In the world of commerce, the humble coupon has always maintained its place in the value chain. After all, who doesn’t want to pay a few dollars less, get free shipping, or take home that exclusive free gift?
With a history dating back to the Gilded Age of the late 1800’s, the coupon has carried people through the depression and has offered some degree of respite during the communist era. For a brief period in the 60’s, the coupon even became the poster child of family togetherness where Sunday morning coupon-clipping was a more popular activity than baseball or war protests!
It has learned to evolve with the times and has been flexible enough to adapt to the consumers ever changing needs. The coupon is nimble, and has to a degree, transitioned from print to digital in a seamless fashion. In fact, a recent study by GfK tells us that 70% of consumers in America still look to traditional paper-based coupons for savings. It’s not an old person thing to do either, as 63% of these users come from the millennial age category.
Table of Contents
Couponing and the Asian Psyche
A little closer to home, the physical coupon scene stands in stark contrast to the norm of the West. You can pick up any newspaper from around the Asian region, and be hard-pressed to find more than one tiny cut-out segment.
Promotional flyers are handed out freely on the streets and in malls but are rarely redeemable, and we curse out loud whenever a sneaky merchant tries to give us some savings over SMS.
Although we Asians are hardcoded to always be on the lookout for the best deals and negotiate on the price of anything from fresh chicken in the market to multi-million-dollar property deals, the whole notion of swapping a piece of paper for a discount seems foreign to us.
Without getting too cerebral, it’s safe to say that the traditional Asian consumer needs to bargain.
He needs to feel that the vendor is cutting into his profits in order to feel better about making the purchase. He sees sales as not being real discounts–if a vendor can give him 20% off without breaking a sweat, that vendor is still making a healthy profit.
We brush off our constant haggling as nothing more than an exercise in prudent spending. Paying list price just does not happen. On the surface, it seems that we treat coupons as taboo, but do the numbers agree?
Do The Numbers Agree?
iPrice receives more than one million visits a month. Almost half of that traffic either goes straight to or ends up on one of the website’s many coupon pages. With thousands of coupons redeemed every day, the numbers alone contradict what we think we know about coupons.
Beyond the confines of iPrice Group, Google also paints a similar picture.
We analysed the search volume of the top 100 brands in our Malaysian store and found that at over 80,000 searches were made last month just looking for coupons or discounts codes for these brands. Across the seven countries that iPrice operates in (Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Vietnam, and Thailand), the total search volume shot up to a massive 740,000.
While we can’t peg an accurate number on the exact size of the digital coupon market in the region, the numbers certainly do speak for themselves.
Put that against aCommerce’s estimated 2015 ASEAN e-commerce market valuation of US$7 billion, and the picture gets bigger. People want deals. People are searching for them. And people are certainly finding them online.
What Fuels The Need?
A sure-fire indicator that digital couponing is alive and well in Asia can be found in the way that our e-commerce habits have evolved. The proliferation of e-commerce into our everyday lives has pushed the pivotal moment further and further down the conversion funnel.
No longer are we caught staring wide-eyed at a screen due to the amount of options that we have at hand – online malls like Lazada, Zalora, and TaoBao have made access to over a million SKUs a regular daily occurrence.
iPrice Group currently lists over 8 million SKUs in our library. Instead, we add item after item into our shopping carts, hover over the buy button and go back to our daily lives without checking out.
Digital advertising technology like programmatic banners constantly remind us about our overflowing carts while we’re scrolling through social media feeds, and weekly newsletters send us back to the online stores with the promise of bigger and better deals.
At the end of the month or when we buckle to temptation – whichever comes first – we click on the cart icon at the top right corner of our screens, look through the contents of our cart one last time and hit the next button.
Suddenly, a slew of random thoughts course through our heads – Do I really need this? Will he/she get upset that I’m shopping online again? Is this really the best deal that I can find?
Just then, we notice a blank field right above the pay now button.
Instinctively, we open a new tab in our browsers and key in the magical words – “coupon code.” With our fingers crossed, we click on the first link that appears.
Get 30% off your cart with this code!
Jackpot! Switching back to our carts, we key in the code, hit pay and watch the magic happen. Suddenly we’re paying 30% less than we would have 30-seconds ago and all it took was a few extra clicks.
The pivotal moment of online shopping has shifted along steadily with the evolution of e-commerce. It no longer sits at awareness, interest, or even consideration.
In today’s world, it sits firmly between intent and conversion, which is exactly where digital couponing just happens to live.
Are Coupons Worth The Trouble?
In the iPrice Group coupon page, you’ll find deals that range from nice-to-have things like free delivery to seasonal offers of up to 50% discount from your cart total.
As cliché as it sounds, there really is a coupon available for almost everything you can buy online, and our mission has always been to keep them organized and accessible to our users.
On average, an iPrice Group user stands to save up to 25% just by using one of our coupon codes upon check out. Among the categories, the fashion category is the biggest savings contributor and offers an average discount of 30%.
The second-largest contributor is the mobile device/computer category which offers an average of 12% savings, and the travel category comes in third with an average discount of 7% across coupon codes.
Compare that to GOMSEC’s 2013 Asian e-commerce basket size estimate of US$1,268 and 25% in savings starts to look like a great deal.
Coupons From A Merchant Point Of View
So, we’ve established that coupons are great for the consumer – it’s essentially free money for nothing more than a few extra clicks – but how does it benefit the merchant? Surely, earning as much as possible on every sale should be the goal of every business, shouldn’t it?
After all, a steady stream of return customers at a reasonable profit margin is always more favorable than one-offs at higher margins.
That’s just the way the retail world works. Instead of looking at coupons purely as a way to offset profits for leads, merchants are starting to use coupons in more creative and brand-centric ways.
They weren’t giving away free money per-se, since the free gift actually required the user to experience their service in person. The free ride coupled with their strong product made first experiences memorable and built lasting positive first impressions with new users.
In a retail e-commerce environment, first timer coupons are no less of a hit. Online boutiques – both big and small – offer larger than usual discounts on first time purchases. Marketplaces and comparison websites like Lazada offer instant cash back coupons for shopping, credit card, and loans.
Rewarding loyal users with coupons help to encourage evangelism, and the results can grow exponentially thanks to the wonders of social media.
The article is written in partnership with iPrice.ph
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official statement/position of MoneyMax.ph. MoneyMax.ph is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied in this article.
Venus is the Head of Editorial Content at Moneymax, with 15+ years of experience in digital marketing, corporate communications, PR, and journalism. She invests in stocks, mutual funds, VUL, and Pag-IBIG MP2. Outside of work, she’s crazy about cats and Korean dramas. Follow Venus on LinkedIn.