U.S. Prints 329 Billion Coupons. It’s Time to Get Rid of All of Them

Paper coupons fail us.

Just like a bad friend we are never able to find our paper coupons at the right moment, and if we do find them, they are ripped and torn apart. Sometimes they are just plain expired. Despite this, many of us continue to use them everyday because they present an opportunity for cheaper deals in a world where everything seems to be getting more expensive.

Paper coupons are a big business. According to the CEO of Coupon Cloud, the paper coupon industry is worth 14 billion dollars. So why don’t businesses shave the costs of printing and manufacturing and move towards digital…? Turns out they already are.

Coupon giants such as Coupons.com have begun allowing users of Apple devices to browse digital coupons from retailers such as Macy’s and Target, and add these coupons to their Passbook app (Apple’s mobile wallet). To redeem them all a user needs to do is open the passbook app and show their phone at checkout to get their savings.

Futher, many leading retailers allow you to enter deal offers on their websites when adding items to your shopping cart. These coupons can be found all over the web, on sites such as Retailmenot.com.  

Already stuck with paper coupons stuffed into your wallet? Enter Snip Snap. The app lets users take a picture of a printed coupon & find or create a mobile version of said coupon, which can be redeemed in store. Stores like Bed Bath & Beyond and Kmart give a small commission to Snip Snap in exchange for any coupons redeemed via their app. 

Simple right? Consumers agree.

Digital commerce platform Inmar reported that in 2013 more than 66 million digital coupons were redeemed industry-wide. A 141 percent increase over 2012.

A similar increase is expected for the results at the end of 2014, despite a lowering usage of coupons as a whole. This means digital coupons are flourishing as their paper counterparts wither away.

Ok, you get it, paper coupons are over the hill, but you are used to them; so why should you switch?

Mobile Couponing: Marketing’s Environmental Hero

Life of a Paper Grocery Coupon

  • 14 million trees saved
  • 113.5 billion pieces of paper saved
  • Millions of cartridges of ink saved
  • 0 landfill waste


Between, the expense of ink, paper, processing, low redemption rates, not to mention the environmental footprint, it’s easy to understand why companies and consumers everywhere are changing their outlook on coupons. When speaking on digital and mobile coupons the spokeswoman for Kroger’s stated,

“We are seeing customer shopping habits trending from less paper coupons and more toward digital deals,” 

“Our loyalty coupon mailings, which are personalized and more specific to each customer, have redemption rates regularly topping 60 percent to 70 percent,” 

Redemption rates for the industry [paper] are typically 3 to 5 percent.” 

The average rate of redemption for mobile couponing is 10%  – which means more people are saving, and more companies are profiting

Pro’s of Digital Coupons for Consumers 

  • Environmental
  • Convenient
  • Immediate Use
  • Track coupons with apps.
  • Easily Searchable
  • Personalized
  • Mobile


Pro’s of Digital Coupons for Marketers

  • Cheaper – Digital coupons are often 1/15 or less than the production price of paper coupons.
  • No ink – More savings – smaller environmental footprint
  • No paper – Less Deforestation.
  • Speed – Immediate dissemination no distribution charge.
  • Targeted – Digital coupons are trackable and can be easily personalized.
  • Mobile – Carried everywhere all of the time. 

Companies all over the globe are quickly realizing the potential for digital coupons, including The Dollar General whose Chief Operating Officer eagerly explained their transition in a press release,

“Understanding our shopper is utilizing digital and online technology to help save money, the completion of this project not only demonstrates our ability to deliver everyday value and affordable options to our customers, but also our commitment to help our customers save time and money, every day.”

How do you create a winning mobile couponing program? 

  1. Use interactive coupons that engage potential customers.
  2. Email Coupons to customers that can be redeemed online. 
  3. Offer coupons during holidays or events that relate to your product.
  4. Determine whether to make coupons secure (burner codes) or publicly available.
  5. If coupons are publicly available advertise them all over on social, email, and coupon retailers.
  6. Segment your coupons based on demographics.   


More trees, more savings, maybe the future doesn’t look so grim after all.