In 2012 alone, 2.9 billion coupons were used. With the population of the entire United States at approximately 300 million people, that’s almost ten coupons per person. While offering the consumer a potential discount, it is simultaneously advertising the product for which it gives a discount. These coupons are a very effective marketing strategy used by companies. Many say that they would have bought those items anyways. However true or false that may be, I still believe that coupons definitely can and often do influence one’s purchasing decisions.
One way that coupons can influence your decision is they give their brand a “leg up” on other brands around. For the time being, their brand may be cheaper than others, or if the coupon makes the two cost the same, the consumer will feel the need to use the coupon. It may also convince the buyer to shop at one store for a certain item rather than at another because he or she can get a certain discount. Another way that they influence the buyer is the illusion of spending more to save more. Although it may feel rewarding to “get the third free,” one must consider if they would have actually even bought the second if not for the coupon. The most notorious for these “buy more to save more” misconceptions are the coupons that tell the buyer to spend x amount of money in order to get a free gift or free shipping. In many cases, the buyer spends the extra money, receives the free gift, and leaves feeling triumphant. Even though much more money was spent than he or she intended, for some reason the “free” gift makes it all feel like they got a bargain. These are just a few of the many possible effects that coupons could potentially have on consumers today.
Now that we have talked about the possible influences coupons have on us, it is time to refer to whether or not they really do work. In a recent study conducted by “Bizrate® Insights,” 8,000 buyers immediately following each buyer’s purchase. In this study, of the 24% who did use a coupon, 54% of them said they, “would not have made this purchase without the coupon.” Once again, of these 24% who used a coupon, 55% of them said they, “were inspired to make a purchase because of the coupon.” That shows that over half of the people who used a coupon said that it directly influenced their purchase. Now, looking at the 76% of buyers who did not use coupons, 81% of them said that they do like to use coupons. In fact, of this 76%, 67% said they “would have spent more if they had a deal.” This shows that those who needed these items and were willing to pay full price for them anyways would have added more things in the event that they did have a coupon. The results are unanimous: both coupon users and non-coupon users support the claim that in this study coupons did affect what these consumers did and didn’t buy.
One of the most common ones in my life is the MyPanera card. Because I am a cashier at Panera Bread, I deal with customers changing their menu options to reflect their rewards all the time. One instance that I remember distinctly was a woman driving through who had two dollars off of a flatbread that was to expire that day. She quickly felt the need to use up that reward rather than let it expire, so she ordered an extra flatbread sandwich. I told the customer that she was in no way required to use the reward, but she responded that she did not want it to “go to waste.” She ended up spending an unnecessary three dollars or so for a cheaper flatbread that was unwanted to begin with. The sole persuading factor in her decision to purchase this flatbread was the two dollars off coupon.
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Now, I do not write this essay to roast the idea of coupons or paint them in a negative light. They really are not a bad thing and can be a wonderful tool for saving money. However, consumers should take into account how much more they are spending and on what they are spending it. Consumers should make sure they are buying what they want, not what some company tells them to buy in order to save a few pennies.