There is no denying it—the new American consumer is as cost-conscious as ever. Highlands Today, an edition of the Tampa Tribune, recently reported that “89 percent of Americans have regularly used coupons when shopping for groceries, household and healthcare items.” While this figure seems high at first, it’s not when you consider the evolving world of couponing and deal finding.
The weekly circular is no longer the only place, or even the best place, to find the lowest prices and biggest discounts for your next shopping trip. Rather, the Internet is. In fact, online comparison shopping and coupon finding have grown from neat concepts to full-forced money saving machines in the past several years. Today, we look back at coupons and explore some of the most effective ways to find great deals on the web. And, we make our own exciting announcement: Milo.com has added local coupons for products at stores near you!
Before the days of advanced Internet technology, bargain shoppers had to go through a laborious and time-consuming process to find the best deals in town. Driving from store to store, these frugal few used paper and pen to record prices on similar items at different locations, hoping to save as much as possible. Nowadays, none of this is necessary. Thanks to our retail partners and local coupon aggregate Spotzot, Milo has been able to take this once-onerous process and streamline it for the web, making bargain hunting around your city a fast and easy activity.
Using Milo, you can search for items you want to buy and scan the stores around you to find the lowest price. We take the wasted time and energy out of local comparison shopping by allowing you to visit a single store with the confidence that you’re getting the best deal. With newly added coupons, the money-saving potential increases even further.
Bargain shoppers used to anxiously await the the Sunday newspaper to clip out the coupons it contained and plan their weekly shopping around the sales they discovered. For this frugal bunch, finding a good sale at the store was not a pleasant surprise, but a carefully calculated plan to save money on as many purchases as possible. Of course, those dedicated to the art of the deal knew there existed more coupons for the finding than the ones included in the newspaper, and for them there was the ValPak (and other similar mailings). ValPak (which still gets sent today) was a fat envelope stuffed with as many coupons to local establishments as could fit into a standard mailbox. To some people, this was merely annoying junk mail, but to others it was a treasure chest of savings to be had.
To an extent, classic coupon clippers still exist today. American consumers coping with the economic fallout of the last few years have become a more frugal bunch out of necessity. In addition to the traditional paper, electronic couponing is also on the rise as the new way of finding shopping discounts. In fact, KunoCreative calls it the hottest business-to-consumer trend happening today.
As online shopping has increased in popularity, so have online coupons. Internet retailers have borrowed the old sales driving strategy and now offer coupon codes that can be collected and used by shoppers for purchases made on the web (and sometimes even in-store).
The great news is this: Finding coupons to your favorite stores is no longer the difficult Easter egg hunt it once was. Consumers need only search coupon aggregator websites such as RetailMeNot and SaveBrite to find the latest deals on the products they want to buy. Many times, electronic coupons look different than traditional paper clippings, coming in the form of codes that the shopper can enter in during checkout. These codes unlock the different discounts the site offers much like a real coupon, including percent-off sales, free products and free shipping.
As electronic coupons have grown in popularity, they’ve come to encompass more than just the codes discussed above. Several websites have been paving the way for new uses of Internet coupons, especially when it comes to local.
Coupons that can be accessible on-the-go and used locally are an exciting innovation in the online couponing space. For instance, the new coupons on Milo are specifically designed to be used in stores near you. Just search for a product and, if there are any local discounts available, we’ll let you know. Then print the coupon out and bring it to your local store. Another cool company is MobiQPons, which helps businesses target customers by sending coupons through several popular social applications such as Foursquare, BriteKite, MyTown, and Yelp. The service sends relevant coupons to a shopper’s mobile device based on his or her interests and geographical location. The shopper can then redeem the coupons directly at the establishment, without needing to print them out.
Groupon is a site that helps bargain lovers gain huge discounts on a variety of products and services by participating in group buying . Users create an account based on their geographical location and, every day, a business somewhere near them offers an unbeatable deal on food, shopping and more. The catch is that in order to get the great bargain, enough people have to purchase the coupon—but that’s hardly ever a problem. This service is especially useful for large groups of friends who all want to do the same activity, since they can use their bulk buying power to earn the best deals in town. Recent deals in San Francisco have included $8 for $16 worth of beer and sausage, $15 for three dance classes worth $45, and $20 for $40 worth of upscale California cuisine.
Several online coupon services recognize that busy shoppers don’t always want to come back to their website and look for coupons every time they go shopping. In order to deliver their users the most up-to-date coupons available, some of these sites offer a free email newsletter that users can opt-in to receive. For instance, the newsletter offered by RetailMeNot contains both online coupon codes for web shopping and printable coupons to stores in a subscriber’s local area. Some coupon websites even allow users to set “alerts” for their favorite stores, so that when a new coupon is offered, they are immediately emailed and notified.
Foursquare is a relatively new social networking application that rewards users for exploring their cities and “checking in” to different types of businesses. The check-in process tells a user’s friends where they are and allows the user to share information about what they like or dislike at the establishment. Those who check in the most at a certain business are deemed to be the “mayor,” a position that comes with privileges.
Businesses understand that personal recommendations for drinks and dishes can be extremely effective, and what better way to encourage sharing these types of reviews than to offer rewards to those who do so? By advertising the perks of being a Foursquare mayor, such as free or discounted merchandise or services, businesses create check-in wars in which several regular customers compete to earn the most points. And Helium reports that it isn’t only the small local spots that offer such rewards. Starbucks is currently leading the way, and many other large companies, such as Gap, are beginning to get involved in the Foursquare version of couponing.
When they first hit the Internet, Facebook and Twitter were nothing more than fun ways to network with your friends. However, as they grew in popularity (Facebook recently hitting over 500,000,000 users), businesses began to sense a strong opportunity to tap into their markets. Today, it is common for retailers to offer their Facebook fans or Twitter followers exclusive deals through those medians, which makes becoming an active user of the social networks and following all of your favorite stores a very attractive, and perhaps financially sound, decision.
Local establishments (such as bars and restaurants) were among the first to realize the potential of these networks for spreading sales information to people in their geographical area. However, social networking is no longer a small-business only game—large companies are beginning to follow in their successful footsteps, including the major airlines. CNN reports that airlines are testing the waters by putting out deals through these channels that last only for a few hours, but give fans access to tickets that are up to half-off advertised prices to expensive destinations such as Anchorage, Alaska.
So there you have it. Coupons then and coupons now. So whether you decide to clip, scan, join, friend, or search, the message is clear: There are savings to be had, it’s up to you to find them.
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