August 2008 - Editor’s Perspective

Show Me the Coupons!

Given today’s economic climate, consumers are watching their spending more carefully. Of course, much of the belt-tightening these days can be attributed to the rising cost of gas prices, which in turn has caused a ripple effect across nearly every industry. Whether it be higher bills for groceries, utilities or transportation, the average consumer, no doubt, must make some difficult choices. What’s more, it’s not about deciding between wants and needs. Today, it’s about choosing between one need over the other. Should I fill up my gas tank so I can get to work, or should I buy groceries so my family can eat?

While this seems like an unlikely scenario, it’s one that’s being played out all throughout the country-not to mention a scenario that doesn’t bode well for marketers and retailers. Certainly, not everyone’s situation is that dire. There are those who opt to make simple adjustments by driving less, reducing power usage and eating at home rather than dining out.

Heck, even the travel industry has caught on to this. Rather than promoting lavish seven-day vacation packages, they’re retooling their marketing message by using one simple buzzword, “staycation.” Hotels are offering special online deals for people who have the time off, but can’t afford to fly anywhere. These “mini” vacations are available as weekend jaunts to your nearby hotel chain for a little R&R. The good news is that you can tell the babysitter if there’s an emergency, you’re just around the corner at the Hampton Inn. But truth be told, it beats breaking out the tiki torches from your garage and pretending you’re at a five-star resort in Hawaii while you, er, float in your daughter’s blow-up kiddy pool!

One thing that consumers are undoubtedly looking for during these tough times are great deals and offers that they would be foolish not to take advantage of. Also, they want to know that they’re getting the most bang for their buck. Hence, the rise in coupon usage. A recent study conducted by Scarborough Research reveals that more people are clipping coupons. In fact, coupon usage has risen 83 percent since 2005. In addition, the study shows that 11 percent of households go online to download and print coupons. However, 50 percent of households still prefer to clip theirs from the Sunday newspaper.

As rising grocery prices continue to stretch household budgets to the limit, many shoppers depend on those coupons combined with preferred customer loyalty cards that offer additional savings. Coupon campaigns, while generally utilized by grocery stores, can be advantageous to direct marketers.

Actually, we could all learn from examples set by major retailers like Borders, Babies ‘R’ Us and Staples. They know the value consumers place on coupons these days, especially ones that are sent to them via e-mail. Need to stock up on baby supplies? Before you leave your house, be sure to print out that $5-off coupon for Similac formula. Out of print cartridges? Be sure to take along that Epson ink coupon to get your 20-percent discount.

Knowing that you have a coupon with an expiration date can entice consumers to act in a timely fashion and make that purchase. After all, coupons are perceived as “free” money.

And while many DR products fulfill more of a want, rather than a need, coupons can still be effective. Why not put a coupon on your website or create a mailer, offering a discount or free item? Remember, if they perceive it as free money, why wouldn’t they act on it? It just needs to be an offer they simply can’t refuse.

Vitisia Paynich


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