Consumers take couponing to extremes

8 Comments | This entry was posted in Marketing, Research, Retail Trends

Though it may seem like a new fad is sweeping the nation, it’s actually been around for more than 100 years. Coupons, first widely-used by C.W. Post in 1909 to help sell his now-famed Post brand breakfast cereals, have become a social phenomenon. Who would have thought that the once-revolutionary newspaper coupon would grow into a life of its own?

There’s no question that the growth of the Internet has tremendously impacted how, when and where consumers can find deals. Websites and mobile applications like Groupon and LivingSocial now make it possible for consumers to save on meals, apparel, health and fitness and even weekend getaways. Thanks to mobile applications like ShopKick, shoppers can also receive coupons just by simply being in the same vicinity of a specific retailer who blasts out instant coupons to a person’s mobile device. Websites such as and Coupon allow consumers to view the best online deals from all their favorite retailers at the same time.

For some, these options are simply not enough. Enter extreme couponing – what AdAge says marketers should be paying close attention to and the subject of its own cable television reality series show, Extreme Couponing. The premise isn’t as simple as it sounds. Using peelies, blinkies, catalinas and stacking, frugal families around the country find ways to save thousands of dollars every year on their grocery bills by combining retailer and manufacturer coupons, rebates, in-store promotions and any other paper, plastic or online deal they can get their hands on. There are even websites dedicated to growing your own extreme couponing business – and business it is, indeed.  One coupon blogger proudly advises the customers in line behind her at the store to “…pick another checkout lane, honey,” because it’s going to be a while.

Extreme couponing has become so big, retailers have had to respond by changing or adjusting their policies, and many experts have expressed that this trend may cause more harm than good.

Whether this trend has grown because of the economy or because of tried-and-true practices, extreme couponing is “hot” right now. In their latest “Hot or Not” consumer survey, BIGresearch found six in 10 adults say extreme couponing is hot, and nearly three-quarters of women and moms say the trend is on their radar.

coupon usage historical

BIGresearch also found some other interesting trends about consumers and coupons. click here to view complete survey:

  • Nearly half of consumers say they are influenced or greatly influenced by online coupons
  • More than two-thirds of shoppers say coupons influence their decisions to buy grocery items
  • Coupons on cell phones (5.5%) aren’t quite as influential as shelf coupons (18.6%) or register tape coupons (11.0%)

And, as USA Today reports, it’s not only the middle and low income folks who use coupons these days – even the well-to-do are reveling in coupon clipping.

Another hot topic these days: gas prices.  Over the course of this most recent recession, we’ve heard myriad ways consumers are offsetting the price of high gas prices. One of the more popular alternatives seems to be…you guessed it, coupon usage. Overall, Americans’ use of coupons as a result of fluctuating gas prices has doubled since 2006, and in June 2011 reached the highest reported usage since 2006.

Even though coupons are nearly as old as retail itself – or maybe it just seems that way – this trend isn’t going away anytime soon. Based on their evolution and growing popularity, it’s fair to say coupons will be around forever. 

Posted in: Marketing | Research | Retail Trends and tagged , , ,


  1. Posted July 18, 2011 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

    Makes sense. People should always do this regardless of the economy, but hopefully good money saving habits are being formed for the next generation!

  2. avatar sherribowers
    Posted July 19, 2011 at 3:21 am | Permalink

    Did you watch the “Extreme Couponing” show they should have featured “Printapon” which I use and print coupons from online

  3. Posted July 20, 2011 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    Couponing is clearly important now more than ever, with the state of the economy. But to go even further, it’s essential to ensure, as a brand, that your coupon falls into the right consumer’s hand, and at the right time. There are many agencies that specialize in consumer marketing promotions and couponing, and as marketers, we need to find a partner resource who knows how to do just this.

  4. avatar Paul S
    Posted July 21, 2011 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

    Couponing is transitioning, like most print vehicles, from paper to digital. During this transition there will be arbitrage opportunities, as the extreme couponing scenarios demonstrate. Pure digital couponing (where no paper is involved) will eventually be the majority and will greatly reduce fraud, mal-redemptions, and misuse. But like other digital equivalents, retailers and marketers will be reluctant to adopt until the digital reach is 25-50% of the market. Then the digital benefits such as targeting, mobility, and context will be realized creating value to brands, retailers and consumers. Meanwhile, opportunities will exist for brands and retailers to learn and take advantage of what exists, preparing for the year when digital couponing makes a significant business difference.

  5. Posted August 13, 2011 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    I think couponing is a fantastic way to save money, and also a great way to show the future generations how to do it. Obviously, with the economy as hard hit as it is right now, couponing is going to be a big hit. I think everything should be done in moderation and this refers to couponing as well.

3 Trackbacks

  1. [...] for $11.27, cereal boxes by the truckload), seems to have pushed couponing to the next level. In a recent “Hot or Not” BIGresearch survey, 6 in 10 adults gave extreme couponing the “hot” nod. Stories have even surfaced that coupons [...]

  2. [...] National Retail Federation, July 2010 Share This:LinkedInFacebookTwitterRSSEmail this post Looking for more [...]

  3. By Extreme couponing on the rise | L&S Unscripted on September 1, 2011 at 10:39 am

    [...] this small percentage of coupon-abusers can’t ruin all of the fun for others. With more than two-thirds of shoppers claiming coupons influence their decisions to buy grocery items and people of all income levels using [...]

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