Coupons: Digital, Mobile Still Haven't Dethroned Print

So, with pretty much everyone glued to their mobile phones and tablets, and more and more consumers conducting ecommerce on those devices, print coupons must be vestigial at best by now, right?


Kantar Media’s latest Print & Digital Promotion Trends report, analyzing 2018 data, confirms what CPG shopper marketing pros already know: Despite manufacturers’ significantly decreasing use of the print format, it remains dominant over digital in terms of consumer preferences and usage.

In fact, the venerable print freestanding insert (FSI) remains “king” in the coupons and incentives arena.

“There is no doubt that digital’s star is rising within the promotion landscape, but print and FSI continue to offer brands scale — stubbornly holding on to their dominant lead even as marketers opt to be tactically focused when using print,” sums up Kantar. “Using print versus digital tactics is not an either/or decision for brands, but is more about strategic choices about how much, when and where to activate in print.”

Overall, marketers were notably more “deliberate” about use of coupons last year because of budget and marketplace pressures, the researchers note. “The strategy was about hunkering down, finding what worked and putting plans into action. Brands stepped away from trying to do everything and placed more of an emphasis on stabilizing the bottom line.”

Looking at format usage, the number of digital coupons “clipped” last year rose to 8.4 billion, from 4.5 billion in 2017, with $14 billion in incentives clipped.

Meanwhile, the number of print coupons distributed dropped by 12.5%, to 243.8 billion, from nearly 278.5 billion in 2017. But incentives offered in print still totaled an impressive $497 billion.

Although FSI pages declined by fully 23% in 2018, they remain the dominant format for offering incentives on a weekly basis.

“FSI coupons continue to be a valuable 'opt-in' advertising vehicle to reach millions of households on a specific day to influence shoppers, drive trips and impact sales, especially for the CPG sector,” note the analysts.

The CPG sector accounted for 75% of total FSI pages distributed last year.

Load-to-card (LTC) and load-to-wallet (LTW) coupon programs grew at the expense of print-at-home (PAH). PAH was down 34% year-over-year, and saw its share drop by 46%. LTC’s growth was particularly notable because it’s outpacing LTW’s by 1.5 times. LTC’s share grew by +21%, while LTW’s grew by just 3%.

In digital, regional distribution’s share grew by 6%, to 84%, while national’s share declined 24% (underscoring marketers’ focus on employing digital spend where it matters most).

What about mobile coupon use? Again, the overall trend isn’t (yet) as strong as one might expect.

A survey of 4,220 consumers by The Smart Wallet website, released in June, confirmed that, while use of phones for couponing is accelerating among younger cohorts, growth among older cohorts is still relatively slow.

While 75% and 70%, respectively, of those 18 to 24 and those 25 to 34 said they prefer to use the phone to redeem coupons and rebates, the numbers drop with each older age group. Just 29% of those 55 to 64, and 18% of those 65 or older, prefer the phone for coupon redemption.

And fewer than half of consumers overall — 41% of females and 43% of males — said that they prefer to search for coupons and rebates by phone.

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