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With a number of retailers cutting back on coupons and deals to pursue a new “everyday low prices” strategy, what will become of couponing as we know it? Are coupons on the way out?

According to a new survey – not even close. Coupons are still plenty popular, with nine out of ten grocery shoppers saying they use them. But many are opting for digital coupons these days, which raises the rephrased question – are paper coupons on their way out?

The “2K17” edition of Valassis’ Coupon Intelligence Report finds that if brands want our business, they’d better make sure their coupons are available wherever, and in whatever form, we might look for them.

Previous editions of the annual report have focused on generational differences among couponers, dispelling the notions that younger shoppers don’t use coupons or that coupons are on the way out altogether.

The latest edition acknowledges that, yes, there’s a definite shift to digital happening these days. But paper coupons are still alive and well. And the best strategy – for both shoppers and brands – is to use some of both.

“Results indicate that today’s consumers are ‘always connected’ and becoming increasingly adept at incorporating both print and digital coupons as they plan their shopping activities,” the report reads.

Overall, an overwhelming 90% of shoppers say they use coupons in one form or another – the same percentage as last year. And interestingly, that percentage jumps to 94% among millennials, making them the only demographic that actually increased their coupon use over last year. The most common source of those savings are traditional paper coupons, deals in store circulars and print-at-home coupons.

The report also notes that there’s been a significant increase in shoppers who say they “always” use coupons. 15% said so this year, up from 10% last year. And those who say they rarely or never use coupons dropped from 25% to 19%. In addition, 41% of coupon users said they’re using more coupons than they did last year, while only 13% said they’re using less. 30% increased their use of paper coupons, while 36% used more digital offers.

When asked their preferred source of coupons, 44% said they prefer to get coupons in the mail, making that the number-one choice. But get this – 37% like getting coupons from newspaper inserts, while 37% prefer digital load-to-card coupons.

It’s a tie! So if paper and digital are both popular – why would anyone force us to choose between one or the other? “Care should be taken to account for all the ways shoppers engage with coupons and discounts, both online and offline,” Valassis cautions.

Other findings focus on when we plan our coupon use. 91% of shoppers make a list before going to the store, with 84% looking for coupons during that process. And 71% will plan to buy a product only if they have a coupon for it. “If brands want to be part of the consumer’s initial consideration set, it is important to get in front of shoppers at home during list creation and preliminary decision-making,” the report advises.

But that doesn’t mean coupons can’t change our mind once we arrive at the store. 86% of those surveyed said they have made a purchase after coming across a good deal in the store. And 61% have downloaded digital coupons during their shopping trip, right there in the grocery aisle. Regardless of how you feel about paper versus digital coupons, there’s definitely a digital convenience factor – if you’re making an unplanned purchase, you’re unlikely to stop what you’re doing and run home to look for a paper coupon. Unless you regularly shop with a fully-stocked coupon binder, your best bet is to use your phone and see if there’s a digital coupon available. And apparently many of us are doing just that.

Coupons themselves can also influence where we shop. 77% consider a store’s paper coupon policy when deciding where to shop. 67% base their decision on their ability to use digital coupons there. And 82% will switch stores to take advantage of weekly specials.

Valassis also notes that “the influence of coupons and other discounts continues beyond the purchase transaction.” That’s because shoppers are embracing cash-back apps more than ever. 53% of all shoppers – and 82% of parents, in particular – scan their receipts using apps like Ibotta or Checkout 51, to earn rebates once they get home.

So now, coupons and discounts in all of their many forms can influence our shopping behavior before, during and after our shopping trips.

“It is important for marketers to understand that the shopper journey is not defined at one specific point,” Valassis Chief Marketing Officer Curtis Tingle said in a statement. “Our research indicates that there is an opportunity for brands to influence how shoppers plan, where they shop and the products they buy – which can be achieved by dynamically targeting the right audiences with a strategic combination of print and digital incentives.”

In other words, make sure there are coupons available however and wherever we choose to use them. Then maybe we can stop debating the merits of paper versus digital – and start fully benefiting from them both.

Photo by rose3694

2 Comments

  1. No wait, probably close to two or three years since I printed. Wow, time goes fast! Whoosh. Happy Spring 🙂

  2. I go more for the in-store coupons on the items that I love to bake and cook with. Those have been the ones I use the most these days. I haven’t printed a coupon in I dunno, well over a year or more. And digital as of now, doesn’t interest me. Though we did once use a Target coupon with our phone for a DVD collection.

    That’s my four cents! Cheers and boogie boogie.

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