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More than 90 million US consumers (78% of retail shoppers) currently use newspaper coupons, and 40 million (40% of shoppers) say they are likely to use coupons accessed online, according to a new coupon use and interest survey from Platform-A and Information Resources, Inc. (IRI).

The study, which polled adult shoppers about their current usage of newspaper coupons and their potential interest in digital ones, also found – perhaps not surprisingly – that regardless of whether the shopping is being done online or in brick-and-mortar stores, the type of coupon a consumer favors varies by age. The younger the consumer, the more comfortable they are with the idea of accessing coupons online.

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According to Platform-A and IRI, this research comes at a critical juncture, when American families are extremely value-focused and eager to stretch their buying power, yet newspaper circulation (and thus the traditional vehicle for coupons) is in steep decline, especially among younger age groups (ages 18-44). This provides a large growth opportunity for online coupons.

Additional study findings:

  • Nearly one out of every four newspaper-coupon clippers are likely to be age 65+.
  • The youngest market segments are the most receptive to online coupon offers, with 51% of 18-24-year-old shoppers indicating they would be very likely to use coupons presented to them online.
  • While historically ambivalent to traditional coupons, younger couples are the most likely life-stage group to use online coupons, indicating an opportunity to influence product choices within this segment.
  • Young couples without children are most likely to use a coupon they found online, followed by shoppers with younger children.

“We have an economy that makes coupons much more relevant to the average consumer, a rising generation of families totally at home with the Internet, and an overall decline of the newspaper and its Sunday circular distribution,” said Mark Ellis, SVP, AOL / Platform-A. This, Ellis added, points to a large window of opportunity for online coupons.

“What’s particularly remarkable about the study results is how open young people are to the idea of using coupons online – even though clipping coupons from the newspaper really hasn’t been their thing,” said J. P. Beauchamp, SVP, IRI Consumer & Shopper Insights. “I think we’ll be seeing CPG manufacturers jumping on this trend – using online coupons to court a new generation of consumers and build loyalty during these cost-conscious times.”

About the study: The research is based on input from more than 36,000 IRI panelists. Data was gathered in September, 2008.

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