printable coupons pile

The writing has been on the wall for a while, and printable coupon fans are bracing for the inevitable permanent shift from print-at-home to load-to-card – but the inevitable hasn’t happened just yet. In the midst of a slow decline toward eventual obsolescence, printable coupon use has suddenly perked up.

Coupons.com parent company Quotient Technology is reporting a record number of coupon transactions in the just-completed first quarter of the year, and a significant portion of those transactions involved good old-fashioned printable coupons.

So don’t count printables out. Not yet, at least.

In reporting its quarterly financial results late yesterday, Quotient said it recorded an all-time high of 537 million coupon transactions in the first three months of the year, up 30% from the same time last year. Much of that rise was attributable to digital paperless coupon transactions, which increased 17% from the previous quarter, and a whopping 50% from this time last year.

That would seem to cement digital paperless’ status as Coupons.com’s most popular type of coupon, a milestone that was first reached at the end of 2015. That’s when the number of paperless coupon transactions surpassed the number of printable coupon transactions for the first time in Coupons.com’s history, accelerating predictions that printables will eventually be pushed aside altogether.

But this past quarter showed that printable coupons are still holding their own. Quotient reported that the number of coupon prints also rose, by 10% compared to this time last year. And it’s not happening only on Coupons.com. The coupon processor and market research company Inmar recently reported that industry-wide, printables now represent 3.8% of all coupons used, up significantly from 3.1% in the first few months of 2015.

So have digitally-savvy couponers had a change of heart? Like vinyl records and 90’s fashions, are printable coupons now back in style?

Well, sort of. Quotient credits the bump in printables’ popularity, to its efforts to bridge the old and the new.

Toward the end of last year, Coupons.com introduced a new PDF-based system that made it easier to print coupons, with no custom downloads required. That means it’s now easier to print from home, from work, from a library – or from a mobile device. So if you’re digitally-inclined, but not into digital coupons, you can enjoy the best of both worlds and print coupons from your phone. By the end of last year, Quotient reported that 5% of all coupon prints on its platforms were initiated on a mobile device.

And the more different ways that coupons can be printed, the more coupon prints there will be.

Some people simply “do not engage digitally,” Quotient CEO Steven Boal told investors yesterday. “There’s still 40 million households in the U.S. that are predisposed to taking a scissor and cutting a piece of paper and taking that in the store… So there’s still some opportunity for digital print.”

There’s yet another method the company has been using lately to get people to print more coupons – and if you’ve been the unwitting “victim” of some recent Coupons.com campaigns, you’ve experienced it firsthand. When you click on a link to a particular coupon, or go back for a second print, sometimes a featured advertiser will automatically select a few – or as many as a dozen or more – of its coupons for you. And if you’re not paying attention and don’t unclick the ones you don’t want, your printer will start spitting out pages and pages of coupons you never actually intended on printing.

“You either have to remember to uncheck/recheck to get rid of them, or just print them,” one frustrated printable coupon user told Coupons in the News. “For a short time, I thought this was some error, but it is apparent after months of this now, that it is very deliberate.”

That’s one sly way to boost that printable transaction count.

Whatever the reason for the increase in coupon prints, it may be short-lived. “We believe that the continued digitization of this industry is inevitable,” Boal said, echoing comments he made last year when he said he’d “love to see consumers go completely paperless.”

So print ’em while you’ve still got ’em. Vinyl records may be enjoying a comeback – but if digital fans have their way, print-at-home coupons may ultimately go the way of the 8-track.

Photo by rose3694

One Comment

  1. Andrew F. says:

    Another recent tweak from Coupons.com happens when you print several coupons at a time. For example, selecting 5 coupons to print, you’ll end up with a random 6th coupon to fill the second sheet. Selecting 7 coupons will get you 2 more random prints to fill the third page. It’s an annoying waste of ink. At least they weren’t brazen enough to do this “extra” coupon tweak for single prints.

    I think printables are here to stay for awhile longer, at least until we see tweaks to digital coupons that allow you to get more than one coupon per account. Honestly, it also seems like many manufacturers are offering their higher value coupons via printable coupons only. To me, it seems like they may prefer the ability to more adequately control the number of coupons issued as well as control how many coupons an individual can acquire. With inserts, whole insert sales and “clipping” services are rampant and make getting 20+ coupons for the same item easy and cheap, which I think most manufacturers are growing very weary of.

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