Friday, March 1, 2013

Coupons’ role shifts as market, buyers evolve

In the heart of the recession, the United States became a coupon-crazy country, clipping, printing and downloading billions of coupons a year.

That’s still true, but the coupon industry is rapidly evolving, attracting younger users and more men, as well as zapping out more digital and mobile versions of the classic cents-off paper coupon.

Last year, the number of manufacturers’ coupons issued — for everything from diapers to dog food — was a staggering 305 billion. That’s a lot of coupons to be clipped, printed or downloaded.

Yet the number of coupons actually cashed in by U.S. consumers in 2012 slipped 17 percent, compared with the previous year, according to NCH Marketing Services in Deerfield, Ill., which tracks annual coupon usage.

Although paper coupons clipped out of the Sunday paper still dominate, digital coupons on websites, mobile phones and retailers’ loyalty cards are attracting a younger and increasingly male audience. At the same time, manufacturers are offering more nonfood coupons, which may affect demand.

Despite the recent dip, coupon usage is still well above what it was before the recession, according to NCH data.

That comes as no surprise to "frugal bloggers" such as Ashley Thompson, 29, of Sacramento, Calif., who got hooked on couponing after college as a way to pinch pennies.

Also factoring into the mix are so-called online daily deal sites, such as Groupon and Living Social, which have sprouted — and withered— at a fast pace. Salt Lake Tribune

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