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Opinion: Strategic shoppers and the new look of loyalty

Insight into consumers’ buying behaviors is important in order for advertisers and retailers to reach this elusive shopper who is seeking not only to save money but to save time. Consumers’ continued interest in coupons and savings has been influenced, in part, by concerns over their own personal economic situations. Today, faced with rising food and gas prices, consumers are seeking ways to offset these increases. 

As a result, new habits and routines have been established, and many are permanently becoming strategic shoppers. Additional factors influencing where they shop and how they save include the exploding number of media channels available to them and the ready availability of technology.

The evolution of media and business – particularly in a volatile economy – is to continue reaching consumers in ways that activate response and drive sales. Retailers must continuously adapt the way they market with these influencers in mind. As the aggregators of value, and through frequent shopper programs, retailers can tap into insights to provide their loyal shoppers with relevant deals and savings on the brands and products they buy most often.

Coupon-to-card takes loyalty programs to a new level, allowing consumers to electronically download coupons to participating retailer frequent shopper cards and loyalty program IDs. According to research conducted by Valassis and BIGresearch, 80% of shoppers subscribe to grocery/drug frequent shopper programs. Additionally, 70% have expressed an interest in saving coupons from the Internet directly to their loyalty cards/IDs. 

We have seen phenomenal growth in this area. Valassis coupon-to-card distribution has grown over 3,000% in the last 15 months. Shoppers browse, select and save their preferred coupons in real time with ease and convenience. They download offers to their loyalty card or ID from participating websites. The coupons are ready for redemption as soon as they are downloaded. Eligible savings are automatically subtracted from the total cost at checkout.

For consumers, this digital tool saves them both time and money. Based on a recent analysis of coupon-to-card offers, 92% of redemptions occur within two weeks of downloading the offer. For retailers, coupon to card extends the life of their loyalty programs and further builds their relationships with the consumer.

You can expect to see increased adoption of coupon-to-card programs by consumers who seek out value how, when and wherever they can. Retailers will continue to embrace the relevancy and targeted nature of such programs to reach new audiences with e-mail and text alerts of new deals.

Recognizing consumers’ deep desire to save, retailers and marketers are embracing digital as the retail landscape evolves. Proprietary research conducted by Valassis and BIGresearch indicates that 44.2% of U.S. adults are seeking coupons online at least once a week and 57% print one to five coupons from the Internet weekly. In 2010, there was a 37% increase in the number of digital coupon offers – the largest increase of all coupon media types. 

Digital is but yet another component in marketers’ and retailers’ plans to reach today’s deal-seeking shopper. Blending traditional and nontraditional methods to deliver value is necessary to reach and to activate today’s shopper. Utilize consumer insights and buying trends to incorporate a blended solution that reaches this highly targetable audience seeking value in multiple ways.

We have more insights into today’s shopper than ever before. Successful retailers and marketers will strategically build into their plans a variety of ways to reach the elusive and value-oriented consumer. The marketplace is evolving and so must the methods to attract and retain shoppers, influenced by their own economic situations, media and technology. Value to them is recorded both in terms of the money they save and the amount of time it takes them to save. The retailers best positioned to activate these consumers are the ones building those one-on-one relationships, blending traditional and new media and evolving with the changes within the industry. 

John Lieblang is president of Valassis Digital Media and redplum.com. He leads the company’s digital media business, the RedPlum™ interactive network and redplum.com and has 30 years of industry experience.

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