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Every time a store tightens up its coupon policy, or a manufacturer prints a new restriction on its coupons, some longtime couponers fret that the glory days of coupons are over – and it’s just a matter of time before manufacturers either do away with coupons altogether, or make them so hard to use that no one will even want to use them anymore.

But it would appear that fear is largely unfounded, due to one simple fact. When it comes to choosing one product over another, or how many of those products to buy, those little pieces of paper can have a big influence.

In short – coupons work.

That’s one of the insights contained in the coupon processing company Inmar’s newly-released 2015 Promotion Industry Analysis, the successor to its annual Coupon Trends report.

As reported previously, the coupon statistics contained within the report were roughly the same as the previous year, with coupon use, distribution and redemption generally holding steady. That doesn’t necessarily mean all coupon users are thrilled with the values, expiration dates and types of coupons available. But shoppers are still using them, and coupons are still influencing shopper behavior enough that they’re likely to be around for some time to come.

The full Inmar report cites data from a survey of more than 2,000 coupon users. Nearly two-thirds of respondents said that the coupons they used most recently, changed their purchase behavior in some way. Their coupons prompted them to either buy a product they otherwise wouldn’t have, or to buy a product sooner or in greater quantities than they would have without coupons. And fully 91% said they would “likely” or “definitely” buy that product again – with or without a coupon.

And that’s the whole point of coupons, isn’t it?

It’s not just coupons that affect shopper behavior, though. More than half of shoppers said they’d buy a brand they don’t normally buy if there was a rebate available. And nearly two-thirds said the availability of a loyalty program – and its associated benefits, coupons and discounts – is a strong influence on where they choose to do their shopping. In what may seem somewhat counterintuitive, Inmar reports that shoppers who regularly use digital coupons linked to their store loyalty card spend 30% more each week than non-digital coupon users.

So not only do coupons save you money – they help stores and brands make money, too. That makes coupons a win-win-win for everyone!

But they aren’t perfect. “Shoppers are employing multiple online sources to find and acquire both digital and printable coupons,” Inmar finds. But “they are not always successful in locating promotions for the products they want to buy.” Meanwhile, “more and more shoppers participating in grocery store loyalty programs are expecting these programs to provide them with offers that align with their product preferences – but that expectation, in some instances, is not being met.”

65% of shoppers surveyed said they want stores to email them with coupons for products they normally buy. 75% of loyalty card holders want to be offered digital coupons for products they normally buy, and more than half want stores to let them know when there are digital coupons available for items that are on sale.

One wish expressed by some couponers probably will not happen any time soon – 38% said they wish all coupons were digital. And another wish probably will not happen ever – 81% said they want coupons to be applied automatically to their purchase without having to clip or select them at all.

Good luck with that one.

Couponing may never be quite that easy, but there are some things shoppers say companies can do to make couponing a little easier. Couponers surveyed fret that short expiration dates and the difficulty of finding coupons for products they want to buy, can make couponing difficult.

In the meantime, there are some things coupon issuers are apparently doing right. “With fewer shoppers reporting that there are too many rules/exclusions for using coupons and that using coupons slows their shopping,” Inmar reports, “it appears manufacturers are listening to shopper concerns and are making progress improving the coupon use experience.”

Overall, nearly two-thirds of shoppers said they used the same amount of coupons last year as they did in 2013. And nearly half of the shoppers surveyed said they were regular coupon users, about the same as last year. Curiously, though, the number who said they “never” use coupons nearly tripled – from a mere 4% in 2013, to 11% in 2014.

The fact that so many shoppers are throwing up their hands and giving up on coupons altogether, might make some concerned about coupons’ future. But not to worry. With coupons apparently doing such a good job influencing our purchasing behavior, it would appear that they’re here to stay.

So too bad for those who don’t use coupons anymore – that just means more coupons for the rest of us. And if this past year is any indication, coupon issuers will be only too happy to provide them.

Photo by rose3694

One Comment

  1. Pingback: The Grocery Shop for FREE Podcast–Episode 20: What’s New in Couponing! | Grocery Shop For FREE at The Mart!!

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