The Evolution of Online Couponing
Despite the cheapest gas prices in five years, holiday shoppers will still browse the web for the best deals. Especially oil and gas employees who can’t take an extended break from work to snag the best deals in the store. So if you can’t get away from the rig, don’t worry! Because just in time for the holidays, online consumers have a new shopping companion called CouponMate; a free browser extension that finds, and even applies, discounts for them while they shop their favorite online retailers.
This year, more than ever, buyers will count on discounts. A recent Accenture survey of 500 U.S consumers concluded that 96% of all respondents said that discounts will be important to their purchasing decisions; and more than a quarter said that it would take a discount of 50% or more to convince them to make a purchase.
Happier holidays in a hot second
If saving money is great, saving money and time are even better. After a quick visit to CouponMate.com, followed by a split-second installation of the extension, you’re up and running. Or should I say, shopping. A coupon icon appears in the top right of your browser bar. Then, when you visit your favorite online retailers, the coupon icon turns red and displays the number of discounts available on that site. You can either click on the icon to find that site’s latest coupons, sales and offers, or just continue shopping.
Currently, about 100,000 of the hottest brands are represented, including Gap, Best Buy, Target and thousands more. (Check the website for the entire list.) Hundreds of those are currently supported for total automation. So, when a “Find Best Coupon” button appears during checkout, CouponMate automatically finds and applies the best code for your specific cart.
But despite the fact that consumers are overwhelmingly sold on online shopping, they haven’t always found it easy. With more choices, comes more complexity. In mature markets, just 48 percent ranked online shopping high for convenience this year, versus 56 percent last year, according to Secrets of Seamless Retail Success (Accenture).
From a bad rap to a good rep
Traditionally, “online couponing” hasn’t had the best reputation. Until now, the norm for finding discounts was the “spray and pray” method. We’ve all been frustrated by expired codes. You scan chatrooms for discounts only to find out later that they no longer exist or may be subject to certain restrictions that aren’t apparent until the discount code is applied. That’s because other methods primarily source discount codes from users or are provided directly from retailers, allowing users to vote whether or not a code worked for them.
According to Joey Burzynski, CouponMate’s Chief Information Officer, “One of the many benefits of our browser extension technology is that the moment we see a code applied that comes back “invalid,” “expired,” or a similar failure–we remove it from our database. There’s no more trial and error.”
Simplicity is what makes CouponMate even more of a slam dunk. “We think the no-pain, no gain model is obsolete,” continues Burzynski. “We’re trying to remove the tedium for consumers by offering a browsable panel of coupons as they surf and prompting them during checkout with “Find Best Code” to automate that entire process.
The voodoo behind the can-do
The alchemy that supports CouponMate’s nearly seamless experience is impressive. Sophisticated algorithms search hundreds of thousands of online retailers for discounts. “We act as a “meta crawler for coupon codes using a variety of methodologies,” says Burzynski, “from natural language processing and machine learning to optical character recognition.”
What that means to you and me is, every minute of every day, CouponMate actively searches retailers’ websites, emails and social feeds while simultaneously monitoring other media outlets to source the latest and greatest codes. Using that information, the database is updated every 20 minutes for all 100,000+ retailers.
Cat is the new black
When you visit CouponMate.com/install for more information or to download the extension, you’ll be greeted by a black-and-white cat sporting pixelated shades. Austin explains: “Cats are phenomenal hunters. Not only are they laser-focused; they can spot their prey from hundreds of yards away and capture it in seconds. So that became a euphemism for what we’re doing with CouponMate.” Kitty’s Wayfarer-style shades add a familiar, retro-geek feel — a wink, if you will, to the early days of online retail. “Today, we want users’ experiences to be fun and memorable,” concludes Burzynski. Meow to that.
More in store
Looking ahead, Burzynski expects to widen CouponMate’s coverage. Currently supporting the Google Chrome browser, the company expects to launch a version for MSIE and a mobile app for iOS and Android by the end of the year. As for the new year, Austin’s goal is to reach 10,000 sites integrated for “full automation” during 2015; 10 times that by the end of 2015. “We’re also working on expanding our coverage of the global market, with initial focus on Canada, Australia, and the UK.”