A Quick Look at the Past, Present, and Future of Coupons

Image credit: OOingle.com

I think I am going to quit using printed coupons. I have wanted to for a while. They clutter up my home. I only remember to use them about half the time, and mainly at stores that send them so often that it would be stupid not to use them (cough – Bed, Bath & Beyond). They take up time and energy, and I have many other uses for that time and energy.

While I was thinking about this the other day, it hit me that it is kind of ridiculous that printed coupons even still exist. So I did a little research…

The world’s first coupon is credited to Coca-Cola in 1887, when the company gave consumers handwritten coupons for a free glass of Coca-Cola.

As one might imagine, print coupons aren’t as effective as digital. According to L2 Insight’s Digital Coupon report, digital coupons have an average redemption rate of 14%, where print coupons are redeemed a mere 1% of the time. [Find L2’s report here]

Digital coupons first started out as “print at home” coupons, where you would find a coupon online or via email, print it, and then physically take it to the store to make a purchase. Those are, predictably, dying a slow death along with the weekly newspaper circular. According to a 2013 Ad Age article, the number of coupon prints has been declining 10% annually the past two years.

By contrast, McKinsey found the load-to-card mobile and digital coupon format having more than quintupled each of the past two years as marketers shift their focus to digital coupons good only through retailer loyalty programs.

In that same article, McKinsey projects load-to-card and mobile coupons will continue to grow distribution by around 50% annually from 2015 to 2019.

Despite these trends and new technologies, a March 2015 article in Social Media Today reports that 90% of all coupons are still traditional printed coupons.

From what I am reading, it looks like the bleeding edge of the coupon world is all about loyalty programs with robust mobile applications. Are there other trends that I am missing? Do other people hate printed coupons as much as I do? Would love to hear your thoughts!

Curious to learn more? Check out the history of the coupon:

Image credit: DailyInfographic.com

1 Comment

  1. I’ve thought the same thing! Especially since the market here no longer doubles the coupons, taking the time to sort and ‘manage’ coupons seems hardly worth the effort (ROI – return on investment). My question though, how do you manage your electronic coupons? print a list?


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