Talking Shop: It’s Cool to Coupon

Talking Shop is a quarterly report published by the Shopper Marketing experts at The Marketing Arm. In this segment we share insights as they relate to all things shopper. For more information on our shopper marketing practice, please contact   Mike Paley.

Coupons have experienced a comeback among shoppers. In 2009, coupon use grew for the first time since 1992 and  has experienced double-digit growth since. Interestingly, the heaviest users of coupons are those with incomes of $50,000+. More notable though is that households with incomes of $100,000 and  up are the primary drivers of coupon growth.

What makes households that seemingly aren’t challenged for financial resources become frequent users of coupons? Is it really to stretch buying power squeezed by increasing costs of basics, like food and  energy? Perhaps it’s in the words of Walmart, ”to save money, live better” or at least at the same level they have been? After decades of hyper-consumption, it’s easy to believe that buying less or different is a difficult transition. Or are coupons a secret remedy “to feel better” in the face of the unknown?

One of the 10 desires that drive people, identified by Hugh Mackay in his book What Makes Us Tick?, is the desire for control. We are born interpreters. Making our own sense of whatever is happening is how we put ourselves in the picture. It’s how we relieve ourselves of that awful sense of uncertainty. Strategic shopping and  its most-used tool, the coupon, allows us to be masters of our own future and  prepare for the unknown.

The state of one’s pantry is a personal marker of security and  preparedness. Where a bare pantry was once an instantly recognizable symbol of poverty and  want, a full pantry today speaks to a need for forethought and  emergency preparedness. Seventy percent of couponistas buy items they don’t need at the time simply because they have a coupon for it – not because they are hooked on getting a deal, but because it is fundamental to being prepared. Gradually stockpiling non-perishable CPG goods, household, and  health and  beauty products is the primary method for growing monthly grocery savings by significantly reducing future need.

Many use their stockpiles to support the less fortunate in their extended families or communities. They’re purpose-driven survivors. They’re consummate list-makers. Impulse is a sign of weakness. Their discipline means that messaging must begin long before they set foot on the driveway, let alone in the grocery store. They believe brand  names equal better quality and  see them as a status symbol. Buying generic is seen as a surrender to poverty. This also makes them very loyal to certain brand s. Three quarters of couponistas agree with the statement “going through these economic times has caused me to realize which brand s I really care about and  which ones are less important to me.” In the words of one couponista,

“I believe that saving money on groceries isn’t about changing the way you eat, it’s about changing the way you buy the foods that you like.”

What does this mean for you?

Coupons are a key tactic for consideration. This holds true not only for value shoppers at the shelf, but in the pre-shop phase to help get on the list. Whether digital or print, coupons can help in the selection (or de- selection) process and  enhance the overall shopping experience.

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