Coupons allow shoppers to cut costs
June 19, 2011 - 1:04 am
Saving money at home is also creating jobs in the marketplace as more consumers are using coupons for their shopping, service and entertainment needs. Nevadans rank first in the country when it comes to using social sites such as Twitter and Groupon from their handhelds, and smartphone sales are up more than 80 percent, according to Gartner’s mobile market report.
There are more than 100 million active mobile Web users in the United States, and many of those turn to their smartphones for the latest news and daily deals in their area. The majority of mobile Internet users are between 25 and 44 years of age, and coupon sites such as Groupon and Living Social have grown in popularity with this money-conscious group. That trend will continue through the next few years as faster load times and easier interface make smartphones the main source of up-to-date mobile information for valley residents throughout their day.
As housing prices ballooned in 2007 and then subsequently popped, 89 percent of people said they used coupons to shop or for entertainment, and last year 94 percent of people in a Promotion Marketing Association’s Coupon Council survey said they searched for coupons online and/or clipped them from their newspaper circulars.
While print coupons remain a popular and traditional choice for serious coupon users, the move to digital is making its way into daily life of consumers.
Experian Simmons, a consumer research partnership, shows that since 2005, the number of people using digital coupons has doubled to more than a quarter of the population in 2009. More than 35 percent of those who use print coupons pair their efforts with the considerably less time-consuming digital coupons, the study discovered.
MediaPost News pointed out that mobile coupons were used for a much more diverse list of purchases and at a wider variety of stores compared to those who used only print coupons. A wide range of businesses use digital coupons in their sales efforts, from airlines to restaurants and grocery stores to auto-related businesses, lawn-care companies and dentists.
The top coupons desired by consumers are for restaurants, according to coupon giant Valpak, and that continues to be one of the top three merchants frequented by coupon users.
The old stigma that using coupons made consumers self-conscious is no longer important as 57 percent of consumers say they don’t care what it looks like to others as long as they are saving money, according to ICOM Information and Communications. But it’s the deal that makes the mobile coupon desirable, say local businesses, which use coupons in their sales efforts to give an edge over competition.
Shows such as TLC’s “Extreme Couponing” show consumers using coupons to receive hundreds of dollars off of their grocery bills, sometimes going home with more than $600 in groceries for a penny or less. However, in Nevada, double coupons are not available, but digital coupons definitely make savings easier, say local businesses.
In December of 2009, Whole Foods Market’s launched its online coupon program as an extension of The Whole Deal value guide, which highlights everyday low prices on products and offers low-budget recipes and meal planning advice to help shoppers stretch their food dollar with ease, said Jenny Wagner, metro marketing supervisor, Las Vegas, Whole Foods Market. It was all about the convenience.
“Now, in addition to finding coupons in each in-store issue of The Whole Deal value guide, Whole Foods Market shoppers can hop online and print their coupons in seconds,” she said. “And the best part is, with the rest of The Whole Deal guide already available online, shoppers can learn how to snag some of the best deals before they even leave home.”
The program has shown to be beneficial to the company as well as the consumer.
“With the online coupon program, we’re able to offer our shoppers another great way to finding the best tasting, highest quality products that fit any budget,” she said. “But our unmatched quality standards and commitment to responsible sourcing ensure that value means more than price alone.”
The Whole Deal in its entirety — with budget recipe suggestions, shopping tips and other paired value information — highlights much more than the store’s on-sale items. In this month’s online Whole Deal (wholefoodsmarket.com/products/wholedeal/), shoppers can find and print more than $45 in coupons on everything from fruit juice and whole grain cereals to decadent chocolates and creamy soups.
In addition, shoppers will also find 13 “Sure Deals” (the best products for the best prices), nine new recipes, a budget BBQ Bash for eight with a side of great grill tips, and a weeklong budget meal plan for four — “all while learning more about our commitment to selling the highest-quality natural and organic foods available,” she said.
While the program brought more brand loyalty to Whole Foods regulars, it also reached out to the coupon consumer who shopped for deals alone. A selection of coupons from each in-store issue of The Whole Deal rotates online at www.wholefoodsmarket.com/coupons/ every few weeks, to keep the deals fresh and the savings easy for shoppers.
“The Whole Deal coupons program been successful in drawing new shoppers into our stores to experience the great value and high-quality products Whole Foods Market has to offer,” Wagner said.
And a steady customer base translates into a steady employee base. Whole Foods currently has job openings at its area markets.
“We are always posting new team member positions through our online job board,” she said. Go to www.wholefoodsmarket.com/careers/ for a complete list. The job board is always changing from week to week, she said, depending on department and store availability.
