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Grocery stores heavily promote their digital coupon programs as a way to help you save. Walmart takes a different approach, promising to help you save with its everyday low prices instead. Wouldn’t it be something if you could combine the best of both worlds, and use digital coupons to make Walmart’s “everyday low prices” even lower?

So far, you can’t. But that may change.

Over the past decade or so, digital coupons have grown from a relative novelty, to a must-have for most retailers. Virtually all major grocery stores, dollar stores, drug stores and big-box stores now offer them – yet Walmart remains a stubborn holdout.

That likely has a little something to do with the fact that Walmart doesn’t just want to be known for offering everyday low prices, but for offering the same everyday low prices to everyone, without loyalty programs, personalized deals or other pricing gimmicks.

“We believe that all of our customers deserve the lowest price possible, not just certain customers,” a Walmart executive once said, in explaining why the retailer has avoided anything resembling two-tiered pricing, where some customers pay one price and other customers pay less.

Offering and promoting a digital coupon program could represent just the kind of two-tiered pricing that Walmart shuns. “Download our app, sort through and clip some of our coupons, and you’ll pay less than those suckers who are paying the price listed on the shelf!” would be the underlying message.

So what if Walmart offered digital coupons, but made those coupon discounts equally available to everyone – no coupon clipping required?

It may sound crazy, but one retail analyst says it just might work.

Walmart should “create a super coupon mobile app” that would “aggregate all the manufacturer’s coupons out there in the world, load them into a mobile app, and then… just have customers scan a barcode at checkout and immediately have all the coupon savings applied and totaled up for them right then and there,” Chris Walton wrote in a recent article for Forbes.com.

Walton is a former retail executive, and current CEO and founder of Red Archer Retail and Omni Talk. “I think the idea could work, and Walmart has the power to do it,” he told Coupons in the News.

Historically, manufacturers have frowned upon the idea of having their coupons automatically applied. They want shoppers to view their offers and actively select them, in order to incentivize purchases. Allowing shoppers to passively receive every available coupon discount without having to actively clip the coupons first, would amount to just giving away discounts to shoppers who were going to buy their products anyway.

But lately, that resistance to “automatic” coupons has been crumbling. Retailers like Schnucks and Safeway have recently introduced features that will apply digital coupons to your purchases whether or not you individually select them first. And Ibotta now gives you cash back on participating purchases without requiring you to activate a rebate offer beforehand.

So why not go all the way, and introduce a digital coupon program that automatically applies every available digital coupon to your transaction?

“It makes no sense why a retailer has not done this idea yet,” Walton argues. “Why then couldn’t Walmart bring this idea to life? What’s to stop it?”

As the country’s largest retailer, Walmart has the scale, the reach and the clout to wring various discounts and concessions from manufacturers eager to have their products prominently displayed in Walmart’s thousands of stores. So it’s conceivable that Walmart could strongly encourage manufacturers to participate in an automatic digital coupon program that could bring more shoppers into Walmart – and move more of the manufacturers’ products off Walmart’s shelves.

“I think the manufacturers should want to be a part of it,” Walton says. “They are offering the coupons for a reason already, to incent behavior.” For Walmart, such a program would “give their customers a new level of pricing confidence,” and “position Walmart in a positive light and help them stay relevant in the physical world.”

Walmart once said it was considering offering digital coupons through its Scan & Go app – but then it mothballed the app. It later introduced the ability to price match by scanning a bar code in the Walmart app – but then it ended its Savings Catcher program.

That leaves Walmart with an app that offers few features of interest to price-conscious shoppers, and a no-frills coupon policy in which only paper coupons are accepted.

Though it hasn’t happened yet, there’s often talk in the industry that Walmart is just on the cusp of launching a digital coupon program. And there are efforts under way to introduce universal mobile coupons that could be used and accepted anywhere you choose to shop – including Walmart. But accepting universal mobile coupons would make Walmart just like everyone else. And launching a traditional digital coupon program would make Walmart just like everyone else – not to mention years behind.

So while it may at first seem to be nothing but a pipe dream, who knows? There just might be something to the idea of a “super coupon Walmart app” that gives digital coupon discounts to everyone, effortlessly. Meanwhile, the next time you go shopping at Walmart, don’t forget your paper coupons. Until and unless this idea becomes reality – you’re going to need them.

Image source: Walmart

One Comment

  1. Honest Couponer says:

    Nice article! We are approaching an inflection point in the coupon (and newspaper) industry. If and when Walmart begins accepting digital coupons, the end will soon follow for Sunday coupon inserts. The cascading effect will then be the demise of printed newspapers. Enjoy the ride!

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