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CoolSavings Starts Network for Coupons, Samples

CoolSavings Inc. has launched the CoolSavings Marketing Network, an Internet distribution network for coupons and samples from consumer packaged goods manufacturers, retailers and restaurants.

With the network's debut, clients' offers now appear on more than 30 Web sites including newspaper sites in Chicago, Philadelphia, Miami, Detroit and more than 20 other markets via deals with publishers such as Knight Ridder, Hollinger and Landmark Communications. Participants also include lifestyle Internet sites such as allrecipes.com and weather.com. Previously, CoolSavings offers were found only on CoolSavings.com.

CoolSavings is the No. 1 coupon site in the United States, boasting more than 22 million consumers who signed up for CoolSavings' service, including a list of 3.5 million online grocery coupon users who signed up for monthly e-mail contact. The company claims the grocery list is the largest of its kind.

CoolSavings works largely on a performance basis and is offering site owners participating in the CoolSavings Marketing Network a cut of sales. The network begins with coupon offers from advertisers including General Mills, 3M, Dannon and Unilever. Additional partners such as Hormel, Hoover and Gorton's are joining the network.

Online coupons let newspapers offer targeted discounts, as opposed to making the same offer to everyone who opens the Sunday paper, as is the case with free-standing inserts.

“I think if you talk to brand managers, they at times get frustrated with the mass-market blowout mentality of traditional couponing,” said Ken Treske, chief marketing officer, CoolSavings, Chicago. “However, they do continue to look for improved areas of targeting and providing the right incentive for customers.”

As a result, CoolSavings lets clients offer different types of promotions to different types of consumers, a more aggressive discount to a prospect or competitor's customer, for example.

“Those are the types of programs that drive a lot more efficiency for [brand managers] because they can target the people who have high value if they can convert them,” Treske said. “We find huge interest among our client base for that kind of targeting.”

Still, 84 percent of all coupon offers were delivered via FSIs in 2001, according to a joint study published in July by CoolSavings and NFO WorldGroup.

The CoolSavings Marketing Network roughly doubles CoolSavings' reach to 44 million to 46 million consumers, though there is much duplication, making a true measure difficult, according to CoolSavings executives.

The network increases CoolSavings' reach to its core demographic, or what it calls the Golden Household, families of three or more with pets and an above-average income. It also will open some new doors, Treske said.

“This gives us a touch point to reach those consumers when they're doing other things, when checking on the weather, when they're reading the local news … But we certainly see great opportunity to extend the network to some less-traditional CoolSavings members … targeting seniors, younger demographics and men,” he said.

As for the data resulting from transactions on the network, he said, “the data rights vary for different partners, but it is a shared resource in many senses of the word.”

A recent Forrester Research report estimates that more than 57 percent of U.S. households have searched online for consumer packaged goods promotions at least once and 31 percent of these households have downloaded a CPG coupon one or more times.

The network plans more features soon, including product sampling, catalog distribution and customer acquisition services such as newsletter sign-ups.

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