Will digital deals soon dull print coupons?

Gregory Kim, head of marketing and strategy at Savings.com, and Suzie Brown, CMO at Valassis, discuss the future of couponing.


Gregory Kim

Head of marketing and strategy, Savings.com, and more than eight years of direct marketing experience

Although print coupons represent the lion’s share of the industry, and their redemptions may continue to grow, daily deals and digital coupons have grown, and will likely continue to grow, at a faster pace. Over time, they will represent a larger portion of the mix. The shift from offline to online media use is the secular trend in many industries, and the coupon industry is no different.

The coupon industry is huge. Market studies from 2009 suggest that 317 billion coupons were distributed and that 2.6 billion units were redeemed for savings of $3.5 billion.

It’s no secret that consumers are spending more time online and on their mobile phones, so it makes sense for advertisers to distribute coupons via those channels. There are many other benefits of daily deals and digital coupons.

I’ve spoken to several marketing executives from retailers of varying sizes, and the common themes for why digital coupons are more attractive than print coupons are that digital distribution tends to be more cost-effective and deliver better ROI.

These executives also say that digital usually has better tracking and reporting to measure ROI versus traditional offline coupon distribution, and it typically allows for better targeting given the wealth of data on consumers.

When using digital deals, offers can be made interactive and they allow for delivery to consumers on the go, whether they are using a laptop, a tablet or a mobile phone.

Digital coupons also have an advantage in that they can become viral through the use of popular social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter.

The two most intriguing components of digital coupon growth will be mobile phones and virtual wallets. Given that we’re still in the beginning of the digital coupon era, it’ll be very interesting to see how this plays out.

Regardless of the mix between digital and print coupons, advertisers are increasingly employing coupons as part of their promotional strategies, and that trend will likely continue and contribute to overall growth. Consumers — you and me included — can save money, and saving money feels good.


Suzie Brown
CMO, Valassis, more than 25 years’ experience in the media, advertising and consumer promotion industries

Although digital coupons are sexy, new, ever-changing and all the buzz, consumers today still rely primarily on print. Why? Because print is tried-and-true, tangible, familiar and constant.

Traditional media is still a major influencer despite all the digital attention and hype. Eighty-seven percent of all consumer packaged goods coupons can be found in free-standing insert coupon booklets, according to NCH Marketing Services. By contrast, of the 260 billion coupons distributed through the third quarter of 2010, approximately 1% or less were distributed through online media.

Shoppers are increasingly using print circulars and coupons to plan and maximize their shopping trips.

Here are some statistics that support the strong connection shoppers have with print coupons: 79% of households either read or scan advertising mail sent to their household, and 64% look at store flyers before they go shopping or at the store. Sixty-three percent bring coupons to the store, and 50% make their shopping lists using store ads or coupons.

For years, we have heard that the consumer is king, and this rings very true today. Marketers must rethink the ways they understand and activate this value-centric consumer.

Shoppers now choose how, when and where they want to receive their advertising, and for that matter, what they receive. A dynamic integrated media plan with traditional and new media provides high visibility, flexibility and efficiency for both the national and local marketing campaigns.

For brands, it’s not all or nothing when it comes to promoting itself in print or through digital media. Both traditional and digital methods can and should co-exist.

In fact, some marketers use print campaigns to activate digital promotions, further validating the need to use both types of media to promote their products and services.

Valassis gives clients a means to reach consumers both offline and online, and we have seen significant growth on both fronts as consumers seek savings from all sources. Advertisers need to incorporate a blended approach of both traditional and digital promotions to reach today’s deal-seeking consumer.

Direct Marketing News’ Decision

The numbers don’t lie. Print coupons remain very popular with consumers, and they are still an effective way for brands to promote their products. Marketers should look into daily deals and digital coupons — but not as a replacement for print. They should augment their print coupon strategies with these new methods.

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