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Coupons Are Back --- In What Way?

After 17 years of decline, consumers use more coupons in 2009 than they did a year ago. Probably because of the recession, consumers redeemed 3.3 billion out of a total of 367 billion coupons, a 27% increase from 2008’s 2.6 billion. Even though “traditional newspaper inserts are still the prime territory for bargain hunters” (newspaper distributed 89% of coupons; more than 50% of them were redeemed), online coupon increased 92%. In particular, one out of five (1/5) people have cashed online coupons they received. Overall, coupon users can be describes as women (60%) and those of 25 – 34 years old, followed by those of 45 or older.

Another research found that more and more cell-phone users are interested in receiving special offers through cell-phone apps and text-messaging programs. There are several free mobile apps available, such as Yowza, MobiQpons, and Cellfire, allowing customers to search businesses with special offers. Believe it or not, some of these apps are very effective. Rubio’s Fresh Mexican Grill, a restaurant chain in the West Coast, used Yowza and saw 4% redemption rate on cell-phone coupons, 4 times more effective compared to direct mail and newspaper coupons.

We have seen many hotels and restaurants started using cell-phone apps in operations (you may read relevant discussion via http://linchikwok.blogspot.com/2010/01/how-will-iphone-travel-apps-change-our.html). For example, hotels in Las Vegas launched an iPhone app last month so that they can send messages with special offers to the customers passing by.

In conclusion, we see coupons are coming back, but online and cell-phone add coupons have become more and more important. Hotels and restaurants can definitely distribute their promotion messages through Internet and cell phones. However, decision makers need to be very careful not to annoy their customers by “dumping” adds to their e-mails or cell phones. Probably, it would be better and more effective to reach the target customers by making online and cell-phone app coupons available to those customers who “look for” great deals. What do you think? Also, if you have tried “coupon” apps, what was your experience?

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