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I'm in Coupons Scholarship 2014. Entry-Debbie S.

Do coupons influence your purchasing decisions?

For me it depends on how easy the couponing experience is.  Clipping coupons and watching the Steelers on TV was a ritual for my mother-in-law.  With grad school and three kids, things are way too busy in my house for that!  I’m more likely to check my e-mail for a coupon from one of my favorite stores, like Yankee Candle or Bath and Body Works.  These coupons, like “buy 2, get one free”, or “10% off of your order for hand soaps”, are the type of coupons that I find myself printing out, and adjusting my schedule to head over to those stores, coupon in hand! My grandmother used to clip and save coupons all the time!  She said it helped her plan her next trip to the store, so for grandma, I really think that the coupons greatly influenced most purchasing decisions she made.  I think in her time, the way that you found out about sales, and deals, and coupons was through your Sunday paper.  Now, times have changed, because technology has made it so easy for information to travel so fast (it seems everything happens faster than when we were kids).

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If we want to order a pizza, I’ll go to the Pizza Hut website and look for coupons.  But that doesn’t mean that we will only order from Pizza Hut.  I’m sure there are people who will only order Pizza if they can get a “deal”.  In my family, most of our purchases are driven by two things—time and product quality.

What makes it challenging to address human behavior is simple.  No two people are exactly alike.  But people do often behave similarly in terms of how coupons influence purchasing decisions.

People who never use coupons.  They won’t take the time in general to sift through the mail.

Coupon fanatics.  These are the ones that will eagerly wait for the mail to show up so that they can snip, sort and file these.  These are the ones who put their shopping list together based on what coupons they have so as to maximize their savings.

The real intriguing group is the middle. What drives consumer behavior?

If the coupon is big enough, I may actually make a special trip to the store, or better yet, try a different brand than what I normally buy.

There are some items that for me are brand specific, and I’ll actually pay more money to buy it as opposed to a “leading brand”.  For example, when it comes to coffee, I love Eight O’clock Coffee, and there’s no way that any coupon would influence me to buy Folders, even if I had a coupon that was for a penny a pound.

Some coupons will influence me. My kids prefer Coca-Cola products, but if the price was right (or in this case, if the coupon was good enough), I’d buy Pepsi.

Other times, I don’t really care what the brand name the product is, just whatever saves me money.  To me, other than generic brands, when it comes to paper towels and toilet paper, it really doesn’t matter whether it’s Cottonelle, Charmin or Scotts, just whatever is the best price.  If the coupon helps me get there, then great, as long as it doesn’t involve a lot of effort on my part.

Some people schedule time each week to go through the Sunday paper and do the dreaded “coupon sort”, but I’m too busy with grad school for that.  I think that in order for coupons to be used more, they have to be relevant to what I like to buy and easily accessible.  I still think there are enough true-blue coupon-clipping fanatics out there, so if I were trying to get people to use more coupons, I’d try to advertise using every different technology possible, from paper to I-Phone app.

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