“One position that is posted currently, for example, is at our Fort Apache store — they are in search of a new produce team member,” Wagner said.
A retail background is preferable, but the company also considers other important traits for its employees.
“We are looking for team members that have a passion for natural and organic foods,” she said. “Along with that passion, those that have had experience within a customer service and retail environment can be considered for positions at Whole Foods Market.”
For the team leader and store team leader positions, job candidates must possess experience managing a retail team, preferably from within the grocery industry.
Whole Foods has looked into the mobile coupon business, but they haven’t found the right fit as of yet.
“Right now we do not have mobile coupons unless you are accessing the Whole Deal coupon site from your smartphone,” she said. “We tried our hand at Foursquare.com special offers, but found maybe our offer wasn’t compelling enough and didn’t get much response. We are looking into re-vamping what our Foursquare offer will be.”
The company has created two successful apps for the iPhone: the Whole Foods Market Missions and Recipes. The Missions offers badges users can earn through healthy eating, which can then be uploaded to boast about your accomplishment on Facebook, Twitter or through email to your friends. The Recipes app has an abundance of all-natural and organic recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
“I think one of the best features is that you can filter recipes by special diet needs,” she said. “For example, you can search for recipes that are vegetarian, vegan, gluten free and low fat, among others. You can also make your shopping list with one tap once you find something you like.”
Information for both of these apps can be found at: http://www.wholefoods
Albertsons, a division of Supervalu Inc., jumped into digital couponing early in the grocery game.
“We have offered digital coupons for many, many years in various formats throughout the enterprise,” said Lilia Rodriguez, external communications manager for Albertsons. “It’s not just at Albertsons but our sister stores and other areas of (Supervalu).”
The program has been so successful that the company has recently updated and relaunched its website, www.albertsons.com, to be more accommodating to customers who use the loyalty card, Preferred Savings.
“At first it was an opportunity to provide added values to our customers,” she said. “But now we see more people are tending to go online and are taking advantage of that value. It’s growing really fast and it is really an important way to meet the customer’s demand for discounts where they shop.”
Soon the company plans to have the capability to load coupons onto the loyalty cards so that consumers can more easily use coupons, which brings more customers through the doors.
“We have found we have many more customers returning more and more to the store when they have coupons from us,” Rodriguez said. “It has definitely attracted more customers.”
Las Vegas Premium Outlets and Las Vegas Outlet Center, owned by Simon Property Group, have offered online coupons for more than a decade.
“The mode of delivery has become more sophisticated over the years as technology has evolved,” said Alexandra Goranson, area director of marketing for Las Vegas Premium Outlets.
While they have yet to dive into Groupon or Living Social discount services, the company has found social media to be popular with coupon shoppers.
“We will be launching a fun Facebook page shortly and have been on Twitter for several years,” she said.
Coupon catchers tend to return to the outlet malls for the deals, she said, making it a priority for the company to build.
“Shoppers can sign up online for our VIP Shopper Club at www.premiumoutlets.com/vip,” Goranson said. “Once you become a member, you can access our VIP Lounge and download special offers. Membership is free and the membership continues to grow and grow. It is a very popular program. It is easy to use and it is free.”
The coupon club has created a loyal consumer since its inception.
“Being in a ‘club’ creates loyalty and frequency of visits,” she said. “And since we have outlet centers across the country, shoppers can benefit from membership when they travel to locations where we have other centers.”
Mobile searches have proven to be more immediate than the typical Web search, recent studies show. Smartphone users who can quickly access a company’s online presence or address and any coupons they may offer are more likely to use that company’s services than traditional coupon users.
Many local advertisers have yet to be able to easily access potential mobile consumers through local programs, but the Las Vegas Review-Journal is changing that with RJ Mobile. This new program will position the paper and its advertisers even more solidly into its younger demographic who are searching for the latest mobile trend. Stephens Media, owner of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, launched RJ Mobile (m.lvrj.com) June 1, a move that has been in the making for nearly a year.
“Our site was able to be viewed on most mobile devices but it didn’t replicate very well,” said Chris Leslie, mobile/social marketing manager for Stephens Media. “The reason we took our time with creating RJ Mobile is that we wanted to make sure we did it right the first time. With digital, you do not get a lot of second chances.”
RJ Mobile has been well-received by local businesses and advertisers, Leslie said.
“We have already seen an amazing amount of interest come in from places like RTC, Metro PCS and Lee’s Discount Liquor (the Mobile launch sponsor),” he said “And I imagine as we start our marketing push … we are going to be seeing even more businesses that want to take part in spreading their message as well.”