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When you get a coupon or rebate offer from your favorite grocery store, typically the store wants to make sure you use it there, and only there. That’s why some coupons are printed with “redeem only at…” across the top, why some cash-back offers are loaded directly to your store loyalty card, and why many retailers have it written into their coupon policies that they won’t accept Catalina coupons issued at a competitor.

But one grocery chain is offering new digital discounts that are good anywhere you shop. If you want to activate an offer there, and redeem it somewhere else, no problem!

It may seem like an odd way to do business, by offering deals that you can redeem at a competitor. But in a roundabout way, it could help pave the path for a brand-new type of coupon that can be redeemed wherever you shop.

Coupons.com owner Quotient Technology has announced a deal with the Midwestern grocery chain Hy-Vee, in which the retailer is featuring Quotient’s cash-back offers on its website. It’s not a completely unique arrangement, since other retailers also feature cash-back offers as alternatives to standard digital coupons.

The difference, though, is that most retailers require you to buy the featured product at one of their stores in order to get your cash back. At Hy-Vee, however, you can buy the product anywhere and Hy-Vee will pay you to do it.

Visitors to Hy-Vee’s website can navigate to its new “National Cash Back Offers” section, featuring dozens of Quotient-powered rebate offers – the same ones Quotient offers on its Coupons.com website and app. Log into your Hy-Vee loyalty account, link a PayPal account, then Hy-Vee invites you to “activate the offers you’re interested in. Go shop almost ANY retailer!” After submitting a receipt showing the purchase of the featured item, regardless of where you bought it, Hy-Vee will deposit the cash into your PayPal account.

“Launching Quotient’s national rebate capabilities (will) provide Hy-Vee customers even more ways to save,” Quotient explained. “We believe this will extend the reach and raise awareness of our national rebates, creating greater scale for Hy-Vee and Quotient.”

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But what’s in it for Hy-Vee, exactly? Why would it want to feature offers you can use at a competing grocery chain?

Kroger launched a partnership with Ibotta and Checkout 51 several years ago, to feature their cash-back offers on its own website and app. But you have to buy the product at Kroger to claim the rebate, which you can choose to have deposited into your PayPal account or applied to a future Kroger shopping trip. Walmart and Ibotta announced a similar partnership last year, to feature Ibotta offers on Walmart’s platforms, which can be redeemed and credited to your Walmart account for discounts on future purchases.

Hy-Vee’s offers, in contrast, might allow you to get a better deal by activating a cash-back offer on Hy-Vee’s website, buying the item at, say, Walmart for a lower price, then having Hy-Vee reward you for doing so.

Hy-Vee declined to comment on the program and Quotient offered no details about it, beyond announcing that the program had launched.

While, technically, Hy-Vee’s National Cash Back Offers can be used anywhere, it is perhaps unlikely that someone inclined to peruse Hy-Vee’s website would activate an offer just so they could use it somewhere else. For those who do, though, it’s possible that the platform could offer Hy-Vee greater insights into their customers’ shopping habits, which could be worth the price of losing an occasional sale to a competitor. Data from scanned receipts issued by other stores could show them where their loyalty club members are also shopping. And it could allow them to make extra-personalized offers to try to win those customers back: “Hey, we noticed you bought this product at Walmart,” a personalized message might say. “Here’s a special discount just for you, that you can use to buy it at Hy-Vee next time.”

The larger potential implication of a partnership like this, is that it could make retailers more amenable to offering “universal” discounts that can be used anywhere you shop, even if it means you might not redeem all of those discounts at their stores. The coupon industry has been working to introduce universal digital coupons that can be displayed on your mobile phone and scanned at any participating retailer. That’s in contrast to load-to-card digital coupons, which have to be used at a specific retailer.

One of the challenges of the universal digital coupon concept is getting retailers on board. Why would they want to embrace universal offers that you can use somewhere else, instead of retailer-specific offers that you can only use in their stores?

Well, now Hy-Vee doesn’t seem to have a problem with it. If it can leverage Quotient’s “redeem anywhere” offers to its own advantage, other retailers might also find that universal offers aren’t so bad for business after all.

It all points to the potential reversal of a recent trend. As more coupons and discounts have migrated from paper to digital, they’ve gotten a lot more store-specific as well. While most paper coupons can be used in nearly any store, a digital coupon that you clip at, say, Target can’t be used at Safeway or Kroger. But now Hy-Vee’s National Cash Back Offers can be redeemed at Target or Safeway or Kroger or just about anywhere you shop. Whether other retailers get on board with the “universal offer” concept will depend on whether Hy-Vee determines that what’s good for shoppers proves to be good for retailers, too.

2 Comments

  1. I literally signed up went through the process and ran into issue after issue. There are no real defined steps to submit s receipt, like a link, no mention of requiring you to ent the UPC codes manually for items you “THINK” are acceptable and no visible way of looking into my account. I immediately got their email to subscribe to several newsletters and options to download 2 apps. Which I did. I opened the apps that did not recognize my email or password, so I went through the same set up, selected my possible rebates, and at the top a link to select store. Here’s what I got, a drop down link of stores in another state. Pa is not on the list of states which is I believe Iowa so how is the rebate offer National? The app was even more confusing than the website. As I’ve repeatedly voiced, digital coupons and rebates are unreliable, require a dozen steps, often are declined, or have expired or have restrictions(excuses). At a time when household are struggling just to keep the lights on and children fed, food producers/corporations responses are to play games, make offers that are almost unreachable, require way more time to locate and activate while making claims that they are easier, readily available, and, most falsely promoted, are preferred. At the ripe age of 59 I can honestly say, I’m fed up with the bullshit. I don’t know about others but I’d much rather cash in my coupons at the register instead of waiting to see if rebates are honored. I understand the ability of stacking offers across app, help I have been doing that since 2013 when all the apps were still in the making phases. I’ve lost $100s of dollars on rebates apps that just packed up and disappeared with everyone’s rebate cash. I fully get the need to pay as little as possible for food, household needs, as well as health care items, but I shouldn’t have to spend 60hrs a week just finding, activating and jumping through hoops after hoop for a buck. From my perspective, companies want offers promoted, but don’t really want those promotions to be readily available. Often rebates are not food, but items everyone could probably live without if you actually though about it. What ever happened to coupons for real food!

  2. Honest Couponer says:

    Nice summary of the new HyVee program! Hopefully it’s a sign to more retailers that they need to embrace change and be more flexible and adaptable with future promotional campaigns.

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