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There’s been a lot of talk recently about whether digital coupons are discriminatory, and whether there should be paper versions available for those who are not digitally-engaged. As much as some shoppers might prefer paper coupons, though, there are some who definitely do not – give them some printed coupons, and they’re likely to junk them without even looking at them.

That’s one of the findings in a new survey by the market research company CivicScience. When asked what they usually do with paper coupons delivered to their home, more than half of shoppers said they occasionally or frequently use them. A quarter of respondents said they’ll look through the coupons but rarely end up using them. And 22% – more than one in five respondents – said they want no part of paper coupons and simply “throw them out without looking.”

That attitude toward printed coupons becomes more pronounced, the higher the shopper’s income level. 18% of shoppers making less than $50,000 a year disregard paper coupons. That percentage rises to 24% among those making less than $100,000, and 28% of the highest earners just trash any paper coupons that show up at their house.

That doesn’t sound great for the future of paper coupons. But before anyone cites this as evidence that digital coupons are shoppers’ clear preference, it turns out there are a lot of shoppers who aren’t too interested in them, either.

CivicScience found that 43% of shoppers rarely or never use coupon codes or digital coupons in retailers’ apps. As you might expect, preference for digital coupons does tend to increase with income level, as higher earners have easier access to them. Among those making under $50,000 a year, nearly half rarely or never use digital coupons online or in stores. That percentage declines among higher earners, with only 38% of those making more than $100,000 foregoing digital coupons.

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Of course, the flip side to all of this is that, while a whole lot of shoppers can’t be bothered with paper coupons, digital coupons, or either – a majority of shoppers say they do still use coupons, in paper and digital form. 57% of shoppers use online coupon codes at least occasionally, while 56% use a store’s in-app digital coupons. 53%, meanwhile, occasionally or frequently use paper coupons. Add them up, and couponing in various forms is still pretty popular.

Most popular among those who do use coupons are buy-one-get-one-free offers, which a third of shoppers say is their favorite. 20% prefer a percent-off or free shipping deal, while 12% like a flat dollar-amount discount.

Nobody wants to pay more than they have to, after all. Some may not like fumbling with paper coupons, others may not like looking for digital offers, but these days, many shoppers are seeking savings wherever they can. “Compared to one year ago, consumers are looking for in-store sales and coupons significantly more,” CivicScience found. A third of all shoppers said they’re using coupons more than usual. About the same percentage said they’re shopping at discount grocery stores more often. Nearly half are buying more store brands, and 60% are seeking out more items on sale.

“Grocery store shopping has become a key avenue where consumers are looking to cut costs,” CivicScience noted, “and while couponing isn’t the number one strategy they use, it has certainly grown.”

The findings led CivicScience to conclude that “couponing is not a bygone era.” Some will throw away paper coupons without looking at them, but they’ll eagerly clip digital coupons. Others don’t know their way around their favorite store’s app or any online coupon code sites, but they’re part of a dwindling but still sizeable segment of the population who will happily look through printed coupons that get delivered to their door.

“While fewer consumers are sitting down with scissors to snip weekly deals, coupons are everywhere and almost everyone is couponing to some extent,” CivicScience noted. With no end in sight to the debate over digital versus paper coupons, the bottom line is that the more offers there are in a variety of formats, the more everyone should be able to find a way they like to save.

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One Comment

  1. I used to buy out of town papers to get a variety of Sunday coupons. Now I don’t even buy the Sunday paper because it’s all medicine coupons which I don’t use. I get the majority of coupons online.

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