Yahoo Launches Coupon Page With Val-Pak

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Yahoo extended its reach into the physical shopping world last week with the launch of Yahoo Coupons, which will offer local merchant and national brand coupons from cooperative mailer Val-Pak.


Joining the coupon movement enables Yahoo, Santa Clara, CA, to reach consumers who use the Web but do not engage in e-commerce and gives Val-Pak a much larger distribution vehicle.


"There are still a lot of businesses where users are going out in the physical world to buy,'' said Susan Carls, Yahoo's senior producer for coupons.


Approximately 70 percent of Val-Pak advertisers and 250 franchises post their coupons online, an increase of 20 percent in advertisers and 11 percent in franchises since Val-Pak went online in November.


The same 30,000 online coupons available at www.valpak.com can now be accessed by ZIP code and product category at Yahoo Coupons (www.coupons.ya-hoo.com). The coupon results page that is printed for redemption also can be reached by entering ZIP code and category information at Yahoo Yellow Pages or by filling out an information form in other areas of Yahoo.


The coupon area is a complement to Yahoo's local offerings that include Classifieds, Get Local and Yahoo.


"We track keyword searches, and people are searching for bargains as online shopping takes off,'' Carls said. "It is a keyword interest we are trying to address and coupons is one way.''


Although Val-Pak, a division of Cox Target Media, Largo, FL, is Yahoo's first coupon provider, it will not be the only one. Carls said the portal does not engage in exclusive agreements and that it is looking to increase bargain services to users through additional partnerships.


Yahoo is Val-Pak's first Web hosting partner in an online local coupon market that is taking off. Co-op mailer SuperCoups, Avon, MA, formed a similar hosting arrangement with Web mall BuyItOnline in January and CoolSavings, Chicago, plans to develop a local area by the end of the year.


Partnerships are the best way to offer online coupons, said James Nail, senior analyst for media and technology at Forrester Research, Cambridge, MA, because coupon providers avoid the costs of building an audience while the high-traffic portal gains added value. He expects the rest of the leading Web portals to soon follow Yahoo's lead in offering coupons.


"The portal space is highly competitive and there is a lot of pressure for them all to maintain similar functionality,'' he said. "Sites are looking for more ways to attract users and coupons attract them with value.''


Val-Pak offers e-mail accounts and home pages that deliver personalized online coupons based on category preferences. Yahoo will track coupon usage and add services based on user demand. It plans to track when and where coupons are redeemed to match them to the appropriate high usage areas of Yahoo and to publicize Yahoo Coupons at certain times of the day. A coupon ad appearing at lunch time, for example, would be targeted to users running errands.


Yahoo also will track the demographic and regional makeup of light users vs. heavy users and determine which offerings are effective for different merchants. Carls said Yahoo could share its findings with advertisers to measure an offer's effectiveness and reach.


This tracking ability could be the impetus that convinces packaged goods companies to embrace online couponing, Nail said.
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