Early one Sunday morning, Steven Boal watched his father-in-law descend the stairs, trudge out the front door to grab the newspaper and then, scissors in hand, set up camp at the kitchen table, where he busily clipped coupons.
Boal knew there had to be a better way. He researched the industry and found that the multibillion-dollar coupon business hadn’t changed in three decades. The Internet was beginning to chip away at all sorts of industries—music, news, finance—improving and revolutionizing each one. Boal set his sights on coupons.
In 1998, shortly after watching his father-in-law’s Sunday trudge, Boal, a finance executive who specialized in developing technologies, founded Coupons.com.
The hurdles weren’t small. The company spent three years developing the technology that enabled digital coupons to work for manufacturers, which issue the coupons, and for retailers, which redeem them. Since coupons are a form of currency, manufacturers required strict security and print limits before they would recognize digital coupons as an alternative to paper.
Once the security and print controls were in place, Boal’s company faced the next challenge: persuading providers of consumer packaged goods (CPGs)—the companies that make and distribute much of the world’s food, personal-care and household-cleaning products—to shift their promotional budgets from paper to digital.
In April 2001, almost three years after the company’s launch, the Coupons.com team issued its first digital coupon, on a client’s website. A couple of months later came the company’s consumer website—now Coupons.com —where shoppers could peruse a collection of offers. (Today Coupons.com, with approximately 17 million unique monthly visitors, is a top 100 web property.)
Since those early days, Coupons.com has pioneered the digital transformation of the promotions industry, beginning with coupons that shoppers print at home. That business continues strong—an easier, far more efficient alternative to the paper coupons stuffed into mailboxes across the country. In 2014 alone, shoppers printed hundreds of millions of offers in this form from Coupons.com.
But Coupons.com, continually innovating, now does much more. The company delivers purely digital coupons directly to shoppers through mobile apps; automatically loads offers onto shoppers’ credit cards, store loyalty cards and cardless-shopping accounts; and delivers brand messages to shoppers across all devices through Coupons’ online network of approximately 30,000 publishers, which include the websites of retailers as well as lifestyle sites and popular blogger sites. In 2014, Coupons.com began running entire digital-coupon programs—and in some cases, becoming the loyalty program—for major retailers. (Read about all our Solutions, a complete tool kit for deploying offers and messaging, here.
Along with Coupons’ wide-ranging delivery capabilities are the platform’s deep data assets. Coupons.com is one of the few marketing data providers that can link in-store purchase data to data about online behavior. This enables us to target offers, digital advertising and messages to the shoppers who are most valuable to a brand. Marrying online and in-store data provides Coupons’ clients with unprecedented intelligence about each consumer’s past purchases and future-purchase intent, since we are able to read purchase intent in a consumer’s online behavior. All this intelligence on our proprietary platform can further optimize returns on each promotional campaign.
Growing Market Opportunity
The reach of our industry-leading network is unparalleled. Last year alone we powered more than 1.6 billion digital-coupon transactions. And we’re just getting started.
The opportunity is vast. CPGs alone distributed 310 billion coupons, representing a total discount value of $533 billion, in the United States last year, according to the annual industry report by NCH Marketing Services. Most of those coupons were distributed on paper, in circulars or newspaper inserts, even though the bulk of them ended up in the trash as a result.
Of those 310 billion coupons, digital (including printable and paperless) represented less than 2 percent. Digital accounted for more than 10 percent of total redemptions, however, demonstrating the effectiveness of digital promotions over paper.
That’s not surprising, especially considering the sophistication that Coupons brings to the industry, delivering offers and messages that are personalized to be relevant, informed by countless data points from shopper behavior online and off. In short, Coupons’ communications reach the right shoppers with the right offers at the right time.
The rapid rise of smartphones is broadening the demographic reach and increasing the use of digital promotions. For instance, more than 132 million adults in the United States will use digital coupons in 2017, a jump of more than 17 percent from last year, the research firm eMarketer projects. Even better, our own data shows that people who use digital coupons use more coupons and spend more in general than those paper-clippers of yesteryear.