An online or digital coupon gives a discount for products or services that have been transported or saved online. This works similarly to a conventional clip-out paper coupon by giving a certain discount to the holder on a particular purchase. The difference between the two is the way a digital coupon is used and collected.
Most digital coupons look like their paper counterparts. They do not come in prints, but instead, they are posted online or received as an email-attachment. Those on the receiving end have to print them. Manufacturers find this kind of digital transfer as very cost-efficient. Usually, it is far more expensive to pay for advertising space or to ask to include coupons in direct mailings than to post a coupon on the Internet. Consumers have the choice to only print the coupons they like to use.
In general, online coupons work well with people that are Internet-savvy. Marketers try to get to consumers wherever they are. They use printed coupons to reach people who often read newspapers. However, if they use the Internet most of the time to read news and search for information, it is more effective to include discounts in such spaces.
There are a number of marketers that have taken one step further by giving out coupons by means of social networks and across different mobile platforms. Usually, these electronic coupons are given in exchange of some required actions. These include posting a link back to the retailer on a blog, including the offer in a message sent to network contacts, or including the retailer as a friend on various social networks. This enables both marketers and retailers to carry out a demographic research, allowing them to market their brand of products without exerting too much effort or spending a lot of cash.
When it comes to personal digital assistants (or PDA) and smart phones, there are digital coupons that do not have to be printed. Users can actually download coupons to their gadgets to be directly scanned. When the cashier swipes the PDA or phone across the scanner, the discount will be transmitted. This method of scanning the digital coupon is well accepted due to its being environmentally friendly. It promotes efficiency, as well. Consumers do not need to keep their coupons or take them along. They just have to download them on their devices.
There is another type of digital coupon that does not require direct processing. Some merchants provide digital coupons that let consumers store coupons on their online accounts, and these are often linked to a frequent shopper card or loyalty card. Customers can check out all the coupons on the main website of the store, then save all that they like.
Discounts may be available the moment the online coupons have been chosen, depending on the digital coupon policy of a store. As a customer goes to a store to make a purchase, the cashier will just scan the loyalty card to automatically apply the discounts. The whole digital coupon process occurs electronically. A computer verifies if the purchased products match the previously saved coupons that are kept in the accounts of a consumer until they are used or they expire.