On Long Island, my home, buying without a coupon is heresy. If you don't have a coupon in hand at Shop Rite, Kohls, or Macys, you can easily be voted off the Island for failure to demonstrate that you are frugal. I expect to be stuck behind someone at the supermarket checkout arguing that their out of date coupon for the product that kinda sorta matches the one on the coupon, is valid (my favorite was the woman at Dunkin Donuts that insisted on using the "free small coffee" coupon as a down payment against a medium coffee).
On Long Island It's common to over pay for whatever the latest "it" item is, but then feel good about the purchase since you bought it with a coupon or on a secret,that everyone knows about "friends and family" sale that just happens to be available to everyone. Bloomingdales will even hold your purchase so that you can come back and buy it on a sale day.
Unfortunately this coupon hysteria is now spreading on-line. The recent news that Google was trying to acquire Groupon was a wake up call to marketers that coupon marketers are starting to dominate PPC results and may start to influence SEO rankings as well.
Image via Wikipedia
Long story short, the coupon sites such as Groupon, ebates, Living Social etc are buying PPC keywords that say something like <your brand here> discount coupon. The consumer than clicks the link back to the coupon site for the offer. Given the millions being spent in PPC by the coupon sites, and the quality of the information provides, a consumer discount, these sites are supposedly getting high quality scores from Google. This translates into lower PPC pricing and a competitive advantage for these sites. Said another way, a company's acquisition costs can potentially be lower by working with a coupon site.
Image via CrunchBase
No where is this change more pronounced than in the affiliate marketing space, where coupon sites are quickly becoming the go to affiliate partners. For those just catching up to the affiliate conversation, affiliate marketers pay a percentage of sales to the affiliate partner in exchange for the lead or sale. It is estimated that 10% - 20% of all ecommerce moves through the affiliate channel. Affiliates promote product via PPC, SEM publishing, email, twitter, newsletters etc.
The coupon sites are also teaching the consumer not to buy before searching for and using a coupon. This is further reinforced by the ubiquitous "coupon code" request on the check out screen of most major on-line retailers.
Coupons are going be a top story in 2011. Marketers need to get on board fast...l..as in now.