for coupons found mostly in newspaper inserts, on the back of sales receipts and on product packaging. Secondly, printing costs are transferred to the consumer. And third, the online and mobile coupon craze not only reflects the current economic outlook, but also reflects the changing way in which consumers shop and get their news (just look at Amazon.com and the state of our nation’s newspapers). So it makes sense that retailers and manufacturers are hopping online and giving customers an option that is convenient and reflective of the times.
While online coupons still have a ways to go before they are universally embraced, two things are clear: 1) people and companies will continue to explore any and all innovative cost-saving measures and 2) while we may be in a recession, the online world continues to surge full speed ahead.