Many Americans have fond memories of coupons from childhood. There was a time when almost every frugal housewife clipped and saved coupons from their local newspaper. In fact, many had organized approaches to couponing, trading them with others and even maintaining complicated filing systems. Now, however, couponing seems to be more rare. Outside of reality shows, you rarely see a paper coupon anymore. Have coupons become obsolete?
Coupons in History
Coupons are actually a relatively new option for savings. The first known coupon was released in 1887 for Coca-Cola. The slip of paper entitled its bearers to a free glass of the popular soda. It was such a popular coupon that it was redeemed over eight million times. Many people tried Coca-Cola and loved it; the soft drink became a national hit and thus began more than a century of success.
With the success of this coupon in promoting Coca-Cola, other retailers followed suit. Coupons became not just a way for a company to promote their products, but for consumers to cut back on their expenses. A marriage made in heaven was born. However, has the paper coupon faded away?
The Rise of the Digital Coupon
With the increase in online shopping, many consumers have turned to coupon codes. Entered at checkout, these codes function much like a coupon. However, most purchases still happen at a brick and mortar store. So where have the coupons gone? Are coupons becoming obsolete?
Paper Coupons: Still a Way to Save
Despite the lower visibility of paper coupons, they are still an important part of consumer behavior. As a matter of fact, 310 billion coupons were offered in 2014. Over 99% of these were paper coupons, so digital coupon codes remain a tiny minority. Of these almost 307 billion paper coupons, only about 1% were actually redeemed. In all, the rare coupon clippers who are left saved around $3.6 billion last year. For people who choose to clip and redeem, coupons are anything but obsolete.
The low redemption rate of paper coupons may explain a great deal of the disappearance of coupons from grocery store lines and check out registers everywhere. However, this low redemption rate means one thing for coupon lovers: there are more coupons and more deals to be had.
Who Is Using Coupons?
Elderly and middle aged people are not the only ones interested in saving money using print coupons. Statistics show that coupon use is low but has little variation by age. From barely-adult Millennials to Baby Boomers approaching retirement, coupon use has little to do with age and more to do with frugality.
Bringing Coupons Back: A Primer for the Frugal
A coupon has a life cycle that many consumers are not aware of. First, a manufacturer or retail decides to launch a marketing campaign featuring a coupon. While consumers see coupons as a way to save, retailers see them as a way to court new customers. Second, this coupon is designed. Marketing managers and designers agree on which new product to promote, how much savings to offer, what the coupon should look like, and where it will be printed. Last, the coupon is distributed to customers. Consumers then decide whether or not to clip the coupon and redeem it for savings.
However, this is not the end of the cycle of a coupon. The cashier puts them aside with their cash, counting up and turning them in at the end of the shift. Store management then sends the coupons to the manufacturer and receives a check for their value.
Increasing coupon use depends on the consumers. There are still plenty of coupons being printed. The best way to increase the availability of coupons is by showing manufacturers that great deals are an effective way to bring in new customers – by actually using the coupons!
Where Have All the Coupons Gone?
Print coupons are still available, if you know where to look. Over 90% of them are distributed in coupon inserts placed in newspapers, often Sunday newspapers. However, there are numerous other sources such as magazines. In addition, many major manufacturers offer printable coupons directly from their websites. People who are looking for savings on their favorite products can visit the website and print a coupon. In many cases, there are no limits on these coupons so they can be used over and over for even more savings.
Coupons and the Economy
Couponing may be rare right now, but clipping coupons becomes more common when the economy is in a downturn. For example, couponing saw an increase, as well as several popular television shows based on couponing, in the late 200’s when the economy was in poor condition and many were out of jobs. Although many Americans do not make couponing a habit, they still turn to clipping coupons when they are feeling an economic pinch.
However, coupons do not need to be used only when frugality is a necessity. People who are financially stable may find that they benefit from savings, as this money can be used in other areas. Over time, the small amount of money saved with a paper coupon can add up to better financial stability and more expendable income.
Print coupons may be becoming increasingly rare at check stands, but they are far from obsolete. Manufacturers are still making these coupons and consumers are still redeeming them. While the internet has made the paper coupon more rare, it has also opened up new ways to find coupons, including printable manufacturer coupons. People who are looking to save money using this frugal tool will find that there are more opportunities than ever. With around 1% of coupons redeemed, there is still plenty of savings for dedicated couponers to enjoy.