I think when examining the influence of coupons in a purchasing decision, there are three factors at play – type of purchase, the client’s wealth, and brand name loyalty.

When I say “type of purchase” I am referring to how the buyer reflects on their spent money. Do they absolutely need this (I.e. – toilet paper) or are they being frivolous (A new television)? If a consumer does not need something, having a coupon will relieve the guilt of spending money unnecessarily. Because it’s something they don’t need, they’ll be less pressured to buy right away and may be more thorough in their coupon search. If they do need it, they may be less likely to take the time to find a coupon rather than just buying the product. Big purchases warrant more need for saving, whereas it is easier not to feel guilty about buying a twelve pack of toilet paper without the twelve-cent- off coupon offer. Some products I believe to be “frivolous” even though they might be viewed as necessary upon first glance are – women’s and men’s beauty products (any sort of self-indulgent beautifying substance from deodorant to wrinkle cream), any food being bought out of season (fruits are more expensive in the Winter months) etc. Having coupons for these items will greatly relieve the buyer’s guilt, because they are technically saving money after all, right?

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The next figure to consider is the brand loyalty of the customers you are sending coupons to. If these customers have been buying the same brand for years and years, (i.e. Dove deodorant, Bounty paper towels), it will be difficult to sway them with a coupon. There will also have to be some promise that the discounted product will be greater than the one they have been buying for years. There is, however, one thing that overrides brand loyalty every time and that is a budget. Nothing kills your ten dollar deodorant stick purchase like only having five dollars to spend. This is particularly true with young adults and families. I think a person who is shopping on a budget is far more likely to take the time to find coupons for those “necessary items” previously discussed. They will also abandon brand loyalty in this situation because at that point, loyalty goes to whatever cost-effective products are possible to obtain. This group will be less likely to be purchasing “frivolous” products altogether, because necessary items are all they can afford or have the budget for that week.

Overall, I think coupons are useful for people buying “frivolous” products and for those on a budget who are willing to abandon brand loyalty. As proof of this, I asked my mom the question – “Does your decision to purchase an item ever hinge on possessing a coupon for that item?” My mother, being a pretty average upper middle class lady, responded, “Very very rarely.  If a coupon is handy and the item fulfills the coupon requirements I will use it, otherwise I spend money as wisely as I can and buy what I need.” Now me, being a young college student living alone for the first time, would have responded a little differently. I personally stick strong to my brand loyalty whenever possible (although I know plenty of others who don’t in my situation). However, if there’s a coupon for five dollars off something or buy one get one free, I literally see the money turn into water, electricity, heat, and rent. I think other groups who think similarly are single parents, low income families, and the elderly.

One thing that these situations have in common is not having time to sort through hundreds of fliers and online sites to find the right coupon. Whether you’re a young adult trying to make a living, or a parent trying to keep up with a child and maintain your own wellbeing, one fact stands regarding coupons – Being able to rely on one site that electronically sends you coupons is invaluable.  No more fliers, weekly specials, paper cuts, scissors, plastic bags full of sorted coupons that are usually mostly expired…just one website, with one URL, that sends to you.