IQ News: Cyber Shoppers To Clip “U pons”

Fresh off a promising test in Wisconsin, online promotions outfit planet U, San Francisco, has signed on the Virginia-based Ukrop’s grocery store chain to bring cyber-couponing to as many as 28 stores in the Southeast United States.
The company has auspicious plans to add several more grocery store chains over the next year to bring its Internet-based coupon product, “u pons,” to between 2,000 and 5,000 supermarkets across the country under the tagline, “U surf, U shop, U save.” Eventually, the service will be completely paperless: shoppers will be able to download discount product offers off a supermarket Web site directly into their account that will then be redeemable at check-out counters.
The cyber-grocery shopping segment has been operating sporadically in regions across the country, led by Skokie, Ill.-based Peapod and NetGrocer, New York. While there are no definitive projections for the nascent marketplace, analysts expect it will grow incrementally as more time-strapped shoppers become accustomed to placing grocery orders online.
Encouragingly, major packaged goods companies, including Procter & Gamble and Unilever, have expressed interest in doing more business with cyber grocers. Among the chief obstacles to cyber-couponing, however, are manufacturers’ concerns of fraudulent coupon duplication and, for consumers, whether or not the coupons are convenient. “Online coupons have to be easy. If it takes any kind of effort, any kind of time, this will never happen,” said Maria LaTour Kadison, senior analyst at Forrester Research, Cambridge, Mass.
–Bernhard Warner