Today, after stocking up on Diet Dr Pepper at CVS, I was given a coupon for $1 off the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. The SISI has become a phenomenon in and of itself — despite SI’s conservative journalistic approach to sports reporting, the magazine hits its readers once a year with some borderline softcore porn, complete with body paint in lieu of an actual swimsuit. Every year, some intriguing, gorgeous woman graces its pages (while appearing in 2010, 2011’s intriguing woman is Brooklyn Decker), resulting in a testosterone cattle call.
No, I’m not mentioning this simply because I was looking for links to the online SI swimsuit feature, though I’ll admit that it was an added bonus. I mention it because it was one of the first receipt coupons I’ve ever gotten that comes even remotely close to something that is targeted to me. No, I won’t buy the swimsuit issue, nor can I remember the last time I bought a magazine anywhere but by subscription (FYI, according to the research firm Management Science Associates, people who buy magazines in-store are 50% more profitable customers than average). But, unlike almost every other opportunity to reach out to me as I’m heading out the door, this is one of the few receipts that even minimally has fit my demographic, i.e. male.
I really question the usefulness of post-sale receipts (I was unsuccessful in tracking down the data). I see three main problems:
- I am an unmarried, 30-year-old male shopper, hardly the target for coupon-based marketing. Why even bother? I can count on one hand the number of coupons I’ve exchanged from a coupon printer at the point-of-sale. The last one I can remember, probably nine months ago, was for hot pockets — I had gotten a coupon as I was scanning them and saved a dollar unexpectedly (i.e. the store lost $1 on that sale simply because of the timing of the coupon). Plus, I usually throw away the receipt and coupon upon exiting the store. In the rare instances I think, “wow, I could use this someday”, I completely forget about it and later find it in my car with an expiration that predates the Obama administration.
- Apparently, I’m not a demographic fit for most deals. I have gotten coupons for yogurt (I rarely buy yogurt), Ensure (while I buy protein bars, they’re not of the old-people-need-nutrition kind), Centrum Silver and Always Ultra Thin Maxi Pads. Yes folks, given the vast wealth of data they’ve got on me at this point, the promotional system they’ve implemented decided that I need to try a newly-launched feminine hygiene product.
- On any given day, go to a grocery store with a point-of-sale coupon printer and self-service checkout lines. You’ll see strings of coupons that people never took. Doesn’t that teach the customer that the coupons are worthless?
- I’ve noticed that many retail receipts now include a coupon. Why would you wait until the consumer has checked out before giving them a discount that might entice them to buy? Are you really expecting them to save a Target coupon that will save them 50 cents on their next 24-pack of toilet paper? If you’re really dedicated to giving someone a coupon as they leave, it better be a damn good deal.
Do these coupons make sense? Are the coupon programs worth the investment companies have made? Is there some sort of other motivation (i.e. the retailer can sell coupon placements to companies, which offsets the cost of the systems)? I’d love to see some data on this trend that extends beyond my own experience. Perhaps there are demographics or categories that make more sense than others. But please, folks, save the trees. I’m not expecting to buy baby food for a while.