Tracing the Evolution of Coupons Over the Years

Since the late 1800s, couponing has been an integral part of the world of shopping. All the way back in 1887, Coca-Cola offered a coupon for a free bottle of Coke, helping to launch their product to the American market and get people talking about their brand. 

Fast forward a few decades and couponing was a valuable way of tactically saving money during The Great Depression. Coinciding with high rates of buying and reading the newspaper, brands would place coupons for their products in the back of local papers. When someone bought the paper, they would be able to find paper copies of coupons, take them to their nearest store, and redeem them.

While couponing began to dip in usage in the late 1900s, the rise of digital coupons breathed new life into this practice. Users could find deals on their devices without having to search through newspapers. Yet, this practice is no way near as popular as it once was.

In this article, we’ll dive into the fascinating history of the decline of the coupon, covering its height, decline, and potential reinvention. We’ll also explore how blockchain technology and brands like Shping are reinventing this field with first-party data and giving more to the customer.

The Decline in Couponing

There’s no denying that coupons have had a considerable impact on the retail industry. We’ve all likely used a coupon at some point, with 94% of consumers having used a coupon at least once in 2018 and 2019. Yet, as time goes on, this figure is beginning to fall. In 2020, only 88% of consumers have used a coupon.

Although people are aware of their existence and utility, coupons are not as ubiquitous as they used to be.

While couponing did have a firm place in society, with many shoppers actively scouring newspapers for potential shavings on their next shopping trip, the practice has now largely faded. Instead of regular usage, coupons have turned into a little-known way of saving money. Typically, the coupons that are offered don’t relate to buying habits, making them ineffective for many users.

Users who check the coupons page may not find anything of note. After a few rounds of not seeing any products that align with their normal purchases, they’ll stop looking. At this point in time, couponing is so rare that there is even an ‘extreme’ show in the USA that features people who have perfected the art of couponing over the years.

‘Extreme Couponing’ showcases shoppers who are obsessed with getting more for their money, using coupons in various forms to save more than their competitors in a weekly shop. Yet, even these people are under threat due to the dwindling number of available coupons.

Research from the University of Harvard suggests that consumers are becoming more desensitized to price increases, making them less likely to seek out additional coupons to save money. 

The Core of Value: Couponing in the Digital Age

Despite falling numbers of coupon users across the globe, consumer brands are still actively trying to find ways of engaging their customers. On average, research demonstrates that coupon users are twice as likely to show brand loyalty than those who don’t. For companies that wanted to improve customer retention and loyalty, coupons still represented a unique opportunity. 

One potential solution to this was to introduce digital coupons. Instead of having to search through newspapers and magazines to find potential deals, users could turn to mobile applications that automatically find product deals for them. While this has helped to improve the usage of coupons, it hasn’t revitalized the world of couponing like marketing teams wanted.

Surprisingly, the answer may lie in new technology. The blockchain industry has long been at the forefront of user-first innovation. A Web3 loyalty platform, Shping, is offering customers rewards for getting involved with brands. When users sign up for their platform, they can agree to share their data with brand partners.

Unlike in typical Web2 dynamics, where customers share their data without getting anything in return, this system greatly favors the user. Upon sharing their data, they can upload receipts of any purchases they make. From there, brands will actively reward them for buying their products, helping to give something back to customers for every purchase they make.

Instead of formal couponing, this system will retroactively give the user gifts and rewards, helping to provide a much easier way of getting deals without having to search for them. Users don’t have to plan what to buy ahead of time or pinpoint what products to purchase to get coupons. On the contrary, this provides a highly streamlined and low-effort system that rewards the user.

Additionally, Shping will put a user’s data into action by providing them with personalized advertisements. The combination of personalized marketing and an improved incentivization program helps to improve brand loyalty while also giving customers more for their money. This system pushes couponing further than it has ever gone before, providing a scalable, simple, and rewarding experience for all involved parties.

Final Thoughts

While the act of couponing is far from its heyday peaks, it’s still a popular part of a retail culture that has millions of active participants around the globe. Couponing isn’t going anyway. But, that said, it could be time for a change.

The introduction of blockchain technology allows customers to take a more active role in the world of couponing. Not only does it decrease the amount of effort it takes to find and use coupons, but it can help customers to get more for their money while building brand loyalty.

As we progress further into this digital age, the rise of Web3 couponing could mark a turning point in the history of the coupon.


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