Consumers clipping coupons online

Cost-conscious Canadian consumers are on the Internet with their virtual scissors, clipping coupons to get discounts and save money in the tough economy.

Screen photo of Flyerland.ca website.

MONTREAL — Cost-conscious Canadian consumers are on the Internet with their virtual scissors, clipping coupons to get discounts and save money in the tough economy.

Online coupon sites were the fastest growing web category used by Canadians over the past year, said digital tracking firm comScore.

There were almost 2.6 million unique visitors in Canada to online coupon sites last December, up 60 per cent from 1.6 million in December 2007, comScore said.

And it’s expected that consumers won’t be giving up their online clipping habits any time soon.

“To the extent that the economy continues with the uncertainty and recession, I think consumers are going to continue to look for ways to seek deals, and online couponing has obviously become an important part of that,” said Andrew Lipsman, director of comScore’s industry analysis.

The ease of using the Internet to search for discounts is helping to push the popularity of coupon sites, Lipsman said from Chicago.

“So online couponing is a broader trend, but it’s also accelerating because of the economic conditions right now,” he said.

Women appear to lead the way when it comes to searching for bargains on the web, said Jeffrey Grau of New York-based eMarketer, which does research and analysis on digital marketing.

“They are, generally speaking, more serious shoppers than men, and a lot of these coupons are for food purchases and they are the primary grocery shoppers,” Grau said.

Britt Raposo, founder of the information website CanadianMomsOnline.com, wasn’t surprised that online coupon clipping was growing.

She said it’s primarily moms who are clipping coupons online, “obviously to save money because the economy is getting a little scary.” Some exchange coupons on Raposo’s other website, CanadianMomsCommunity.com.

“They list the coupons they have that they won’t be using and then the other person will say ‘I have this and this and this’ and then they swap coupons,” Raposo said from Calgary.

There are numerous online coupon sites, including FrugalShopper.ca, Flyerland.ca and Save.ca.

Paula Gignac, president of the Interactive Advertising Bureau of Canada, said coupons can be mailed to consumers after they’re selected online.

Another way consumers can get them is to print a hard copy, Gignac said, noting the coupon will have specific barcodes and identifiers that prevent it from being printed and redeemed multiple times.

There are also software applications that allow a coupon to be scanned from cellphones at a store, she said.

Gignac said there both environmental and cost benefits to online coupons.

“So if you can do it by the web much more efficiently, then why would you want to have it as a paper flyer,” she said from Toronto.

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