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Is Australia lagging on coupons?

Offer, keybord, online, e-commerce, buy, bidPost-GFC, we are now in an age of ‘considered consumption’ with the emergence of ‘The New Value Seekers’.

People want to maximise their dollars and getting a good deal or a bargain is actually a point of pride, and even status. In an age where a new generation doesn’t want to ‘own’ music, they want to stream it, when they are happy to ‘rent the runway’ rather than buy it, overspending is considered stupid, not sophisticated. Here’s where coupons come in.

In the US and the UK, supermarket shoppers would be lost without their coupons. Even our neighbours in NZ have been at it with coupons for years. In the US, couponing is so popular it had its own reality TV show – Extreme Couponing.

In the UK, figures from coupon experts, Valassis, reveal that in 2013 UK consumers claimed 603 million coupons worth 1.7 billion GBP. And this was actually a staggering 35 per cent increase on 2012.

Commenting on these figures, Charles D’Oyly, MD, Valassis, said, “The 35 increase in coupon redemptions in 2013 is exceptional. Bearing in mind that retail sales in 2013 grew by just 1.6 per cent compared with 2012, such growth is remarkable. What’s behind this growth? Our recent research indicates that consumers’ use of coupons is widespread across all demographics. And supermarkets have responded accordingly by increasing their use of coupons as the promotion of choice for targeted consumer offers.”

Coupons have been part of the UK and US retail landscape for many years, but post-GFC they have jumped from being the domain of the economically challenged to something that all demographics are keen to utilise.

So, are Australian shoppers and retailers missing out? In one word – yes! So, why hasn’t Australia jumped on board? Perhaps it’s the stigma of slowing up the queue by presenting little bits of paper in front of your fellow shoppers (no one wants to be that guy). Or perhaps retail here hasn’t been competitive enough to need it. But thanks to Aldi, that’s about to change.

While you will find some coupons – shop-a-docket springs to mind – the Australian coupon offering is very underdeveloped and is still in the realm of paper, when the real future is in digital.

While paper couponing may still feel a bit ‘granny’, digital coupons allow smart shoppers to use their smartphones to maximise their dollar spend. An survey found that 55 per cent of all US internet users aged 18 and over redeemed at least one digital coupon in 2014. That’s a lot of coupons.

Digital coupons are a win-win for shoppers and retailers. Shoppers can tap their phone and save some cash whilst retailers are building data profiles and invaluable customer information. They also enable retailers to target offers, enhancing the shopper experience and minimising wastage. UK research by Savvy Marketing shows that two-thirds of shoppers are keen to have targeted coupons pinged to their smartphones.

GfK research from the US also shows that digital coupons actually bring in higher numbers of non-buyers than their paper counterparts and are redeemed more often. Digital coupons are instantly redeemable and can be provided at short notice to tactically drive sales. With smartphone penetration in Australia at 89 per cent and growing (according to AIMA research), there is a very low barrier for usage.

So, in an age of ultimate value seeking and a future of retail that will be driven by technology, digital coupons seem like a perfect answer. Australia shouldn’t just jump on the digital coupon bandwagon – we should be running onto it with a flying leap.

Taby Taylor-Ziane is Strategic Director at brand participation agency, 31ST:SECOND.

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