Where Is the Coupon Destination?

Where is the Oodle for coupons? I ran across this piece from the Wall Street Journal, which was a round up of various food/grocery related coupon sites online:

A huge $201 billion worth of coupons was distributed last year for food and other common supermarket items, according to the PMA Coupon Council. But consumers redeemed just $2.2 billion, or about 1%, of these . . .

From my point of view the deals/coupons segment is ripe for a next phase of development. There are numerous online competitors but, mysteriously, no one has really gotten it right. Part of the reason for that is that it’s challenging to get sufficient inventory to satisfy a broad range of consumer needs/use cases in a “search” context.

There’s also the forgetting to bring the coupons (mobile can help) and the stigma (for some) associated with using coupons.

Offline coupon clipping behavior is an interesting mix of both “search” and “discovery.” People actively look through circulars and newspaper/direct mail coupons. However they don’t necessarily know what they’ll find or what may be on sale. So there’s a bit of serendipity along with the directional behavior. I’m looking for coupons for things that I normally buy or that I need, but occasionally a coupon will prompt me to try something new or different.

I’m not sure that a pure search model or an “Oodle for coupons” is right. There’s some creative mix of community, search, discovery and content aggregation needed to make a coupon or deals destination work online. And the branding or value proposition shouldn’t be around “coupons,” which is too pedestrian.

Instead, branding should probably be around deals and discounts (for breadth). It should also start off small, like an insiders network. This is the way that Craigslist essentially began in San Francisco and built slowly over time.

Why do you think there’s no single destination or even several relatively well-known for coupons or deals online? There’s lots of money circulating in the couponomy, it solves the online-offline tracking problem and consumers are perpetually interested in deals.

I’m curious what others think.

18 Responses to “Where Is the Coupon Destination?”

  1. Ben Says:

    Judy’s Book was working on this

  2. Greg Sterling Says:

    Yes but they didn’t really have the opportunity to see if it would fly.

  3. emad Says:

    Hi Greg,

    YellowBot has been aggregating coupons and deals (though not as a primary feature) for a while now. The problem we’ve seen is that even after aggregating them, there still isn’t that much inventory out there. Consider how many cities there are and how many businesses there are in that city, and how many different categories (i.e. restaurants) there are in each of those cities…how many coupons do you think you’ll find per cat per city? Now how many of those would you think consumers would actually frequent or have an interest in. I do believe coupons will be big one day (especially with a mobile tie-in) but it is the same problem we’ve seen for years…adoption by the merchants is just not high enough.

    Also, the advantage of showing deals is that most deals can be had without handing in a coupon (the stigma).

  4. James Nicholson Says:

    Instead of creating a destination site that tries to serve everyone, I think a better model is to aggregate coupons and offer them up via an open API and share revenues with publishers. Let publishers figure out the best way to present coupons (or discounts, or whatever you want to call them) to their audience. Most people don’t go searching for coupons alone, which is why a destination site will be limited. When coupons or offers are presented alongside relevant content it’s much more effective.

  5. Greg Sterling Says:

    I agree that a pure coupon destination is problematic for the reasons you discuss. The essence of my post is about aggregation. Agree with the content + coupons approach.

  6. Stan Gauss Says:

    Although Coupons.com (Coupons, Inc) was glossed over in the article they have a couple really unique things going on and can really change the delivery model for coupons and deals. They have an AdSense type marketing tool called BrandCaster that takes into account the user’s coupon history and the content on the page. The cool thing about this tool is it allows the user to print directly from the ad unit without having to click through to another page. I’ve heard in testing the coupons were out performing AdSense.

    On top of that, they have a local coupon creator that will allow the SMB to create coupons and hopefully, in time, get blended in with the BrandCaster delivery.

    I’m working on a tool that allows us to create a shopping list and crawl for relevant coupons- 1 click prints your shopping list with all the relevant coupons.

  7. earlpearl Says:

    Greg:

    Excellent topic. Possibly the slowness in response to driving the coupon business is a result of the percentage of usage of about 1%.

    Mike Blumenthal and I have discussed this in regard to Coupons offered via Google Maps. Its available but a forgotten element. There is a bug in Google Maps with regard to setting up coupons. Then it is visable only by getting to the maps entry. Coupons listed in Maps would be seen most often when Maps are discovered via universal search from Organic Search. But within the map inserted into organic search it isn’t viewable. Then it appears that when a visitor clicks on the options….they are going to the site far more often than the entry in the Local Business Center. Finally, if one does go to the Local Business Center Version, its possible the Coupon is buried beneath the fold, contingent on the size of a screen and the width of search bars on the top of the screen.

    My business has been running a worthwhile coupon in Google Maps for about 6 weeks. We’ve had plenty of visits to our site via people who find the business via several versions of maps within search. We’ve had ample conversions from those visits. To date, not a single customer has turned in a coupon….and the savings are significant.

    Google, the world’s most visable site, has an opportunity to expose this item….but simply isn’t exploiting it. Of course they haven’t monetized it either.

    On a different level it would be interesting to see how sites that are making them visable and accessable are doing. For instance, you referenced a version of the Cincinnati newspaper owned by Gannett, that has a version of the newspaper geared toward mothers. The coupon aspect was easily accessable. I wonder how many of those are redeemed and how effectively that element is being monetized.

    The examples above are more interesting.

    It would seem that in this environment growth in coupon advertising and availability is a natural. Thanks for the article and commentary.

  8. Greg Sterling Says:

    I find it mysterious that coupons haven’t been better exploited and that Google hasn’t better promoted them.

  9. couponfor Says:

    Well Google just purchased Perfromics couple of months back, see if they release a “coupoogle” for coupons only. 😉 Yahoo already launched their own flavor of coupon site 6 months back.

  10. Greg Sterling Says:

    But performics is being sold to appease t he critics of Google owning an SEM firm. I think the comment above about coupons being teamed with content is valid. But also social-media and deals is a good combo that Judy’s Book was building but never got a chance to fully develop.

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  13. Dani Says:

    What you don’t realize is CPG companies do not want their coupons to redeem at a higher rate. They are very happy with the 1% they do see. They only want to incentivize for trial’s sake. They are losing money if redemptions hit a higher level.

  14. Greg Sterling Says:

    Yes, a very valid point. They want to create incentives w/o redemption. Much like rebates create incentives to buy, but there’s a low completion rate.

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    […] and may further “mainstream” Twitter. In fact, Twitter might become the “coupons destination” (or the place to tap into multiple coupons sources) that I’ve talked about for some […]

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  18. SaveSaveSave Says:

    Heard that http://www.brandcaster.com launched a new affiliate program? How does it compare to other programs?

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