Super Coups, CoolSavings to Launch Test

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Super Coups, the cooperative direct mail division of coupon distributor Advo Inc., Windsor, CT, this week launched a test with online coupon venture CoolSavings Inc., Chicago, that will provide CoolSavings with more locally based content and give Super Coups a more sophisticated Internet vehicle to offer its advertisers.


The two companies are offering a co-branded site that will allow CoolSavings' registered users in the Boston market to download or print coupons from Super Coups' local merchants and CoolSavings' national coupon provider base. The companies said they expect to test the project for about two months before rolling it out nationally, possibly in mid-June.


Although Super Coups offers thousands of coupons at its Web site (www.supercoups.com), the alliance with CoolSavings should give Super Coups' merchant-advertisers more targeted exposure to consumers, the companies said.


"We haven't had the [online] traffic that we feel is essential to give our merchants adequate visibility," said Don McKenzie, president/CEO of Super Coups.


CoolSavings, which collects demographic data on each of its registered users in order to provide targeted savings offers and opt-in e-mail announcements, in turn will have the ability to tap into the local-market expertise of Super Coups' national network of 80 franchise owners.


"To be quite honest, I didn't want to have to develop a local sales force when I could partner with the likes of Advo and Super Coups," said Steve Golden, chairman/CEO of CoolSavings.


CoolSavings is able to target local regions by using the residence and workplace data provided by registered users. The site also tracks coupon use and redemption and sends messages from advertisers to individual users based on their profiles. By tracking the profile of each visitor who "clips" a coupon from the site, CoolSavings also permits advertisers to test the responsiveness of their offers among different groups.


"It allows our merchants to design offers and promotions that are more effective," said McKenzie.


The move by Advo comes as coupon-distributor rivals like Val-Pak and Valassis have stepped up their Internet-based efforts.


Asa Graves, an analyst who follows Advo for Wheat First Union, Richmond, VA, said it made sense for traditional coupon distributors to try to establish a presence online, although he added that there are obstacles to overcome.


"If they can figure out a foolproof way of distributing coupons online, it would be great for these direct mailers," he said. "There's no paper costs, no postage, so the margins are tremendous."


But, he said, the potential restrictions on sending bulk, unsolicited e-mail put a damper on the possibility of mining for new customers on the Internet. In addition, he said, while most coupon mailers generally target neighborhoods according to general demographics, Internet coupon e-mailers instead are targeting individuals.


"The Internet holds great promise, but I certainly don't believe it's going to replace traditional mail," he said. "Advo's philosophy with the Internet is to be a fast follower rather than a pioneer. They are still in tests and trying to see what's going to work rather than spending a whole lot of money out front."
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