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In a world where “Let’s Make A Deal” websites have taken to advertising during the Super Bowl, marketers can rest easy knowing that no matter how much socializing has and will continue to change, consumers — whether Web savvy or otherwise — will always love to feel like they belong to the in-crowd and get a bargain in the process. How else can we explain the seemingly overnight sensation that has redefined the coupon: Groupon? In two years time, the deal-of-the-day website has spread its paper-saving wings globally, servicing some 27 countries and an estimated 44 million subscribers. In North America alone, Groupon has established itself in 150 markets. Groupon’s much-talked about Super Bowl spots featured formerly famous celebrities Cuba Gooding Jr., Elizabeth Hurley and Timothy Hutton hocking example deals ranging from entertaining (whale watching) to luxurious (body waxing) to practical (lunch specials). Groupon’s biggest competitor, LivingSocial, is considerably smaller but made headlines late last year when Amazon invested $175 million, not only a sign of support for the company’s founders — creators of Facebook’s popular Visual Bookshelf application — but for the steal slinging industry, as well. LivingSocial’s Super Bowl spot’s message might as well be a pitch for discount shopping in general: “LivingSocial changed my life; it can change yours, too.” As I noted last year, coupons may no longer be for clipping, but that doesn’t mean brands aren’t targeting “Generation Q” online and on the mobile go.
Maybe I’m just blogging out loud, but it seems like it pays big to offer online exclusives and discounts. Web-based promotions reward existing customers, attract new ones and create instant (and free) word of mouth marketing campaigns.
My Vertical Marketing Network coworkers and I find that opportunities for brands and consumers hungry for deals abound, and it’s not just websites such as Groupon and Living Social (or even location-based social networking sites such as Facebook and Foursquare, which also offer businesses opportunities to engage consumers) that are making headlines. In December, The New York Times reported on digital coupons, both the kind consumers receive via email and coupons Smartphone users can take advantage of via mobile applications such as GroceryiQ and Grocery Gadget (there are others), which can do everything from allowing Smartphone users to save coupons in a mobile app for later to alerting consumers to deals nearby. According to the CEO of Coupons.com, more than 3 billion coupons are redeemed in the United States each year. Of those, half are from FSIs, and roughly 10 percent were distributed online. That may sound like a small number, but when you consider that in 2006 online coupon redemption was roughly 1 percent, it puts things in perspective. And of course, that number is expected to grow as new technology takes the paper out of the coupon business completely. Interestingly, The Times reports that the demographics for digital coupon users “skew younger and also more male,” which changes the ways marketers tend to think about bargain shoppers. Heavy coupon users — defined in The Wall Street Journal last year as consumers who redeem 104 or more coupons within the span of six months — “tend to be females under the age of 54 with college degrees and household incomes above $70,000.” Similarly, Groupon’s average subscriber is between the ages of 18 and 34, female, single, and makes more than $70,000 a year.
Why, then, did both Groupon and Living Social head to the Super Bowl? Surely, it was not only to keep up with each other, but also to extend their brands in a way that blocks and tackles a whole new audience. Offline media — and mediums, such as coupons — have cultural significance, but the action…the action is all in the ether.