Invisipon

You’ve heard the complaint from noncouponers, and maybe you’ve thought the same thing at times – “I wish coupons could just be applied to my purchases automatically.” That might sound nice, but experienced couponers, and coupon issuers, know that’s simply not how coupons work.

But one company says it’s found a way to make it work. It’s come up with coupons that essentially clip themselves – no searching, cutting, printing or any real effort whatsoever on your part is required.

Invisipon (“invisible coupon”, get it?) has gone live with its first retailer, the 112-store Iowa-based Fareway chain. A much larger rollout to thousands more stores is expected in the coming months.

The promises that Invisipon makes may sound familiar – the platform “automates the distribution of retail and manufacturer coupons to the consumers that are most likely to benefit from them… relieving the consumer of the time-consuming task of clipping, printing and managing coupons and multiple store loyalty cards.” Loads of digital coupon startups have made similar claims, vowing to revolutionize the way coupons work. And we’re still waiting for the revolution to happen.

But Invisipon seems to come closer than most, to actually delivering on its promises. “Invisipon acts like a universal loyalty card,” CEO Bill Moffitt told Coupons in the News. “The system automatically adds coupons to a consumer’s account,” and they’re all available for you to use, whether you decide to look at what offers you’ve been given or not. Buy a product with a matching digital coupon in your Invisipon account, and you get the discount.

Unlike most digital coupon platforms, Invisipon isn’t run through your favorite store’s website or app. You create an account with Invisipon itself by signing up on its website, where you’re asked to select the types of offers you’re interested in. Check “pet products” if you like deals on dog food, for example, and deselect “baby” if you don’t need discounts on diapers or formula. Participating manufacturers use that information – together with your purchase history – to decide what offers to add to your Invisipon account. You can log into your account to see what offers are available to you – or you can choose not to. And the discounts come off when you scan the barcode on the Invisipon app, or enter your phone number when checking out at Fareway or any other, future, participating retailers.

In order for couponing as we know it to work, consumers, retailers and manufacturers all have to benefit. Invisipon certainly benefits shoppers, and there’s also something in it for retailers like Fareway, which can develop customer loyalty by providing these effort-free discounts. The trick is to get coupon issuers to play along. Why would manufacturers want to play Santa Claus, giving away coupon savings to shoppers who were planning to buy their products anyway, at full price?

That’s been the sticking point for any number of other “revolutionary” digital coupon platforms. One of the more recent startups that promised to automatically apply every available coupon to your grocery shopping haul, got sued by Coupons.com and ultimately shut down.

That’s because coupon providers would prefer that you see their offers, engage with them, interact with them by clipping and sorting their coupons, and then use those coupons to make purchases that you otherwise might not have. That’s how coupons are supposed to work. Not by being applied “automatically”.

But in reality, plenty of that goes on already. How many times have you gone grocery shopping, then returned home to check out Ibotta, Checkout 51 or any number of other rebate apps, to see if there was any cash back available for purchases you already made? And manufacturers happily make hundreds of offers available on those platforms, even though they’re not always incentivizing purchases at all. And then there’s the matter of the “clip all” button available on many digital coupon platforms. Don’t want to sort through all of the available coupons? Just select them all, and whatever coupons happen to apply to your purchases, will come off your total when you’re done shopping. And you don’t have to “engage” with any brands at all.

Invisipon acknowledges that this kind of thing happens – but hopes to improve upon it. “Invisipon can’t eliminate this, but we can make sure it only ever happens one more time,” Moffitt said. “Let’s say, for example, that Kimberly-Clark distributes a coupon for $2.00 off Huggies diapers. At the conclusion of the campaign, Kimberly-Clark could do another campaign where they increase the face value to $3.00 for those that did not redeem, and reduce it to $.25 for those who did redeem in the previous campaign. They also could choose to simply not include the consumers who previously redeemed.” You don’t have to look in your Invisipon account to see what offers are in there – but if you don’t, you may never know what tempting offers you might be missing.

In short, companies can use your preferences and purchase history to determine how valuable you are to them – are you a loyal customer, a buyer of competing products who could be tempted to switch, or just a passive shopper who’s blindly receiving discounts for things you’d purchase anyway? Invisipon may indeed allow noncouponers to save effortlessly – but just like regular couponing, the more you put into it, the more you’re likely to get out of it.

So far, Invisipon has signed up a handful of brands, including the aforementioned Kimberly-Clark, for a relatively modest total of 15 offers as of this writing, for new users. The company will be looking to add more, to generate – and keep – shoppers’ interest. It’s also looking to add more retailers beyond just Fareway. Next on the expansion list are several independent east coast retailers, including C-Town Supermarkets. Beyond that, “our next significant rollout will be on the west coast and will involve nearly 3,000 stores,” Moffitt said.

So if you’re not a Fareway shopper, and not a very good coupon clipper, keep an eye out for these coupons that clip themselves. They may be coming to a store near you. And if the idea takes off, someone may finally succeed in revolutionizing the way coupons work.

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