Coupons 2.0: The Digital Deal Revolution is Here

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By Thompson Knox
Originally published in The St. Louis Women's Journal, June 1, 2011

 First there was Groupon (http://www.groupon.com). It emerged on the coupon scene in November 2008 as this mega-saving site, where you could scope out local deals on everything from restaurants to car services. Groupon leveraged a downturn in the economy to change the way people looked at coupons - and they succeeded! It took clipping coupons from a time-honored tradition practiced by multitudes  of moms and migrated into the inboxes of a new generation of bargain shoppers giving them the convenience of being able to organize, store and  print pay-per-deal coupons, making it part of a new digital savings movement.

Fast-forward to 2009 and LivingSocial (http://www.livingsocial.com) appears as the first, real competitor to the already well-known Groupon. They walk alike, they talk alike, and the two websites are also visually alike. Only one thing appeared different – the coupons. LivingSocial serves up completely different local offers. Absolutely perfect, because let’s face it – variety is the spice of life and if I’m getting served up the same coupon across both platforms, I would have to choose a service. Thank you for making it easy on us!
 
My wife and I are always on the look-out for a sale or better way to manage daily spending, and now I have digital gurus handling the savings for me. All I have to do is log on, check out what’s going on that day and see if it’s something that fits my needs. It can’t possibly get any easy or more convenient! Or can it...uh oh, here come Coupon 2.0 initiatives from some heavy hitters in the online space.
 
Google Offers (http://www.google.com/offers)
After the excitement of the social platform Google Buzz fizzled and after the failed Groupon acquisition, Google decided to enter the game with Google Offers. Google Offers is similar to the Groupon model. Notifications for the local daily deals are delivered either to your email, iGoogle page or mobile device. Although not available in St. Louis yet, it is live in some larger cities on the coasts if you’re going travelling. More deals!
 
Facebook Deals
Like Google, Facebook is currently testing the service in select markets across the country: Facebook Deals.   Facebook Deals will offer local daily deals by either email notification or auto-populate in a Facebook News Feed. Facebook Deals also has the share function applied to it, just like other Facebook applications. Like a deal? You can share that information with your friends and family either in a message on news feed.  Even more deals!
 
Choozon (http://www.choozOn.com)
One more contender, ChoozOn, is joining the game as well. Although not yet launched, Choozon is expected to roll out in mid- to late-2011 with a more customized approach, offering consumers deals and savings tailored to their interests both online and on mobile devices. With the hope of developing this type of a “savings network”, members, who are given the title of “Choozers”, are encouraged to invite friends to pass along savings as a result of shared interests. Yes, that’s right, even more deals!
 
Savings overload yet? Let’s regroup – if all daily local coupon sites take off in our local market, we could potentially see deals appear in our email inboxes, internet homepage screen, social media personal pages, mobile devices…
 
Eep! I JUST saw a coupon pop into my work email as I am typing this.
 
All these deals just fall into our personal digital filing systems and we have the option to “clip” or not with the click of a mouse. And although I find it hard to believe that Groupon will be ousted by the competition, up-and-coming contenders could definitely steal the spotlight. But will it be the complexity of the technology or just the value of the deals that becomes the competitive advantage? However, the phrase, “…similar to Groupon” will always linger in the background as consumers will ultimately compare newcomers to the original local deal finder. Perhaps it’s not so much about who is participating in this deal-finding party but who arrived first.
 
So what’s the downside of these offers? Well, buying and not using them. No matter what deal site you use, be sure you USE THOSE COUPONS. Breakage is the industries measurement of those folks that purchase a coupon/gift card/gift certificate and then don’t use them. The percentages are high. Be sure to get into those stores before the expiration date. Remember, these coupons aren’t free! Also beware the subtle “cannot use this offer for 24 hours after purchase” type clauses. That’s gotten me a couple of times. 
 
Whether we adopt one way of clipping the digital coupons or decide to coupon-hop to see which deals are hot that week, one thing remains steadfast and true - we all love a good deal. “Saving” is not a term that will disappear – the digital world wouldn’t let that happen.
 

 To read the original posting, please visit The St. Louis Women's Journal.