Support for Digital Coupons Growing

Saving money on Procter & Gamble products is a lot easier at Safeway today than it was just a few months ago. With the click of a button, P&G coupons can be downloaded from the Internet directly to loyalty cards and redeemed at checkout. P&G, Cincinnati, is so pleased with consumer response to its new P&G eSaver digital coupon platform that it is aggressively working to bring it

PLEASANTON, Calif. — Saving money on Procter & Gamble products is a lot easier at Safeway today than it was just a few months ago.

With the click of a button, P&G coupons can be downloaded from the Internet directly to loyalty cards and redeemed at checkout.

P&G, Cincinnati, is so pleased with consumer response to its new “P&G eSaver” digital coupon platform that it is aggressively working to bring it to new retailers, said Sara Farenkamp, P&G's brand manager, U.S. direct marketing and promotions.

“Our intent is to expand this program nationally as quickly as possible,” she said.

The eSaver got its start early last year at Kroger Co., also of Cincinnati. In December 2008, Pleasanton, Calif.-based Safeway came aboard, offering it across its family of stores.

More than 30 eSaver coupons are currently available at Kroger and Safeway. Participating brands include Febreze, Swiffer, Always, Gain, Pampers and Tide. Face values range from 25 cents off Puffs facial tissue to $5 off Crest White Strips.

Spokespeople for Kroger and Safeway were unavailable for comment.

Meanwhile, retailer interest in new types of digital coupons is growing.

Kroger has taken the lead in the area with tests of several new concepts. Among them: digital coupons from AOL's new Shortcuts service, which lets consumers download coupons from several manufacturers to their loyalty cards.

Kroger also teamed with mobile coupon service Cellfire, San Jose, Calif., to offer digital coupons via cell phones.

Cellfire will announce a second major food retailer participant within the next few weeks, and several others by the end of the year, Cellfire's chief executive officer, Brent Dusing, told SN.

He declined to comment on the number of Kroger shoppers who have signed up for the service, but said redemption rates are a strong 26%.

“We're driving high redemption and helping to increase shopping frequency,” Dusing said.

Kroger is currently offering 16 cell phone coupons from manufacturers including Kimberly-Clark, General Mills, ConAgra and Del Monte. Current offers include 40 cents off Betty Crocker instant potatoes and 50 cents off Healthy Choice entrees.

Dallas-based Kimberly-Clark is using the Cellfire service for offers on its Huggies, Kotex and other brands. It is pleased with results so far.

“There has been positive consumer response, and results are favorable,” Mike Sonsthagen, Kimberly-Clark's promotion manager, told SN.

Cell phone coupons help Kimberly-Clark reach a younger demographic that typically doesn't respond to traditional couponing methods.

“The younger consumer is passionate about their electronic devices,” Sonsthagen said. “The mobile phone allows this consumer the ability to select coupons at their leisure, when they want them.”

Digital coupons are so effective that General Mills, Minneapolis, is reducing its use of traditional coupons in favor of digital ones, according to Karl Schmidt, the company's promotion marketing director.

The company has participated in the Kroger Cellfire initiative since the first pilot in Atlanta in July. General Mills also offers online coupons via Shortcuts, as well as through several online, print-at-home coupon applications.

Redemption rates for Cellfire coupons are higher than those of any other digital couponing program that General Mills has tested, Schmidt said. He declined to reveal redemption rates, only to say there's been strong repeat usage.

Along with helping General Mills reach young consumers, there are many other benefits of digital coupons, including the ability to reach ethnic groups such as Hispanics, and to communicate with shoppers 24/7, said Schmidt.

Likewise, digital coupons provide an opportunity to run strategic promotions with specific retailers. For instance, General Mills has leveraged its Shortcuts coupons as part of meal deals involving Kroger's private-label brands. A recent “Pasta Night Meal Deal” included $1 off General Mills' Romano's Macaroni Grill Dinner Kit, 75 cents off Kroger Frozen Chicken, 50 cents off Pillsbury Crescent Rolls and 50 cents off Green Giant Frozen Vegetables.