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Coupons.com Posing Greater Threat to Print

Redemption rate tops 18 percent
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Coupons.com is the silent, cash-rich killer of the once-fat Sunday paper ad section. And soon it will be going public.

The promotions platform is largely responsible for the migration of ad dollars from clippable coupons to printable ones, and it has a $1 billion valuation and more than $100 million in the bank to show for it. (Redemption rates on old-school paper coupons have fallen from a sad 1.6 percent to an even sadder 0.6 percent in the last decade; Coupons.com’s rate is more than 18 percent.) 

This month Coupons.com further solidified its position with the acquisition of Couponstar, a U.K.-based joint venture it created in 2002. Couponstar, which operates in 12 European countries, will be rebranded and integrated into Coupons.com. It’s one more step on the company’s path toward an IPO, a move that’s expected to become formal next year.

Coupons.com’s regional expansion is matched by its category growth. Beyond traditional coupon advertisers, the company has partnerships with vendors of DVDs, toys, and general merchandise—a new frontier in which Coupons.com plans a larger push. “These are companies that have never couponed before,” says president and CEO Steven Boal.

The next step is to eliminate the remaining analog piece of its business, the pesky act of printing coupons. Truth be told, more shoppers own printers than smartphones, which is why some HP printers are outfitted with a dedicated Coupons.com button. The company believes paperless couponing has a few years before it goes mainstream. Says Boal: “There’s a lot of fancy talk . . . but the truth of the matter is that it’s very hard to do.”