Shopping observations: Coupons

A few weeks ago, it was a madhouse at the local Fry’s supermarket. Packed to the gills, and tons of rude people.

CouponingAlas, I stumbled across a woman doing extreme couponing. She had an expanding file folder that was literally stuffed with coupons, and a shopping cart full os odd items. This caused me to recall why I am not really a fan of coupons.

It is an American dream to get a good deal. Even more so than elsewhere in the world there is a desire to get a bargain. Coupons are an integral part of this phenomenon.

There are many reasons to issue coupons.  As a marketer, I know that they are a valuable tool to drive brand awareness, and to get early awareness of new products. If you introduce a new razor line, it is common that a promotional coupon to drive some early uptake in the market. But this often goes too far. Often people will only buy a product if there is a coupon. If that happens, then you haven’t increased market awareness or share, but instead you have created an expectation, lowering the reference price for the product or offering.

I remember from my restaurant days that we often had coupons to bring in customers. I recall that they did bring people in, but an observation was that the people it drew didn’t come back until there was another coupon. Which leads me to …

GroupOn, an online business that offers deals for people who prepay. The concept is solid, but in practice, it has had some issues. Either the business is swamped, impacting service and quality (too many deals sold), or it brings in people looking for a deal, but who don’t convert to repeat business. I signed up for a short time, but found that it was pretty much only offers for 50% off manicures, pedicures, or bowling lane time.

I am not really a user of the common coupon. Almost always they are targeted at products or brands that I am not interested in. If I am not likely to use Schick razors, it doesn’t matter how often I get coupons, even coupons for free blades, I am not going to switch from Gillette.

The only exception are the personalized coupons that are printed at the checkout register. If you are going to hand me a coupon for something that I am already buying, I will take advantage of it. They know that I buy a large number of Lean Cuisine meals, so $3 off when you buy 5 is a no brainer. Want me to try the fake bacon bits as salad toppers, and I am probably not going to bite.

Back to the store, the lady that had the file folder full of coupons, her cart was full of sports drink (not gatorade), canned beans, and an astounding amount of yogurt from the new Greek style yogurt. Perhaps that was what she needed, but I suspect that it wasn’t the top of her list.

 

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