The US Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA), which provides groceries for military personnel, retirees, and their families, has recently announced that all 273 commissaries around the world are to accept computer-generated internet coupons (e-coupons) containing a barcode that can be scanned at store checkouts.
However, as a security measure and in keeping with recommendations from CoolSavings and other industry experts, DeCA will not accept internet coupons for free products, or coupons that have been photocopied or otherwise reproduced.
Other grocery retailers in the USA that have recently started accepting e-coupons include Harris Teeter, Albertsons, and Giant Eagle. According to CoolSavings, Meijer, Food Lion and many other major retailers have been long-time supporters of internet coupon acceptance. Matthew Moog, president and CEO for CoolSavings, welcomed the expansion of consumer-printable coupon acceptance.
Despite previous non-acceptance by some grocery retailers, consumer use of Internet coupons has flourished. According to a recent report by coupon clearinghouse CMS, internet coupon redemption rose by 133.9% in the year 2003. In addition, well-known and respected manufacturers such as General Mills, Kellogg's, Land-O-Lakes, 3M, PepsiCo, Hormel, Glaxo SmithKline and Bristol-Myers Squibb are employing printable internet coupons as a part of their marketing mix.
"Internet coupon acceptance among grocery retailers is currently at an all-time high," said Moog. "More and more retailers are coming to understand that legitimate internet coupons are of great value to their customers - who are interested in saving time and money. We believe in the very near future we will see universal internet coupon acceptance in the grocery retail industry."
Free product ban
CoolSavings, having assisted in the development of new coupon standards, has also pushed the industry to stop the acceptance of free product coupons, which are the most likely category to be fraudulently reproduced and distributed. A major breakthrough in the industry's effort to improve coupon practices was seen when the online auction site eBay announced in December 2003 that it would ban the sale of coupons.
"Internet coupons are here to stay because consumers want them, and because trusted brands offer them," said Moog. "According to Forrester Research, 38% of US households have tried printing coupons from the internet. Since 1997, CoolSavings has worked with more than 100 consumer packaged goods manufacturers to deliver promotions to more than 34 million consumers for redemption online and in stores around the US."