Wither Sustainability – Why Aren’t Mobile CPG Coupons Ubiquitous By Now? – Part 2

This is Part 2 of a two-part in-depth study on the shocking dearth of digital coupons in the CPG industry. Start at the beginning. 

Image of an iPhone overlayed on top of a number of consumer products including Tide, Pringles, Pampers and Febreeze

The Mobile Divide

Mobile in-store couponing has made significant inroads in the U.S. retail industry, but it seems to be completely siloed within a retail chain’s internal ecosystem.

In that you can redeem, via a smartphone, Target-specific mobile coupons at a Target store, Kroger-specific coupons at a Kroger’s,  Babies”R”Us-specific coupons at… you guessed it!

A Target in-store mobile coupon via the Target Cartwheel app; and a Babies”R”Us in-store mobile coupon via the SnipSnap app

But it’s damn near impossible to find, let alone redeem, a digital manufacturer’s coupon at a retailer like Target or Kroger or Sears.

I researched the world’s 9 largest consumer-packaged goods (CPG) manufacturers. All of them offer coupons online in one way or another — on their website, on Coupons.com, on social media, etc.

A bar chart showing revenue for the 9 largest CPG manufacturers in the world: Procter & Gamble (83.7 billion), Unilever (44.8 billion), L'Oreal (29 billion), LVMH (21 billion), Kimberly-Clark (17.7 billion), Colgate-Palmolive (16.7 billion), Johnson & Johnson (14.4 billion), Reckitt Benckiser (12.1 billion), Nestle (11.3 billion)

Source: Statistica

Yet NOT ONE of them offers manufacturer’s coupons that can be saved and redeemed digitally (via email, text or digital wallet) in the U.S.

I did happen upon this Unilever Deals site, which offers mobile coupons via SMS (text messaging) for Unlilever products:


But it is targeted solely to consumers in New Zealand — a country who’s main industry is agriculture. No knock on agriculture at all; or New Zealand, which is a gorgeous country.

Yet if consumers in a country that is largely rural and agricultural can easily store and redeem coupons via their mobile device, then…

Boy does the U.S. have some serious catching up to do!

Interestingly, Enough…

A lion’s share of manufacturer’s coupons in the U.S. are found on or powered by Coupons.com, which has 700 CPG companies using its services (amounting to 2,000 brands!).

In 2013, Coupons.com distributed 315 billion coupons, 2.8 billion of which were redeemed by consumers.

Coupons.com boasts a high-traffic website and a mobile app on iOS and Android, via which shoppers can virtually ‘clip’ in-store retailer and manufacturer coupons.

Yet, there is a marked divide between in-store retailer coupons and manufacturer’s coupons on Coupons.com’s digital platforms.

In-store retailer coupons — which are specific to an individual retail chain like Banana Republic or Barnes & Noble — can be added to a digital wallet like Apple Passbook or Google Wallet.


Manufacturer’s coupons, on the other hand, can only be printed or added to the loyalty card of a grocery chain like Ralphs, Kroger, Giant or Meijer.

Most manufacturer’s coupons via Coupons.com, however, are printable only.

And the ridiculousness of this is heightened on the Coupons.com mobile app, wherein upon ‘clipping’ a manufacturer’s coupon on your smartphone device, you are prompted to print the coupon… or to email the coupon to yourself so you can print it later.


It is absolutely asinine that a company whose brand name ends with “.com,” has Print as the primary CTA for a huge number of its coupons — on its website and worse so, its mobile app.

Given that Coupons.com boasts a roster of 700 CPG companies, one would think they would be leading the charge in making manufacturer’s coupons mobile-accessible and mobile-redeemable.

But, alas, they seem perfectly content staying stuck in 2002 whilst providing a sub-optimal user experience for the mobile-savvy consumers of today.

Wither, Sustainability

Meanwhile, all 9 of the top CPG companies have a page or section on their corporate website espousing their commitment to environmental sustainability in one way or another.

Screenshot of a L'oreal web page on their commitment to sustainability and targets for 2020

Providing mobile-friendly coupons would be an easy way for these and all other CPG manufacturers to not only save countless trees, but to provide a more optimal customer experience all-around.

So what will it take to get them to move their coupon marketing strategy into the 21st century?

Surprisingly, the answer may be Walmart.

A recent study found that retailers, especially Walmart, have been one of the key reasons why CPG companies have begun implementing sustainability programs in recent years.

Top retailers are the main reasons CPG companies said they are incorporating sustainability programs into their product development efforts. Walmart was identified by 80 percent of respondents as a leading motivator for investment in product sustainability, followed by Target at 50 percent, Costco at 18 percent and Nordstrom at 12 percent.
“Walmart and Target clearly stand out from crowd. These retailers’ priorities are trickling through the supply chain and influencing supplier product sustainability programs,” [said Cheryl Baldwin, vice president of consulting for Pure Strategies, which conducted a study of 100 consumer product companies].

Source: Green Retail Decisions

So if Walmart and other big box retailers added retailer-agnostic mobile coupons to their environmental sustainability initiatives, and as a requirement of doing business with them, then CPGs would have no recourse but to make mobile couponing a priority.

The Audacity of Hope

Whether salvation is found in Walmart… or Coupons.com… or the manufacturers themselves, for the sake of our planet and its ecosystems, I am issuing the following challenge to the entire retail industry, and CPG C-suites specifically:

I Challenge You

To band together to begin offering mobile manufacturer coupons that are just as easy-to-use, advantageous (savings-wise), and retailer-agnostic for a consumer as the print coupons  that can be found in a magazine or the Sunday paper…

With the added benefit that a consumer can easily carry dozens of coupons around, at all times, via their mobile device.

Believe you me, our planet, your consumers, and future generations will be ever so grateful.

So, who’s with me?


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