Couponing is not a bygone era. While fewer consumers are sitting down with scissors to snip weekly deals, coupons are everywhere and almost everyone is couponing to some extent. Paper mailers are dwindling, and companies are transferring savings opportunities to a multitude of digital channels. By crossing over into the digital world, couponing has intermixed with marketing strategies to continue the long-standing objective of coupons: save people money, but also incentivize spending.

While CivicScience polling finds that 16% of the Gen Pop 18 and older still seek out paper cutout coupons and use them frequently, digital coupons are more widely used by consumers: 57% of U.S. adults use digital coupon codes at least a few times per year, while 56% use a store’s in-app coupons (n=1,682 responses from 3/18/2024 – 3/22/2024). Digital coupons are quickly and conveniently accessible to shoppers through several channels: retailer loyalty apps, codes in emails or text messages, promos from social media, discount apps like Ibotta or Fetch, “clipless” coupons applied at checkout, and more.

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Economic Shifts and Couponing

How consumers are grocery shopping provides relevant insight into how buyers are relying on sales to decide what to purchase and where. Compared to one year ago, consumers are looking for in-store sales and coupons significantly more. They are also looking for off-brand items or shopping at discount grocery stores like Aldi more than they were last year. Even with a recent boost in economic sentiment, CivicScience data show grocery shoppers are seeking ways to save money in the supermarket. Coupons are not the top way grocery shoppers choose to save, but usage did increase from 26% to 33% in one year.

Digital Coupons and Income

While high-income households are extremely likely to disregard paper coupons, the data show people of all income ranges utilize digital coupons, and at roughly similar rates. Digital coupons that offer ‘buy one, get one free’ deals are the most popular among all consumers, but ‘flat discounts’ (such as $10 off) are slightly more preferred among shoppers making $50K or less. 

Consumers with a salary of $100K or more have a greater likelihood than the average shopper to use and like online discount sites and apps, such as Ibotta or RetailMeNot. Lower-income earners sit in a conflicting spot: while they hold the greatest percentage of unsatisfied users, they also contain the most consumers intent on trying these apps.

Brands should take note that digital coupon preferences will vary depending on where a consumer is shopping or what they are trying to buy. For example, Pizza Hut favorables are all about ‘buy one, get one free’ discounts. Order one pizza and getting a second one at no cost makes the cost per pizza half what they usually pay. Essentially, it’s a great deal. Lowe’s shoppers prefer ‘buy one, get one free’ offers too, but they are also drawn toward free shipping. Considering the size and weight of many home improvement products, it is wise for a person to think about delivery options. 

Sephora fans and Bed Bath & Beyond fans find ‘buy one, get one free’ deals significantly less enticing than shoppers of other brands. Instead, these shoppers find great appeal in free shipping and percentage discounts. Again, when considering the type of merchandise for sale – expensive makeup or skincare, or a large purchase of house items after moving to a new home – the right discounts tailored to the type of spending a person is doing could be enormously successful.

Join the Conversation: All things being equal, what’s your favorite type of coupon or promo code? 🧾

Today, coupon deals are sought out by everyone, regardless of income. The data indicate that consumers will feel drawn toward select discounts depending on what they are buying. Grocery store shopping has become a key avenue where consumers are looking to cut costs, and while couponing isn’t the number one strategy they use, it has certainly grown over the last year.

How far are your customers willing to go to uncover coupon discounts while they are shopping? Which customers will find the process a hassle? To get a deeper dive on your customer base and digital coupons, schedule a meeting with a CivicScience expert today!