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Coupon Abbreviations
  • SC = Store Coupon
  • MC = Manufacturer Coupon
  • SS = Smart Source
  • RP = Red Plum
  • PG = Proctor and Gamble
Coupon Terms
  • WYB = When You Buy
  • B1G1 = Buy One Get One Free
  • .75/1 = 75 cents off one item
  • .75/3 = 75 cents off three items
  • EXP = Expiration Date

Going Nuts? I can help you understand coupon terms and abbreviations

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I recently got an email asking me what I thought couponing would look like in the not-so-distant future.  Would electronic coupons be replacing paper?  Would offers be limited?

Really, I think these questions cross all of our minds every time we get a free item in the store. “This really can’t be true, and definitely can’t last forever.”  Over the last 6 years of couponing for me, we have seen some changes, but not that many.  So far the largest change we’ve seen is an increase in limits on deals.  It feels like ages ago, but “back in the day” CVS deals used to have a limit of 5 on all the freebies and we saw larger or no limits on similar deals in other stores.

What does the future hold?
While I can’t pretend to know everything, here is what I think we will see based on trends and my dealings with companies.

Will we be all electronic?
Not for a VERY long time if ever.  There are two big reasons why electronic will not take over.  First, they have little to no following from older generations who aren’t computer savvy.  While this generation will eventually not be couponing, the rest of us will age and still be technology inept as technology changes (I already can’t program things around the house).  Second, for the big coupon saver, electronic coupons don’t double.  I know all the folks in Florida don’t care, but the rest of us will quickly decide to use a paper coupon over an electronic coupon any day!

That said, we will continue to see a rise in electronic coupons being offered.  They are safe for companies, with little to no fraud and a way to limit households to one coupon per offer.  We are also seeing some stores finally start to embrace electronics (like Publix).

Will deals end or not be as good?
Some would say that this has already happened thanks to a certain TV show.  However I would argue for most of us the new limits imposed do not hinder our savings when we are sticking with the plan to only stock up for 6 weeks.  The real changes to our deals have not been from an increase in couponing, but from an increase in the cost of goods.  We’ve also seen an increase of deals in some markets with more tripling or doubling offers for coupons, accepting competitor coupons, and even price matching.

Will Manufacturers stop releasing coupons?
Nope.  I can honestly say coupons will not go anywhere.  You may not realize this but coupons started in 1887 thanks to Coca-Cola. They did such a large push behind these coupons that by 1913 it was estimated that 1 out every 9 Americans had redeemed a coupon for a free drink.  To compare that to today’s redemption rates… in 2011 coupons that came in the newspaper accounted for 87.7% of the coupons released, however only 0.51% of those were actually redeemed!

Coupons will continue as long as companies see it as a viable way to market products, and those same companies have budgets to handle the promotion.  The latter part of that is where we are seeing the most decline.  We are all in this recession together, and the marketing budgets of large manufacturer’s is not what it was 6 years ago.  We are seeing less advertising everywhere not just in the coupon world. Look at newspapers, TV and online media and you see how advertising dollars have dropped significantly.

What changes have we seen?

Negative
We have seen expiration periods shorten, and we’ve also seen coupon values drop slightly.  The value drop is not as easily tracked though, they are hiding it by releasing the same $1 off coupons but now they are $1 off (2) products.  Unrelated to coupons, we saw prices on some items rise almost 10% in 2011, with the largest rise being in fats and oils, meat, and dairy.

Many stores have created tighter coupon policies with limits on deals or coupons excepted.  Generally this may be annoying, but it’s not a deal breaker for most shoppers.  It was also started not to control shoppers but rather to reign in fraudulent activity.

Positive
The best change in the last year has been the implementation of the databar on coupons and the end of traditional bar codes.  This has and will continue to decrease coupon fraud (a massive loss to manufacturers).  It has also opened coupon offers up to smaller companies.  The old barcode was almost maxed out with no more available brands that could create offers. With the new system it will allow a lot of smaller companies to get into the coupon market.  There are more stores now accepting coupons than in previous years, like Dollar Tree starting this week.  Some stores have also revised their coupon policies to be more competitive in their market with better offers.

That’s probably a long answer for some of you… anyone else have any ideas on what couponing will look like in the next few years?