There’s no doubt about it. Couponing made a huge comeback in 2010 when most of us thought it was out for good.
“What began slowly with printable online coupons,” reports Coupon Sherpa, “blossomed this year into a multi-platform phenomenom, spearheaded by the popularity of smartphone-compatible coupons. Scannable barcodes, in-store access, social media rewards and more brought the former stalwarts of Sunday newspapers to a younger, hipper crowd.”
Here are our top 5 favorite coupon stories (Coupon Sherpa has all ten here) from 2010:
1. Group-Buying Coupon Trend Goes Viral.
The secret to group-buying is at the heart of most modern social movements: Ease-of-access and word-of-mouth. Consumers love social couponing because it puts a stellar deal from their city directly in their hands every day — say, $30 for $60 dollars of grub at an independent eatery. Merchants see it as an incredible promotional tool to pull in curious locals and churn out return customers. Despite several reports of group-buying disasters, the model is rarely at fault. In most cases, demand was so overwhelming the businesses simply couldn’t keep up.
2. Kids Clue-In To Mobile Coupons
Step aside, Mom: People over 40 no longer have a stranglehold on the coupon market. Social and digital media have brought discounts to the masses like never before, as more youngsters are interacting with their favorite businesses through the “Like” function on Facebook and exclusive deals on Twitter. Social media allows followers to personally track everything — from Starbucks to the local coffee shop — and this year it pushed the mobile coupon market from relative obscurity to superstardom. Consumers exchange “tickets,” which are scanned or entered by a cashier at the register, and receive a discount or rebate in return.
The trend is hardly surprising when you realize more than 4.5 billion cell phones are used globally (yes, that’s a “B” for billion). A June 2010 study by Ball State University found nearly 50 percent of folks would accept coupons via text message. What’s more, expert estimates suggest the number of active cell-phone users in the U.S. alone will grow from 10 million in 2009 to 53 million by 2013. All this equals rapid mobile-coupon growth and merchants have been quick to latch on. According to a 2010 survey by Unica Global Marketing, 57 percent said they either already use or intend to use mobile-marketing tactics, whether in the form of coupons, applications or social media accounts.
3. Online Coupons Go Viral
You’d think coupons were catching a cold with how many trends went viral this year. In 2009, close to 397 billion printable coupons were distributed online, a figure that grew by nearly 25 percent in the first half of 2010. Over one-third of all Internet consumers currently use printable coupons to purchase an astounding collection of goods, from clothing and electronics to groceries and airfare.
While it’s too early to accurately evaluate the swirl of discount activity this holiday season, one trend emerged above all others — free shipping. The National Retail Federation reported in late October nearly 85 percent of merchants would offer a free delivery code or coupon during the yuletide shopping rush. Official numbers haven’t yet been tallied, but Free Shipping Day on Dec. 17 was the third heaviest day of online spending in history. Let that stat speak as it will.
4. Newspaper Coupons Aren’t Dead Yet — But They’re Close
Journalists already mourn the death of traditional newspapers. Until recently, one of the few things keeping them remotely conscious was ad revenue, including coupons. It’s safe to say papers are about to enter a coma, as digital coupon growth outpaced newspaper coupon growth for the first time in 2010 by a margin of 10 to one. Sadly, the prognosis becomes even more dire when consumer habits are to blame for this mass exodus. Nearly a third of all U.S. coupon users — around 13.1 million people — no longer clip from their Sunday paper; an increase of roughly 4 million since 2008. Newspaper coupons will soon take their place alongside pay phones and, if journos are correct, newspapers themselves.
5. College Coupon Books Go Digital
University campuses nationwide will grow curiously bare in the next few years as much-loved coupon books make their way online. Publishers serving such large populations as Florida State University and the University of Wisconsin gave students instant digital access to the same localized deals and vendors found in print booklets, including college-specific deals at banks, bookstores, tanning salons and tattoo parlors.
How is your coupon strategy adapting to these new trends?