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.
Coupons are here to stay.
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.
That’s right. Hipsters use coupons too!
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 Asia 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 hard coded to always be on the look out 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, its 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?
At iprice, we receive more than one million visits a month. Almost half of that traffic either goes straight to, or ends up on one of our many coupon pages. With thousands of coupons redeemed everyday, the numbers alone contradict what we think we know about coupons.
Beyond the confines of iprice, Google also paints a similar picture.
We analyzed 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 surefire 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 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 that 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?
On the iprice 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 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?
Well, yes and no.
After all, a steady stream of return customers at a reasonable profit margin is always more favorable that 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. One of our favorite uses of coupons was championed by Uber, who provided free first rides worth RM40 (approx.. US$10) for new sign-ups through coupon codes.
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 like Lazada offer instant cash back coupons for shopping through their recently launched mobile app.
Rewarding loyal users with coupons also helps to encourage evangelism, and the results can grow exponentially thanks to the wonders of social media.
Think coupons, think iprice
Built around the premise that online shopping should be much easier than it already is, iprice is constantly striving towards creating the best one-stop shopping destination for our shoppers. Our transition from being a pure couponing site in 2014, into the multi-faceted deal machine that it is today is a testament of our commitment.
Today, the iprice group of portals (Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Vietnam, and Thailand) publishes daily coupons from 200 of Asia’s biggest coupon providers. The coupons are 100% verified by the iprice team, so you can rest assure of their quality and validity.
iprice is also an e-commerce discovery platform, and has successfully signed on over 100 merchants this year. The portals currently list over 8 million products across a number of categories include electronics, clothing, shoes, bags, watches, jewelry, toys, sports and home & living.
In an effort to grow the regional coupon market, iprice has recently partnered with REV Asia to produce a series of coupon sites on their biggest web properties such as SAYS.com.