It's no secret that coupons have changed drastically in the past decade, with the rise of digital coupons and redemption programs. In 1998, it was expected that 20% of newspaper coupons would go digital within five years, but it took 20 years to reach that figure. This was largely due to the decline in newspaper subscriptions. In the wake of the virus, many stores stopped accepting paper coupons, leaving many to wonder if and when “normality” will resume.
Major food manufacturers are abandoning newspaper inserts and, in some cases, printable coupons as well. Procter & Gamble and Unilever still offer their own Sunday coupon inserts, plus printable coupons. However, a smart company would continue to make both digital and paper coupons until those who didn't grow up in the digital age die. This is because many older people may not be comfortable using digital coupons. Additionally, printing paper coupons will likely cost more than offering them digitally, not to mention wasted paper. Sales are also cyclical.
Almost everything goes on sale at the grocery store every 6-8 weeks. If something isn't on sale this week, wait a few weeks and it will be. Furthermore, if a company already has a lot of traffic on their website, hosting digital coupons there can work well. At the Joint Industry Conference on Efficient Consumer Response this week in Chicago, the new emerging issue of the future of paper coupons is likely to be the most important thing discussed. Procter & Gamble has the means to test the strategy of phasing out coupons from a market here and there while testing one or another marketing technique in an attempt to offset any perception of value customers have about coupons.
However, even if P&G and other top-tier manufacturers follow suit, a large number of second- and third-tier players are likely to see this as a growing gap in which they will launch improved coupon activities. I also learned that couponing can be used for more than just saving money. I started making coupons again when I realized that I could use them to help me maximize my donations to a local women's and children's shelter. And then check back in about a year and a half to see if the long-predicted death of paper coupons comes true this time.