It's no secret that the recession has been good for the coupon business as budget-conscious consumers look for every way to save money. Surging demand has been especially noticeable online as marketers increasingly shift discount offers and promotions shift to the Web.
In a new report, Borrell Associates estimates that the $8.3 billion value of online coupons redemptions in 2009 (including via the Internet, email and mobile) will jump more than 50% to $12.7 billion in 2010 and to $22 billion by 2014.
And while the Internet this year accounted for less than 5% of all coupon redemptions, they represented one-fifth of their value. That's because the online versions typically have greater face value ($2.80 versus $1.41 for traditional circular coupons) and may require consumers to take positive action to retrieve them.
In looking at redemptions by category, online leads the way this year in restaurants and retail stores, with values totaling $410 million and $2.8 billion. It also accounted for more than a third of manufacturer coupon redemptions, equal to $1.74 billion. But online still lags in coupon redemptions for supermarkets and drug stores, which continue to rely mainly on Sunday inserts and in-store promotions.
When it comes to distribution, online is projected to account for 8.7% of the total coupons sent out in 2010, up from 6.2% this year. In explaining the growing reliance on digital distribution, Borrell pointed to a study by Nielsen partner NeuroFocus tracking consumer brainwave activity, which found that online coupons outperformed print ones in categories such as attention, emotional engagement, memory retention and effectiveness.
More players are jumping into online coupons as well, from traditional players like Valassis (RedPlum.com) and Valpak to Gannett's ShopLocal.com to a raft of pure-play Internet companies. Borrell expects the wider coupon craze to outlast the downturn as marketers come to understand their impact on shopping behavior more fully and companies learn how to better employ them.