Are online coupons an effective marketing strategy?

 We’ve all seen them, and most of us have used them at one time or another, but are online coupons really worth it?

The simple answer: yes. Coupons are a win-win situation; the customer feels especially good about the purchase they’re making and the seller is more likely to make the sale or even multiple sales. According to research done by Harris Interactive, 34% of web consumers now will wait to make a purchase until they have a coupon, which is up from 30% last year and 27% the year before.

According to, 5.7% of consumers look for coupons online, 4.4% of them receiving them via email. They found that nearly 22% of respondents want to receive coupons via email. Online coupons can translate to offline activity, they’ve found, and the key to effective online coupons is correct targeting.

They report that “the combined 32% of those who prefer to receive coupons on the Internet and via email jumps to 55%, provided the coupons are specifically tailored to the interests of the consumer. Targeting your audience properly will allow you to deliver greater value, and in turn, a higher open rate of your e-mails.”

According to the seller handbook, discounts and sales can be effective for a wide variety of reasons:

  • Coupons can help to introduce and establish new customers who are then likely to become repeat customers.
  • Discounts like “buy one get one for $5 off” encourage additional purchases while offers like “10% off total purchase” will often entice customers to buy in greater volume.
  • Coupons are an excellent way to reward your best customers and maintain an excellent, mutually beneficial relationship.

In an uncertain economy every little bit helps, and with websites catering specifically to distributing them, it is easier than ever to spread the word about your coupons and by extension your company. These sites work in several different ways:

  • Groupon offers amazing deals, often 50% off or more, and consumers have the option of purchasing these deals. This guarantees volume purchases, which are the biggest benefit of offering coupons for the seller, because unless a pre-set number of people purchase the deal it is void.
  • SmartSource and RetailMeNot are organized resources for printable coupons for everything from groceries to dental screenings. These sites allow registered users (registration is free) to choose stores, categories, and brands they prefer and to receive email notifications of coupons which fit their preferences. Users can also search using many different criteria including location and percentage of discount in order to find the best deals.


Because they are an easy and relatively cheap way to bring in business, and because the use of online coupons is steadily growing, it is becoming increasingly necessary for businesses to offer at least occasional discounts and coupons. Keeping a continuous flow of time-sensitive discounts can increase the dynamic feel of a business and entice the on-the-fence customers to make purchases.

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