Survey: Less Than Half of Americans Choose Their Mobile Phones to Save Money on Shopping

Where do you get the best deals? A growing number of people say from your mobile phone while shopping in a store.

The preference for mobile-first deals drops the older you get, however. Though five times as many millennials and Gen Z shoppers prefer to use their phone over paper to redeem coupons, Generation X uses mobile over paper coupons only twice as much, and Baby Boomers, especially the older ones, prefer the Sunday paper insert to their mobile phones almost two-to-one.

The findings of our survey show the trend identified in a survey from 2017 has accelerated in younger cohorts, but that older shoppers are not adopting new technology at a similar rate. Significantly, the older survey notes that 72% of shoppers 55 and over said they would be more likely to look for deals online if it was easier to use their coupons there.

Is Mobile Couponing Better Than Paper?

Mobile coupons have several clear advantages over paper. First, they are more convenient. You don’t have to negotiate a folder of paper scraps every time you head to the store. More than ever store coupons are being integrated with store apps and loyalty programs, and increasingly retailers and manufacturers are able to send you offers directly to your phone via text.

Second, mobile coupons are more timely. Scouring the local paper or your grocery store’s flier for deals takes more time than searching on your phone. And if you want to find a deal while you are in the store, not only can you search for coupons on the spot, you can also price compare with other stores instantly.

Finally, digital delivery of coupons opens consumer awareness of goods and brands. According to a survey by ReadyCloud CRM, 68% of customers say digital coupons build brand awareness. The trend of the last decade to personalize shopping based on customer behavior allows retailers and manufacturers to send you electronic coupons on what you need when you need it.

One important criticism of mobile coupons from a consumer’s point of view is the difficulty of stacking and doubling or tripling in-store promotions to get maximum discounts. For example, some stores will allow you to get discounts on multiple items covered by a single coupon, and coupon stacking works better with paper coupons. But as couponing becomes more digital, it is likely that both coupon stacking will also become digital, and that retailers and manufacturers will begin to collaborate more on discounts to prevent customers from receiving two discounts for the same product.

Publishers, Retailers and Manufacturers Want You (to Coupon)

In our survey, 43% of males of all ages say they prefer to use their phones for couponing, but are they acting on their preference? According to KKL, only 24% of popular couponing app Ibotta’s users are male, which suggests that men, particularly young men, are interested in using their phone to find deals, but that not all of them do (or at least not with a popular app like Ibotta).

A study by scientists at Iowa State University in 2014 showed that the adoption of mobile coupons was determined by a “pleasant … coupon redemption experience” and “a commitment for user privacy protection.” The intervening five years have seen the user experience around digital coupons and apps improve, and data security is a central part of that growth.

Currently Ibotta is working to attract more male customers with deals on electronics and male-targeted personal products. The challenge for mobile apps offering discounts will be to overcome the notion among younger men that discount shopping is primarily a female activity and among older shoppers that discount apps try to sell you goods you don’t need or harvest your data – or both.

Final Thoughts

Though older shoppers are still behind millennials and Gen Z in adopting mobile couponing, they are moving to a more digital and mobile couponing experience. The same is true for men versus women shoppers, although men are closing the gap as well.

When shoppers understand the significantly better user experience offered by couponing on a mobile device added to the greater real price savings, it’s clear mobile coupons will eventually dominate price-conscious shoppers’ habits.

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