E-Coupon Use Growing at Rapid Clip

Online coupon sites saw strong growth for the month of May, signaling a trend being spurred on both by the recession as well as by the “modern” digital coupon demographic.

The coupon category posted a particularly strong month, surging 19 percent to 34.7 million visitors to lead as the top-gaining category in May, according to a comScore (NASDAQ: SCOR) study released today researching traffic at the top 50 Web properties.

Coupons Inc., which includes Coupons.com, captured the top position in the category with more than 15 million visitors, a gain of 85 percent from the previous month. Eversave.com ranked second with 3.8 million visitors, followed by RetailMeNot.com with 3.5 million visitors.

The news comes at a time when online coupon use is experiencing unprecedented growth, as a new generation of bargain hunters — those who do not subscribe to newspapers or clip physical coupons — turn to the Internet for the convenience and vast selection realized by the digital format.

Coupons.com just announced that in five months, the savings printed on its digital coupon network in 2009 surpassed the $313 million in value printed for all of 2008. In 2009, the value of savings printed increased 212 percent compared to the same period last year, according to the company.

“We’re seeing increased momentum in all aspects of our business,” Steven Boal, CEO of Coupons.com, said in a statement. “Consumers are adopting digital coupons in droves as they search for savings, and more leading brands are turning to digital coupons to build relationships with those consumers. We see no signs of a slowdown and are targeting to print approximately $1 billion in savings by the end of the year.”

Increased interest in digital coupons by both brands and consumers is driving the trend, says Boal, as companies that already utilize digital coupons are using them more often, while more companies are discovering digital coupons to promote their products for the first time.

“We’ve been very pleased with the success of our digital coupon campaigns and have been steadily moving more and more of our couponing budget out of the newspaper and onto digital delivery,” Karl Schmidt, director of promotion marketing at General Mills, said in a statement. “Digital’s reach and distribution has grown to the point where it is approaching that of newspaper inserts.”

As social media plays an increasingly larger role in online marketing and e-commerce, Boal says e-coupons are no exception — and show no signs of slowing down. “Through the Coupons.com Web site, Twitter feed and Facebook application, a whole new generation of people is discovering coupons for the first time,” says Boal.

As consumers looked for savings on everything from cheese and crackers to peanut butter and jelly, Food was the top product category at Coupons.com, representing almost 50 percent of the $313 million of savings printed during 2009.

The Household, Personal Care and Beverages categories represented 14, 11, and 8 percent of total savings printed, respectively. Entertainment, Health Care and Pet Care took the No. 5, No. 6, and No. 7 spots, respectively, with seven, six and three percent, respectively, according to the company.

Meanwhile, comScore’s monthly analysis of U.S. consumer activity at the top online properties for May 2009 also shows a surge at gift-related sites and photo sharing properties as Mother’s Day, weddings and graduations prompted many to search for gifts and post pictures of special events online.

With May 10 marking Mother’s Day in 2009, the Flowers/Gifts/Greetings category climbed 16 percent to nearly 36 million visitors as Americans searched for gifts for mom. American Greetings Property led the category with 12.4 million visitors, followed by ProFlowers.com with 5.6 million visitors, up 255 percent versus the previous month, and FTD.com with 4.1 million visitors a jump of 123 percent.

The Jewelry/Luxury Goods/Accessories category also experienced double-digit growth, increasing 13 percent to nearly 18 million visitors during the month. Swarovski Crystal’s site, Swarovski.com, led the category with 2.4 million visitors, an increase of 125 percent versus April. Other sites in the category experiencing gains included Kay Jewelers, with an increase of 47 percent to 973,000 visitors, and Tiffany & Co., up 15 percent to 812,000 visitors.

More than 90 million Americans, slightly less than half of the total U.S. online population, visited a photo site in May, marking a 10 percent gain versus the prior month. Facebook.com Photos led the category with 34.6 million visitors, up five percent, followed by Photobucket.com LLC with 28.1 million visitors, a 13 percent gain and Flickr.com checked in with 24.4 million visitors a spike of 11 percent.

Also of note in the data is that the Gay and Lesbian community category placed second in terms of growth — with an 18 percent uptick — behind coupons and ahead of all other categories including giftware, politics and photo sharing.

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