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Coupons Continued (And Growing) Influence Over Major Purchasing Decisions

Coupons Continued (And Growing) Influence Over Major Purchasing Decisions

Coupons influence purchase decisions made by consumers across age and income demographics. Consumer behavior has evolved, especially with the rise of smartphones and mobile culture, but that’s done nothing to diminish consumer appreciation for discounts and coupons.

Coupons and Discounts Have the Greatest Impact

While many factors can be a major influence on internet user purchase decisions in the U.S., coupons and discounts have the biggest influence. Coupons and discounts represent a 31-point lead ahead of the next biggest influence according to a 2016 survey from Bazaarvoice and CMO Council:

  • 71% of respondents pointed to coupons and discounts
  • 40% of respondents said recommendations from family and friends
  • 35% cited brand advertising
  • 22% cited brand recommendations for similar or complementary products.

Studies have also found that 82% of consumers say digital coupons are a convenient option. The influence of these types of digital discounts is evident in the number of people searching for them. A quarter of all consumers will either search for or redeem coupons via smartphone, a share that jumps to 64% when looking at millennials alone. Focusing only on Millennial mothers, 62% will download mobile coupons, and 67% will look for grocery coupons online. Mobile has also opened up a new level of multitasking: 19% of consumers will search for digital deals while eating out, while 36% of millennials and 30% of Gen Xers will search for local deals while shopping.

Most Effective Coupons

Print coupons are still the single most effective type of coupon, as nearly a third of all internet users turn to print circulars for coupons before shopping trips. About 79% of internet users like paper coupons even though they also use digital coupons. In fact, print coupons saw 58% growth from 2015 to 2016, outpacing mobile’s growth over that same time (38%). Print is even popular among the digital-native millennials: 73% say they find coupons from print sources like newspapers and coupon books while another 46% redeemed them in 2016 alone. That shouldn’t mean you count digital out, though. The second and third most popular sources for coupons were email (25%) and mobile (20%), and 47% of internet users are looking for digital coupon codes. Also, if they’re shopping in-store and looking for coupons, half of consumers will turn to their mobile device.

In terms of what discount the coupon offers, money off the purchase total is the best bet. A survey by AYTM Market Research in October 2016 found types of discounts US Internet users prefer to receive with coupons.

  • Over 73% of respondents preferred coupons to provide a dollar amount off the purchase.
  • Nearly 55% preferred a percentage off of the total.
  • 50% preferred a percentage off a particular item.
  • 41 % preferred buy one get one.
  • 33% preferred a free gift with purchase.

Coupons are effective for every retail industry, but the most use is probably for groceries. To get a bit more specific, 94% of all internet users are interested in coupons for grocery shopping, and that isn’t relegated to older generations. Nearly the same percentage of Millennial internet users (93%) want the same thing. However, it’s worth noting that coupon savvy millennials also use coupons for:

  • Cosmetics (69%)
  • Apparel (62%)
  • Home goods (60%)
  • Restaurants (57%)

According to Nielsen, the types of stores most likely to see coupon redemption are grocery stores and department stores (41%), although clothing stores aren’t far behind (39%).

Consumers Most Influenced by Coupons

Almost all consumers are influenced by coupons in some way. 96% of all consumers use coupons, and 81% of them do so regularly. Looking at Millennial mothers, 70% will search for or download mobile coupons while they’re shopping. Some surveys suggest that millennials are the most likely to use coupons, and are the generation to most increase coupon use.

Of course, while other statistics aren’t as staggeringly high, it’s due to the differentiation of interests and devices. Roughly a third of all internet users will access coupon savings in general through a mobile device, as well, while 88% of smartphone users have increased their use of digital coupons. There are gender and income splits too. About two in five women will search for a product based on a coupon online, and just over 30% of female internet users will take advantage of coupons for day-to-day shopping, while barely 17% of male internet users will do so. Affluent customers are influenced by coupons too: 90% of these shoppers will use coupons, and 53% of high-income earning adults are willing to switch brands based on coupons. In fact, shoppers with high incomes (i.e., $100,000 or more) are twice as likely to use coupons than those making less than $35,000.  A college degree also makes shoppers twice as likely to use them as shoppers that didn’t earn a high school diploma.

Highlighting Digital Coupons

We mentioned above that coupons and discounts were the leading purchase motivator, but it’s important to understand the role that digital coupons specifically play.


Smartphones are a key method when searching for and obtaining digital coupons.  A survey found that more than 40% of all consumers will search for coupons using a smartphone app. The influence of coupons found this way is increasing: nearly half of mobile coupons are redeemed in store, which is a 22% growth over 2014. To break digital down a little more specifically, a quarter of US internet users will source coupons from email, followed closely by mobile apps (20%). This echos the 2014 Forrester study once more, which found that consumers discovered coupons via email from retailers and deal sites. Unfortunately, coupons from retailer websites and social media rank lowest (12% and 5% respectively) but remain influential pieces of digital in total; they also act as touch points in the frequency of your marketing plan.

How They Influence Purchase Decisions

Coupons influence purchase decisions because they help consumers feel like they’re getting a better deal, and as a result consumers spend more. There’s evidence to suggest that coupons make people happier and more relaxed, which also boosts willingness to purchase. (If that good feeling transfers to your brand in the process, that’s all the better.) This is equally true for digital coupons as print ones.

Just over 57% of consumers say they are more likely to make a purchase from a retailer’s site when they receive a discount code via email. Similarly, the 2014 Forrester study showed that more than half of consumers are more likely to visit a physical store when they receive a digital coupon. Another 93% of consumers are influenced to try a brand they wouldn’t normally purchase due to a coupon. That includes 80% of affluent shoppers specifically, and another 86% of such shoppers would try new products thanks to a coupon. Coupons also have a role in burgeoning influencer marketing tactics. More than a third of millennials (36%) will share online or social content to receive a digital coupon or discount, which alternately broadens brand awareness and acts as a de facto endorsement.

It’s worth noting that a 2016 survey by Points (a loyalty provider) found that half of all respondents wanted more relevant coupons and deals from retailers in their mobile wallets. This doesn’t just indicate that more consumers would probably use mobile wallets and digital coupons if given the right incentive. It points to the fact that, like most other areas of retail, coupon personalization is a key motivator in the decision process.

As the path to purchase and consumer behavior evolves, it remains a simple fact that coupons influence purchase decisions. Digital coupons are rising in popularity, especially through mobile, but paper coupons are still a powerful factor in decision making. It’s well worth putting in the market research to clearly understand how your customers utilize coupons and develop a winning strategy.