Is a 'Short-Sale' Mentality Hurting Couponing?

La Monica Everett-Haynes, University Relations – Communications Sept. 1, 2016

A disconnect between companies and consumers about the purpose of coupon-driven bargain shopping may be putting certain people at a disadvantage.

While manufacturers have traditionally released coupons for the primary intention of coaxing new customers into trying products or brands, contemporary buyers more readily associate coupons specifically with cost savings.

This represents an important disconnect, with manufacturers having a "short-sale" mentality to drive product while consumers — loyal customers included — yearn for sizable savings. And this could mean problems for the future of couponing, said Jennifer Andrews, who earned her doctorate from the University of Arizona's John & Doris Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences in May.

Andrews spent years working with Anita Bhappu, an associate professor of family and consumer sciences, who has led flagship studies on coupon usage across the nation. Bhappu and her collaborators have found that affluent, white women are the most common coupon users, and that the more regular coupon users have household incomes of more than $75,000.

In her own work, Andrews has found that the process for collecting and redeeming coupons has remained largely unchanged despite advances in technology. People have to search for coupons. Then clip them out, or download them. Then remember to file them and take them to the store. And then remember to hand them over in the checkout line.

This process — arduous, time-consuming and often frustrating — is a long-standing hindrance that must be resolved if coupons are to become more accessible for certain users and a less cumbersome process for all users, said Andrews, whose dissertation explored the motivational barriers people experience when using coupons.

Andrews, now a researcher in the UA Department of Pediatrics, took time to answer some questions about the world of couponing.

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