Quietly and with no fanfare, Procter & Gamble has returned to the world of internet printable coupons.
This is big news for several reasons.
P&G is the number one issuer of manufacturer coupons. They’re so big that they have their own insert – the BrandSaver - that reaches over 30 million homes sixteen times a year. Even with their own insert they are still one of the largest customers for Red Plum and SmartSource, which P&G basically uses for their overflow. This is the maker of Tide, Ivory, Dawn, Cascade, Pantene, Gillette, Venus, Always, Tampax, Crest, Old Spice, Secret, Clairol, Oral-B, and, yes, Cheer.
In the world of grocery coupons, P&G is a dynasty. When P&G barks, the coupon industry jumps. When the coupon industry decided to redesign coupon barcodes, a P&G executive was chosen to lead the project.
So why hadn’t P&G been using internet printable (IP) coupons, and why should we care? It’s not that P&G is slow to adopt technologies – more the opposite. They are big in the space of e-Coupons, those discounts that are loaded directly to your frequent shopper card. P&G was one of the early players in the IP world. But the security of those coupons was weak, sometimes allowing users to print unlimited copies of a coupon. And with weak security, photocopies and worse (fraudulent coupons) were like weeds in the garden, popping up everywhere. Bad experiences left P&G gun shy of IPs, and so they sat on the sidelines for what seemed like forever.
P&G’s return to the IP space shows the improvements in security of printables. Gone are the days when hackers posted techniques for spoofing Coupons.com. Every IP coupon has a customer identifier imbedded in the barcodes, so they’re going to catch you if you make unauthorized copies.
But more importantly, P&G’s return proves that paper coupons are not going away. There were doomsayers who thought that the e-Coupon meant the end of clipping. The reality is that paper coupons – whether delivered by Internet or newspaper – are not going away. P&G’s return means that they expect IP coupons to be an increasingly important tool for shoppers, and that’s good news for all couponers! Three Cheers, oops that may be trademarked, how about Hurray for P&G!