Over the past 25 years of my life, a lot has changed in the advertising and technology industries, but one thing remains constant: the type of advertising I respond to. Just recently, I asked if anyone else remembered those compilation album commercials that would display a list of a few songs and their videos, and then instruct you to “Call NOW” to get this “limited time offer.” My response to commercials has always been to flip channels and find another program to watch for three minutes until the commercial break ends. Now, I watch far less television and get most of my media from the Internet. I find myself still trying to dodge these intrusive advertisements that are often completely unrelated to my lifestyle and interests.
I know I’m not the only one who responds this way, so how do companies market to people, like me who despise commercials? The answer is simple: incentives. I come from a family of resourceful people. No matter what the economy was like, we saved two things: coupons and condiments (I have no idea why we saved condiments, but we could probably break some world records and survive an apocalypse with ketchup, mustard and soy sauce). If no one was in the mood to cook or go out to eat, we’d open up our designated coupon drawer, and pick out something to eat by whatever gave the best deal and hadn’t expired. It didn’t even matter what the food was, so long as it was a good deal. All those Bed Bath and Beyond coupons that come in the mail never expire, so now, as an adult, I keep those until I find that I need a new household item. In some cases, I can use a ton of those coupons to reduce my spending by 50 percent or more.
Coupon clipping is mostly a thing of the past, but this hasn’t stopped companies from infiltrating the new media market. Groupon is the most notable. It has been labeled the “Fastest Growing Company Ever” by Forbes, and for good reason. My first encounter with Groupon was on Facebook circa 2009, when ads on Facebook were still small, non-intrusive links in the sidebar. I had just moved to New York and spotted an ad that said I could save money on food locally, so I signed up without hesitation. I didn’t use it for a while, but as the popularity of Groupon grew, more varieties of deals became available. Soon, buying coupons became a social activity and borderline addiction. Friends would post these deals on Facebook and tag us all in the post so that we could buy the coupons and all use them together. Groupon allows you to share your purchase with friends, and when three of your friends buy the same coupon using your uniquely generated share link, your purchase becomes free. Unlimited pitchers of beer and wings for three hours? Don’t mind if I do! Two Fandango movie tickets for $9? I don’t even know what’s out right now, nor do I care, because that’s the type of deal that cannot be easily turned down! I buy it and make a point to see a movie and take any friend that’s interested. At this point, who cares if our emails get “spammed” by all these coupon websites? It’s being spammed with ads we want to see. Did I really just say that?
Since Groupon’s success, a plethora of other promotional sites have popped up. Livingsocial, DailyDeals, CouponCabin, KBG deals, Fab.com, and even AppSumo, which posts coupons and deals for techies like myself, have all appeared over the last few years. Even sites that only display existing deals instead of offering exclusive deals have been thriving, such as Pulsd, which informs users about discounted events in the New York City area. Coupons and deal websites are a cost-conscious consumer’s dream, but sometimes a business’s nightmare. It’s a riskier form of advertising, but it enables companies to attract an audience who may not have ever considered their business before or may not have even been aware it existed. At least that’s the plan, assuming that they are able to handle the influx of people who are going to redeem their coupons, or work out the terms and conditions for minimizing profit loss. In a survey conducted for daily deal subscribers, almost 30 percent of those who redeemed a deal in the previous 90 days had never done business with the merchant before. The survey, by customer experience analytics firm ForeSee, also found more than 90 percent of respondents who redeemed a deal said they had already done business with the company again or planned to in the future.
Groupon has already launched “Groupon Now,” which allows members to look at deals that they can access immediately instead of waiting the usual 24 or more hours for the coupon to be available for use. It’s only a matter of time before coupons can become even more accessible, and not just exclusive to registered users. Maybe you’ll be passing by a storefront or a bus stop and notice a QR code for 15 percent off a meal at a nearby restaurant. Maybe they’ll incorporate it more into outdoor advertisements. Or perhaps mobile devices will launch an app, allowing friends to touch their screens together in order to share coupons. Now that online couponing has been around for over three years, finding more ways to make deals work in the favor of both the company and the consumer has become science.