Digital Vouchers Are Here But Paper Coupons Will Still Be Around

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Once upon a time, Alex Papaconstantinou had a bright idea of what he wanted his Sunday afternoons to look like. He would purchase a stack of newspapers, get some scissors, and plan out his grocery shopping based on the colorful coupons he’d cut out.

These days, Papaconstantinou is an internet entrepreneur. Though he’s replaced the newspapers with apps and websites, he still has a Sunday afternoon routine. “I don’t get the local paper anymore,” he says, showing us his mobile phone. “You can get voucher codes for most UK retailers online.”

Digital Vouchers vs. Newspaper Vouchers

Interestingly, the rise of digital coupons hasn’t made paper coupons obsolete. National and local print publications in the UK still contain numerous voucher offers. Furthermore, studies show that millennials are still more likely to use a coupon they cut out from a magazine rather than the one found on an app or website.

“Even in today’s online world, UK consumers use paper coupons at an unexpectedly high rate – probably because most digital options appear to be too complicated to use at checkout,” Papaconstantinou says. “People in the UK are still not used to digital shopping as much as the Americans, the French and the Germans, but this is changing.”

Digital Coupons and the Customer Experience

While people don’t scour the Sunday newspapers as much as they used to, there are three big reasons why hard copy coupons will stick around in UK and Ireland for some time to come:

  1. No one-stop digital platform for local coupons. Online vouchers don’t have their version of a local Sunday newspaper, which means that people interested in virtual clipping are often subjected to a sophisticated shopping experience. Brands, grocery stores, and third-party websites all have their own apps, social media pages, and circulars.

In some cases, a coupon found online needs to be printed to use; other times it is a code and has to be entered in a virtual checkout for the discount to apply. Other times it must be scanned like a barcode in a real checkout.

  1. Digital coupons can’t be combined. As you might know, combining paper coupons is quite easy. For example, if you want to save money next time you eat in a Pizza Express restaurant you just need to mix a deal from your O2 Priority app with an in-store deal. The app allows you to get two pizzas for the price of one, and the in-store deal reduces the cost of a 12-inch pizza by 50% on Tuesdays. There you go, you can eat two pizzas at half the price of one – if you are diet break.
  2. Lack of uniformity. As various retailers have different objectives, the digital coupon environment can become muddied. MarksandSpencer.com may be using coupons to track sales and identify trends in their demographic, while Tesco.com may be using coupons to increase sales and reduce stock. This kind of fragmentation is a big reason why discount coupon codes haven’t taken over the UK retail market.

The fact that the digital coupon solution is still fundamentally incomplete is undoubtedly an issue for internet entrepreneurs such as Alex Papaconstantinou, founder of UK voucher site Wikigains.com. However, he just doesn’t have the patience for newspapers anymore. “My team’s goal is to create a one-stop solution for all coupon codes by 2022, to obliterate paper promotions and to replace them with something more interesting, more fun, and more valuable,” Papaconstantinou says.

“In the 21st century, you shouldn’t need to clip coupons in your wallet when you go out for pizza. Besides, even my 7-year old daughter finds it embarrassing when I get paper coupons out of my wallet to pay for our pizza.”