The way we all use coupons is changing!
The new Universal Digital mobile coupon standard is coming, and is changing coupons as we all know them now.
I recently had the opportunity to be the first to try out this new coupon format at a grocery store in Alexandria, MN, and I can tell you it was simple and slick!
From paper to digital – and the drawbacks of both
Growing up in Duluth, my family used paper coupons for everything. We’d go through the coupon inserts in the Sunday paper, clipping coupons we might use and either stuffing them in an envelope or sorting them in different envelopes by category. Then we’d look at store ads and note what items were on sale. Next we’d plan our grocery trip based on the sales and what we needed, and get our coupons ready. It meant hauling quite a stack of paper coupons, and hoping not to forget or miss any.
In the end, we’d save a good chunk, but it took some time and planning, and no websites or smartphones were around yet to mix in coupons with the printed ones!
When the Internet came along and coupons could be printed or saved from websites, that added some exciting possibilities, but added a different kind of work for shoppers. Now we had to look for coupons we wanted from galleries online, and then printing them (printer ink is so not cheap) or saving them to our store apps. And then adding more store apps to access them all.
For brands, all these options also resulted in counterfeit and fraud, and no option seemed resistant to fraudsters using them more than once, making copies and other activities that the coupons weren’t intended for.
With 1.7 billion coupons redeemed each year, it has been estimated that about 5% of all coupon redemptions are not used as intended. That is estimated at well over $100 million being lost each year due to coupon fraud!
The Universal Digital Coupon
For years, a goal of the coupon industry has been to create a universal digital coupon – a fraud-resistant, bar-coded coupon that you show on your phone in stores that accept coupons.
To make the coupon industry more secure for brands and more efficient for all, the organizations that oversee couponing as we know it in the U.S. created a working group to come up with a solution. A nonprofit called “The Coupon Bureau” was created for this purpose. Based in Dallas, Texas, The Coupon Bureau managed this project and now, a new universal digital coupon is here.
Trying out the future of coupons – in Minnesota!
The mission: Testing out the new universal coupon format!
Where: Alexandria, Minnesota!
This fall, the Coupon Project partnered up with Elden’s, an independently-owned grocery store in Alexandria, Minnesota, to be the first store to test out the new universal digital coupon.
And I was invited to be among the first shoppers to try it!
I drove 2 hours out there on a cold November day to Elden’s, and met up with the team, which was made up of several Coupon Bureau members as well as representatives from stores and brands. Several super-friendly store employees helped us out as well.
As one of the first shoppers to try this out, I received two coupons by text, which I then could save to my Apple Wallet or Google Pay account on my phone.
Then, when I purchased the item, I showed the clerk the barcode on my phone. She scanned it and it automatically was redeemed, like other digital coupons.
And that was it!
What’s the difference between this coupon and other coupons?
When scanned at checkout, this coupon is checked in real-time by the Coupon Bureau’s centralized database, so the store will know instantly if it’s valid. No wondering if it’s been used before or if you have the correct item. It works or it doesn’t work, and it’s easy for everyone!
For shoppers, it’s no different than using any other digital coupon. But they’ll be available in a variety of ways – by text, by email, by clicking on an ad. The possibilities are endless!
At this point, the plan is to continue testing the new universal digital coupon format with new coupons and in more stores across the country. Pretty much everyone should have access to them sometime in 2021.
Watch for more updates on my blog!