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Consumers + Coupons

Consumers’ behaviors are ever-changing, particularly in a time such as this where the economic downturn has forced shoppers to reconsider the way disposable income is spent. While many consumers have become more price-centric and are willing to trade down, they are also giving in to the small indulgences in life such as trips to the hair salon, a gourmet bakery treat, and Earth-friendly products even it means a steeper price tag. Demystifying consumer behaviors has always been a challenging feat for marketers, as they are shaped by countless things such as recessions or booming economies, generational differences, and technology advancements.

Take for instance, the habit of clipping coupons.  Sitting down Sunday morning armed with a cup of coffee and a pair of scissors has been a long-time tradition for many generations of shoppers, but one that hasn’t seen significant changes until recently. Prior to the recession, coupon usage rates were stagnant and even declining during some periods. According to a recent study  by Inmar Inc, a logistics and promotions firm in Illinois, coupon usage increased a whopping 27 percent in 2009, and some of the most frequent coupon redeemers came from the least expected demographic groups.


Nielsen Co. produced the chart above which illustrates coupon redemption trends across various demographic groups. In an article published in the In-Store Marketing Institute, Todd Hale, the senior vice president of consumer and shopper insights at Nielsen, described the current recession as being the “renaissance of coupons.” The study found that of the 100,000 consumers surveyed:

–38 percent of “Super Heavy” coupon users and 41 percent of coupon “Enthusiasts” have annual incomes greater than $70,000, and that households with incomes greater than $100,000 a year attributed the most to the coupon growth seen in 2009.

–Coupon “Enthusiasts” shopped more frequently and had larger shopping baskets each trip than non-coupon users.

–“Heavy,” “Super Heavy,” and “Enthusiasts” redeem 83 percent of all coupons.

–Households who were less affluent and had smaller annual incomes contributed to a significant portion of the “Non-User” category.

Mobile coupons, Internet sites such as Groupon, and other online marketing tactics have introduced consumers to a new era of promotions. In 2009, Inmar reported that Internet coupon redemption increased 263 percent. Smartphone usage is on the rise as well, and Nielsen’s 2009 survey found that around 37 percent of respondents had some form of a smartphone with Internet access. It is likely that the coupon world will continue to evolve to become more mobile based and  on-the-go.

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