Coupons.com Delivers Targeted Offers Directly to Consumers' Computers

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With a flashing yellow percent sign on the bottom-right side of PC screens, Coupons.com, an online coupons provider, updates consumers on new coupon offers -- whether they're online or not. By double-clicking on the icon, which becomes a permanent part of a computer's desktop, consumers can print out the coupons and redeem them at local retailers.


After visiting Coupons.com's Web site once and downloading a free application, coupon users receive a variety of targeted offers from any one of nearly 17,000 affiliate retailers or manufacturers, without having to provide personal data. Coupons.com only asks for a consumer's state and ZIP code.


"We don't really need to know anything else about [consumers] in order to provide them value, to provide the manufacturers or retailers value," said Steven Boal, CEO of Coupons.com, Palo Alto, CA. "We just don't want information that we consider private."


The application -- PASSport, or personalized access to secure savings -- registers new users with back-end servers and automatically installs the percent on the user's desktop. The yellow percent sign begins to flash when new offers are delivered to their application, Boal said. Consumers subsequently double-click on the icon to open the main window of savings, he said.


A user can be offline, Boal said, and still receive e-commerce offers. The consumer can also access print-at-home coupons for in-store redemption, from which they can select individual coupons, or add coupons to a "print cart" and bulk-print multiple coupons to a page.


"It's a coupon manager," Boal said of PASSport.


"We're seeing north of 10 percent redemption rates through many of our retailers," he continued. "Your average percentage of redemption for coupons is something like 1 percent."


And when shoppers redeem their coupons at local retailers, they can depend on a privacy-sensitive, secure process, Boal said. Coupons.com uses two-dimensional barcodes, which store 250,000 bytes of data, on the coupons. Once the barcode is scanned, he said, it identifies any fraud attempts, because each code is unique.


The scanning process also collects data used for marketing, Boal said. The barcode -- or Aztec code -- collects key data such as how many times a particular coupon was printed or redeemed, he said. In conjunction with Valassis Communications Inc., Livonia, MI, a marketing services company, Coupons.com gathers that information for manufacturers and retailers to assist them with future marketing schemes.


In addition to the company's PASSport application, Coupons.com launched a new business-to-business print-at-home couponing solution, Boal reported. The program, called Bricks, will extend Coupons.com's network to third-party Web sites, he said.


"Now, all the things we do in our core applications is extended out," Boal said, "so that a site that has significant traffic can reward its visitors directly without having them go to our site or download our application."


Coupons.com's Web site is generating significant traffic as well, Boal said. According to PC Data Online, Reston, VA, an online research company, Coupons.com has averaged more than 1 million unique visitors to its Web site each month since March, he cited. And Coupons.com averages approximately 5,000 new subscribers every day, not including its Bricks users, he reported.


Coupons.com reaches its consumer base without flooding them with e-mail campaigns, said Boal. The company only collects a shopper's state and ZIP code, and uses aggregate percentage information it collects from the Aztec barcode, he said. Retailers and manufacturers can then effectively target consumers by location and shopping habits, he said.


"We provide a complete closed loop so retailers and manufacturers can track their offers all the way through redemption process," Boal said, "and get back to those consumers if they want to take further action with them -- anonymously -- through our application."
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