By Chad Ross, Manager, Industry Relations & Total Store Collaboration, FMI



As the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic take hold on the consumer pocketbook, one trend has become clear–coupons are in high demand, and in a more digital way than before. It all starts with COVID-19 and its subsequent economic ‘tsunami.’ With the U.S. experiencing 15% unemployment, FMI’s U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends COVID-19 Tracker survey reports 25% of Americans are worried about having enough money to pay for food. When the economy tanks, demand for savings increases accordingly.

As we have seen in past recessions, most recently in 2008, coupon usage increases dramatically when consumers feel economic pressure. From 2008-2009, all coupon redemption increased 15.2%. What will that number look like this time around? Inmar reported last week that digital (touchless) coupon redemption in March increased 56.5% year over year.

COVID-19 is not only paving the way for a larger demand for coupons, but also impacting types of coupons offered. As retailers become leery of accepting paper coupons, they are also being forced to hold on to the ones they do take. One of the country's largest clearinghouses temporarily stopped processing coupons because of COVID-19 related shutdowns. This left retailers holding millions of dollars in coupons with no one to process them and thus, an unwelcome impact on their cash flow.

Enter touchless couponing. As grocers and consumers have adjusted to the pandemic, consumers have been even more ready and willing to adopt mobile touchless commerce options for curbside pickup and ecommerce solutions.

One of the existing challenges with mobile coupon adoption has been the lack of standardization. This led to the creation of The Coupon Bureau (TCB), a non-profit, industry managed technology platform that was created to enable retailer agnostic mobile coupons and real-time authorization of manufacturer coupons. TCB manages the industry Universal Positive Offer File, a network of connected retailers and stakeholders, and the data exchange necessary to mitigate fraud and capture mobile redemption data. The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the additional benefit of touchless coupon redemption for retailers.

As consumers and their transactions move to mobile and online, it only makes sense that they will be looking for CPG coupons to bring along with them.

At the end of the day, this pandemic has resulted in a dramatic shift in the economy and consumer behavior. American CPG companies will undoubtedly be on the lookout for advanced digital solutions for their promotional needs.

For more information on the Joint Industry Coupon Council or The Coupon Bureau please contact Chad Ross.