Coupon Trends: Lessons Learned from Experience

by Gina Blitstein · 0 comments

According to their 2012 Year End Report on Coupon Trends, Inmar, a company that provides marketing and consumerism insight to organizations, 310 billion manufacturer coupons were distributed in 2012. How many did you redeem? If you reply, “Not as many as usual,” you’re not alone. Last year, only 3 billion (a mere 1%) of those coupons were actually redeemed. To provide some perspective, 3.5 billion coupons were redeemed in 2011 – indicating that coupon redemption dropped in just one year by a significant 14.3%. Thirty years of Inmar’s data suggests that traditionally, when the economy is depressed, coupon usage increases; so why was 2012 a year that didn’t “follow the rules” when it came to coupon redemption?

3 reasons for the 2012 drop in coupon redemption

  1. Consumers may be reacting differently to economic challenges – Some consumers may have simply changed their buying habits. They may have switched to store or generic brands, which are in greater supply and of better quality than ever before – and which don’t offer coupons. They may also be shopping at stores that don’t accept coupons, like private label stores and warehouse clubs to stretch their dollars.
  2. Changes in coupons themselves – Consumers are certain to have noticed that many coupons don’t represent the value they used to. Redemption values have dropped, required purchase quantity has increased and expiration dates have shortened, making coupons a less-desirable means to saving.
  3. Lifestyle disconnect – While the economy experiences its slow recovery, technology presses onward. Consumers find themselves living in an ever-more electronic world, making the clipping of paper coupons seem like an antiquated practice. Yet the vast majority of coupons distributed in 2012 were still of the “clip out of the Sunday paper” variety. Consumers want to get their coupons where they find their news, do their shopping, enjoy their entertainment and maintain their social networks – online. In fact, Inmar’s research discovered that more than 2/3 of shoppers say they would use more coupons if they were available online.

Coupons: What do today’s shoppers want?

Inmar’s consumer research indicates that shoppers are still very enthusiastic about using coupons, with 60% reporting having redeemed coupons in more than half of their shopping trips. Interest in coupons is also extremely high among new and emerging coupon enthusiasts, including millennials, students and men. That’s why it’s incumbent upon manufacturers and marketers to offer coupons that consumers want in the way that they want to receive them. Inmar’s report indicates that shoppers want the following from their coupons:

  • High value – In 2012, the average face value of food coupons decreased 5.4% to $1.06 and for non-food coupons increased 0.5% to $1.91.
  • Single-item coupons – The study discovered that 34% of consumers won’t use a coupon if it requires them to purchase multiple items.
  • Longer redemption times – In 2012, the average redemption period of food coupons was down 8.0% to 2.3 months and for non-food coupons, down 12.5% to 2.1 months.
  • Digital coupons – Demand for digital coupons is highest among younger shoppers, those who use a smartphone, college graduates, and those with children. That demographic is growing by the day, leading to an unprecedented demand for coupons delivered electronically. Of course, sites like this one,, that aggregate coupons help too.
  • Easy to find – Shoppers prefer the fewest number of steps and/or sites to locate the coupons they desire.
  • Convenient to redeem – Shoppers are looking for coupons they can collect at the store or pre-load to their loyalty card. Providing promotion information all in one place makes shopping and redeeming coupons easier, and therefore more likely to happen. Consumers desire simple, automatic savings.

The lesson from an atypical year like 2012 is that shoppers still like to use coupons but they want them to keep pace with their lives, economic situation and the technology they use.

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