Val-Pak Goes Online With Coupons

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Val-Pak Direct Marketing Systems Inc., Largo, FL, takes its coupon system into a new arena with next week's launch of Val-Pak Coupons On-Line.


Working with 225 franchisees and more than 50 percent of its 130,000 small businesses and advertisers, Val-Pak Coupons On-Line (www.valpak.com) is making 32,000 to 35,000 coupons available to consumers through their computers. Franchises such as Subway, Jiffy Lube, McDonald's and Holiday Inn are participating in the venture as well as online merchants such as ArtSelect. The service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.


Consumers who visit Val-Pak's Web site are asked to enter either their home ZIP code, work ZIP code or the name of the city or state they're in. After that, a list of nine categories will be displayed -- Auto/Transportation, Entertainment, Restaurants, General Services, Retail, Household Services, Professional Services, Education and Communications -- and consumers are asked to click on the category they are interested in. Once a category is selected, all of the coupons offered by participating companies in the designated location will come up.


"Within two clicks, they are already being presented with coupon offers," said Todd Leiser, vice president of Internet technology at Cox Target Media, the parent company of Val-Pak.


Consumers then click on the coupons they want and either print them out or add them to their personalized envelopes while they search for others. Personalized envelopes can hold "as many coupons as they want to put in," he said. Once their searches are completed, consumers can print the coupons one at a time or three to a page. Leiser said participating retailers aren't worried about people photocopying coupons.


"They weighed the risk of people making coupon copies against the value, the opportunity and the business that the use of those coupons can bring in and felt it was worth the risk," he said.


Searches can be conducted by key words using a business name or a specific coupon offer. They also can be done by just using specific categories.


"By providing consumers with coupons online, it turns the Web into a shopper's personal coupon file catalog," Leiser said. "Whether they are looking for a pizza, an oil change or a new pair of running shoes, consumers will now be able to instantly find and print out the coupons they need."


"This is a logical step for our business," said Joe Bourdow, president of Val-Pak direct marketing systems. "We anticipate our database of more than 30,000 coupons will grow significantly as more retailers, service providers and consumers realize the benefit of having coupons available on the Web."


The site provides other services as well. Frequent visitors who register can have coupon offers from selected categories of their choice e-mailed to them. To register, consumers need to provide their home and business ZIP codes as well as their e-mail addresses. Registered consumers also can benefit from the Quick Search feature. After they register, the home page will be customized on subsequent visits and will allow them to view coupon offers within their home or work ZIP codes with just one click. The Val-Pak Travel-Pak custom search lets frequent travelers search for values like lodging, restaurants or retailers in the cities and regions they will visit.


Names acquired from those visiting the Web site won't be added to the direct mailing database. Leiser said Val-Pak plans to keep the names of the Web-site visitors separate from its direct mail database of names. While he expects that many visitors will be recipients of the direct mail pieces, he said the unique names will remain separate.


According to Val-Pak, industry studies show that Americans clipped more than 4.9 billion paper coupons last year, cashing them in for more than $3 billion in savings. It also found that 58 million Americans used the Internet last year and that close to 20 million visited an online retail site.


Val-Pak has been advertising the site by printing the Web address on the outside of its direct mail envelopes along with an information piece inside the envelope. It also has bought tens of millions of banner ads, network and cable TV commercial spots and ads in magazines such as People and Woman's Day. Val-Pak mails coupons to more than 53 million homes and businesses a year and has been mailing coupons for 30 years. Leiser said the online service won't affect the number of mailings Val-Pak does throughout the year.
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