Technology Fuels Couponing

By Sanjay Khunger

Couponing, in a nutshell, is the practice of creating and distributing discount offers as a form of product promotion from business to consumers. Print and digital are the two primary forms of coupons today.

Couponing has been an integral part of our shopping experience for over half a century. It touches us, as shoppers, at every step along our path to purchase.

Volumes can be written on the wide array of technologies that underlie couponing. For print coupons, this is comprised of technologies from high-speed printing, to sorting, trucking, mailing and ultimately delivery of the coupons to the consumer’s physical address. On the digital front, we see advertising networks for distribution that support a wide spectrum of formats and channels. And content management systems and graphic design technologies underpin both print and digital couponing.

Rather than writing a treatise on all the technologies underlying couponing, let me highlight a key emerging technology that is fueling a reinvigoration of the couponing industry: analytics and smart systems.

Below, is a simple depiction of the technology layering in couponing.

The systems start with the content like product information, available offers and discounts, past purchases and preferences. The content is formatted appropriately and distributed to the different channels to reach the consumer, be it the consumer’s home mailbox, email, television, car or phone, or a display at a store or on the street.

In the current era of smartphones and other mobile devices, we not only demand the ability to access information anywhere and anytime, but also expect to receive personalized offers in the right form, print or digital, using the right delivery mode, on the right device, at the right point on the path to purchase. In other words, our expectations have moved from “good messaging” to “intelligent messaging.”

Intelligent messaging is made possible by personalization engines with context. In my last post, I mentioned the importance of context for mobile apps. Context is akin to a brain that provides the intelligent rules used by a personalization engine to convert a vast amount of content to a highly personalized offer. To put it simply, it adds value to the content. It removes noise from the content to make it significant to the consumer. Today’s personalization engines are developed using big data, predictive analytics and machine learning technologies, and run on elastic computer infrastructures best enabled by cloud technologies.

As we look ahead at the future of couponing, two additional technologies have the potential to radically change things in the next decade: 3-D printing and autonomous aerial and ground vehicles.

But let’s leave those as topics for a future post.

Sanjay Khunger is Senior VP, Technology at Harland Clarke Holdings.

                                               Mid-January 2017