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Decidedly digital: brands & retailers need to update their technology to keep up with consumer coupon cravings

By Penny Dryden, Valassis Limited

For consumers, the appeal of coupons shows no signs of diminishing, with Valassis research showing that UK shoppers alone save £3.3 billion annually using coupons and vouchers.

Print coupons are very popular, and the future looks decidedly bright for digital coupons as well, given the benefits for both shoppers and retailers.

Smartphones are now extensions of our lives – among other things they are the devices through which we shop and interact with people and locations. According to a report from Google, 65 percent of people now say they regularly use their smartphone to access the Internet. In short, the way consumers shop is changing and retailers can now reach shoppers on the go, via a device that accompanies them for most of the day.

Promotional marketing is a crucial element to most shopping today, with few brands able to ignore this. Within the digital realm, mobile coupons are the ultimate in shopper convenience, being easily accessible via a smartphone and available when and where they are needed. It’s this instant access that reduces the risk of losing or forgetting coupons. According to a study by Forrester Research, 79 percent of shoppers say they wouldn’t buy an item if they forgot to bring the corresponding coupon to the store with them.

Valassis’ research shows there is a real appetite among shoppers for digital coupons – one-third of shoppers prefer digital coupons over paper coupons. Mobile coupons also provide more scope for creative, personalised offers. Retailers can really zero in on high-spending shoppers and entice them to buy products not on their usual shopping list.

However, and it’s a big “however,” this potential has yet to be tapped by many retailers, particularly in grocery. In fact, retailers’ technologies have fallen far behind the capabilities of everyday consumer smartphones, leaving many businesses scrambling to catch up. There are a variety of reasons for this. The big one is cost. Buying and rolling out new point-of-sale technology that can handle mobile payments, including coupons, can be daunting. Retailers are understandably cautious about investing in kit that may quickly become obsolete, and there is a large graveyard of start-ups because consumers have not adopted the latest, greatest technologies as predicted.

As the UK’s largest coupon and voucher services provider, we have been discussing electronic and mobile redemption of coupons with consumers, supermarkets and brands for the last decade, and it is clear that robust redemption solutions in the grocery environment have a way to go.

Mobile coupons should remain a key consideration for retailers for the simple reason that shopper interest is high. Facilitated by technology, today’s consumers are driving real changes in retail. With instant access to coupons, special offers, product details, reviews and recommendations online, the consumer is in control and many retailers need to catch up with the consumer’s expected retail experience.

Penny Dryden is Commercial Director of Valassis Limited, the UK’s largest coupon and voucher services provider.