John Ross | February 26, 2015

The coupons trends portion of Inmar's promotion industry analysis for 2014 points to stability within the coupon sector. The top-line numbers, i.e. distribution, redemption, etc. were close to what we've been seeing in recent several years -- no big moves in either direction. While 2014 distribution, at 319 billion, was down 2.9 percent compared to last year, 2013 distribution was something of an outlier at 329 billion coupons. Coupon distribution for 2011 and 2012 was 312 and 313 billion, respectively.

The same held true for redemption volume. The 2.8 billion coupons redeemed in 2014 represent only a 3 percent decline from 2013 redemption which totaled 2.9 billion. That 2.9 billion was the same coupon redemption volume we saw in 2012. It's the neighborhood we've been in since 2011 when redemption hit a peak at 3.5 billion.

What has also remained stable is shoppers' interest in coupons. Inmar's recently completed 2015 Shopper Behavior Study found 65 percent of shoppers reporting that their coupon usage in 2014 stayed the same compared to 2013. At the same time, 27 percent said their coupon usage increased in 2014 over the previous year.

So what does this mean for brands and retailers? The answer is opportunity. But, the opportunity is for those marketers willing to innovate and deploy the tools and technology, e.g. targeted emails, engagement coupons, serialized print-at-home coupons, predictive analytics, etc. that can maximize the effect of their promotional spend and deliver the personalized, relevant engagement that shoppers are expecting — and rewarding.

In 2014, overall share of redemption for Free Standing Inserts (FSIs) fell below 40 percent (39.4%) for the first time in several years. But, this doesn't signal the end of FSIs as effective promotion tools. What it signifies is that shoppers are continuing to look for deals beyond established distribution methods and taking full advantage of easy-to-acquire and easy-to-use offers. Marketers need to take note.

Our last shopper behavior study bears this out as 66 percent of shoppers surveyed want coupons loaded to their store loyalty card for items they normally buy, while 65 percent want stores to email them with coupons for products they normally buy. That's a clear call for relevancy, immediacy of acquisition and ease of redemption. It's a call that marketers can't afford to ignore.

The marketplace is stable right now, but with advanced solutions already available to address increasing shopper expectations, the opportunity for material disruption and revenue growth is there -- for those with the ability to deliver the right offer to the right consumer at the right time. Our trends analysis for 2014 shows innovative marketers capitalizing on new technologies and driving share their way. Will you do the same in 2015? Or, will it be your competition?

I would be very interested to hear your thoughts as to what it will take to meet shoppers' demands and move the needle toward increased coupon use. You can share your comments in the comments section below.

John Ross