Article originally published as Social Media & Digital Coupons Driving Industry Trends on Technorati
Even though overall coupon distribution was down slightly in 2012, redemption rates for some key growth areas were up, according to NCH Marketing’s Mid Year 2012 Coupon Facts Report. With more people than ever before redeeming mobile coupons according to Juniper Research, and the rise of Facebook apps, and databases of online coupon codes on sites like coupontrade.com, the coupon industry is being fueled by a new layer of value provided by companies who want to make it easier for consumers to find and use coupons.
According to the infographic, How Big is the Coupon Industry (which you can find here), some have taken it a step further, with 47% of women & 33% of men stating that they use social media as the primary source for their coupons.
And it makes sense, the easier it is to find, save and redeem a coupon, the more likely someone is to use it. And when you find a good deal, isn’t it natural to want to share that with others? This is what a new breed of companies are doing, focused on helping consumers get the value of coupons without all the heavy lifting you might see on a show like TLC’s Extreme Couponing.
Even companies like Largo, Florida based Valpak (yea the same blue envelopes in your mailbox Valpak), are getting into the mobile and social couponing game.Speaking with MediaPost, Fred Steube, Digital Innovation Director, Valpak said, “We are seeing increased use of mobile coupons and increases in redemption.” And Nancy Cook, VP Digital Business Development adds, “Our app downloads tripled last year.” And when you don’t have to dig in your wallet to pull out crumbled paper coupons, or fumble through a binder as thick as Tolstoy’s War and Peace to get the value, it makes it that much more appealing.
“The major challenge on the user side will be ensuring relevancy – once someone starts to receive too many badly-targeted offers, or even worse, unsolicited offers, they will view mobile coupons as spam and cease to be part of the market.” ~ David Snow, senior analyst at Juniper Research
In a segment this morning on CBS Las Vegas affiliate KLAS they highlighted the idea of what they call “stealth couponing”, where consumers who are maybe too embarrassed to slap a coupon down can use different sites and apps to stealthily save money without anyone knowing the difference. There was also the American Express AMEX Sync program, which will let card holders load offers they see on Twitter or Facebook directly on to their cards to appear as credits.
Then there are sites that let you browse literally hundreds of thousands of different coupon codes for specific outlets. With offers ranging from $5 off to $50 off, free shipping, percentage off coupons and more, sites like coupontrade.com lets users browse their free database of online coupon codes by brand, offer type or category.
So what is preventing even further adoption of online coupon use? Well, there are two sides, the user side and the retailer side. David Snow, senior analyst at Juniper Research says, “The major challenge on the user side will be ensuring relevancy – once someone starts to receive too many badly-targeted offers, or even worse, unsolicited offers, they will view mobile coupons as spam and cease to be part of the market.”
On the retailer side, the hurdles seems to be more operational in nature. I don’t think any of us envy the sales clerk trying to figure out how to actually redeem some of the deals brought in by smartphone users demanding fulfillment. And let’s face it, the person working the register isn’t as interested in the mobile coupon ecosystem, and making it work smoothly for us as they are in not screwing anything up. In the end companies are going to have to get serious about training their employees on how to process and redeem new forms of coupons, or risk consumers going elsewhere to buy.
In any case, as the trend of mobile coupons and social media couponing continue, some kinks in the distribution channels will need to be worked out at some point. Whether it’s educating employees better, finding a universal coupon redemption standard or some other solution not even conceived yet, the one constant in the industry, as in many others, will be change going forward.