Most consumers are quite familiar with this form of sales promotion, which offers purchasers price savings or other incentives when the coupon is redeemed at the time of purchase. Coupons are short-term in nature since most (but not all) carry an expiration date after which the value may not be received. Also, coupons require consumer involvement in order for value to be realized. In most cases involvement consists of the consumer making an effort to obtain the coupon (e.g., clip from newspaper) and then presenting it at the time of purchase.
Coupons are used widely by marketers across many retail industries and reach consumers in a number of different delivery formats including:
- Free-Standing Inserts (FSI) – Here coupon placement occurs loosely (i.e., inserted) within media, such as newspapers and direct mail, and may or may not require the customer to cut away from other material in order to use.
- Cross-Product – These consist of coupons placed within or on other products. Often a marketer will use this method to promote one product by placing the coupon inside another major selling product. For example, a pharmaceutical company may imprint a coupon for a cough remedy on the box of a pain medication. Also, this delivery approach is used when two marketers have struck a cross promotion arrangement where each agrees to undertake certain marketing activity for the other.
- Printout – A delivery method that is common in many food stores is to present coupons to a customer at the conclusion of the purchasing process. These coupons, which are often printed on the spot, are intended to be used for a future purchase and not for the current purchase which triggered the printing.
- Product Display – Some coupons are nearly impossible for customers to miss as they are located in close proximity to the product. In some instances coupons may be contained within a coupon dispenser fastened to the shelf holding the product while in other cases coupons may be attached to a special display (see POP display below) where customers can remove them (e.g., tear off).
- Internet – Several specialized websites, such as HotCoupons.com, and even some manufacturer’s sites, allow customers to print out coupons. These coupons are often the same ones appearing in other media, such as newspapers or direct mail. In other cases, coupons may be sent via email, though to be effective the customer’s email program must be able to receive HTML email (and not text only) in order to maintain required design elements (e.g., bar code).
- Electronic – The Internet is also seeing the emergence of new non-printable coupons redeemable through website purchases. These electronic coupons are redeemed when the customer enters a designated coupon code during the purchase process.