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If you’ve ever gotten into a debate over coupons at the checkout, you know that couponing can sometimes feel combative – with retailers, manufacturers and consumers having something of an adversarial relationship. With tighter coupon policies, more coupon restrictions and extra-vigilant cashiers, it can sometimes feel like couponers are seen as the enemy who must be stopped, or at least reined in.

Yet a new study says coupon users buy more, spend more and shop more than noncouponers. Even though they may not be paying full price, the study concludes, couponers are manufacturers’ best customers.

That’s one of the findings in a joint report by market research firm GfK, and the publisher of the SmartSource coupon inserts.

Backing up research it last conducted in 2013, GfK found that users of grocery coupons spend more than the typical shopper. Paper coupon users spend 19% more, and digital couponers spend 32% more. Among heavy coupon users, that percentage rises to more than 50%, with paper coupon users spending slightly more. Heavy couponers also make more shopping trips per year, and spend more per trip.

“Heavy couponers”, by the way, is defined as those who use more than 90 coupons in a year. That’s per year – not per transaction (apparently “heavy” coupon use is in the eye of the beholder).

A corresponding survey conducted by SmartSource publisher News America Marketing finds that paper coupon users are particularly valuable, despite the widespread belief that couponers are increasingly opting for digital instead.

“The consumer is telling us that’s not the case,” Mark Peiser, News America Marketing’s Vice President of Marketing Research, told Coupons in the News. The growing move toward digital might appear to be a death knell for the traditional Sunday newspaper coupons, which are known in the industry as free-standing inserts (FSIs). But “the consumer is not ready to give up the traditional FSI,” Peiser said.


In its survey of coupon users, News America found that 70% report using paper coupons at the grocery store. 30% use them exclusively. 59% say they use digital coupons, but only 19% use digital only.

And somewhat surprisingly, those percentages don’t change a whole lot among younger couponers. While fewer millennials use coupons overall, 63% of those who do use coupons say they use paper coupons, and just 25% use digital coupons exclusively. “Millennials are lighter coupon users and are not as heavily digital as perceived by some marketers,” the study notes.

Of those who clip coupons from the Sunday inserts, 96% said they go through them cover to cover. Two-thirds browse the inserts the same day they receive them, and about the same percentage clip their coupons immediately.

And when it comes to deciding which coupons to clip, it seems many couponers might best be described as opportunists. 35% will clip a coupon that has a long expiration date, whether or not they plan on buying the product – just in case. You never know when a good sale will come along, after all, that will make a coupon more attractive than it first appears. 52% say they will clip higher-value coupons for the same reason. 64% will clip coupons in order to try a new product. But fully 89% say they clip coupons mostly for brands they already use.

That might seem to run counter to the argument that couponers are brands’ best customers. How can they be so valuable, if they’re merely looking for discounts on products they would have bought anyway?

Well, maybe they wouldn’t have bought the product at all, without that discount. A coupon “may tip the balance to the promoted brand when used by ‘switcher consumers’, who have a consideration set of several brands in a category,” the study finds.

Whether they’re tech-savvy or old-fashioned, preferring paper or digital, the study concludes that couponers – and brands – are best served when coupons are available in both formats. “While digital coupons are an important saving tool, traditional paper coupons are still a predominant player in the world of savings,” said Neal Heffernan of GfK Custom Research.

And as long as you keep using coupons, and buying the products offered, manufacturers are likely to keep them coming for their “best customers” – in whatever format you desire.

Photo by ePublicist


  1. Ernestina Montemayor says:

    I would like know more about your statistics

  2. Pingback: 4/28 Frugal Report: Why Did Walmart Suddenly Close 5 Stores? Your Coupons Could Change Before Your Eyes | Grocery Shop For FREE at The Mart!!

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