Searchers Don’t Pay Retail: A Review of Coupon Searches and Search Engines

Today’s Search Insider column, via MediaPost

It’s no secret that Google isn’t the best search engine for everything. We saw that in recent explorations of live search and bathroom search engines. Another such area is finding coupons.

Google’s
a great place to find coupon sites, but then you have to sort through
the clutter. I tried a search on “kodak coupons,” and it’s dizzying
trying to figure out if and how you can get 20%, 30%, 35%, or 45%  off
at KodakGallery.com, as the headlines of search ads indicate. Some
sites we’ll look at today make searching for coupons much more
manageable.

Google Trends shows that the volume of searches for coupons so far this year is twice as high as in early 2008. The AdWords keyword tool
reports that the top 10 coupon terms attracted 46.5 million Google
searches in March 2009 alone, with “coupons” and “coupon” accounting
for 37 million combined (the others, in order, are: coupon code,
printable coupons, coupon codes, free coupons, grocery coupons,
coupons.com, online coupons, printable coupon).

Analytics firm Compete’s blog reported
that visitors to top coupon sites are up an average of 170% from March
2008 to March 2009. The blog distinguishes between two categories,
“those primarily offering manufacturer coupons (40¢ off Viva paper
towels), and those primarily offering retailer-specific coupons (25%
off your Target purchase).” It then notes, “Of all searches containing
the word ‘coupon,’ the share captured by retailer-coupon sites grew by
30% year-over-year in March, while manufacturer-coupon share shrank by
11%.”

 

Compete singles out some of these retailer coupon sites, including RetailMeNot,
the fastest growing coupon site among the top five in the category.
It’s one of my favorite sites, one I go to before completing most of my
online purchases. Please don’t ask me why (I swear I’m doing alright
during this economic crisis), but I recently ordered prints from
Snapfish valued at 72 cents and went on RetailMeNot, where I found a
code to save 14 cents off my order. It’s addictive. And heck, if I’m
going to rank all my habits, this is one of the better ones, right
behind calling Grandmom.

What’s so brilliant about the site
is its perfect role at the end of the purchase funnel. When you have a
sense of where you’re considering buying something from, you can enter
the Web site on RetailMeNot, and it will list all of the coupon codes.
The coupons are ranked by how many other people used that code
successfully, so the most reliable rise to the top while the duds drop
out of view. In that sense, it’s a massive time-saver as well as a
money-saver.

It hardly works for every site. Amazon rarely
has any listings unless it’s specifically promoting some service. And
for some merchants, there’s an error that appears that reads, “Sorry
for the inconvenience but this merchant has specifically requested to
have all user contributed coupons removed from the RetailMeNot system.”
From my experience, those retailers don’t have coupons publicly
available anyway, so it’s not just RetailMeNot that’s singled out.

Other sites are trying similar approaches. One I like is Tjoos,
even if I can’t always remember how to spell it. It’s meant to be a
play on “choose,” but I can’t tell you how many times I misspelled it
when entering it into my browser.  According to Compete, Tjoos had
about one-tenth of RetailMeNot’s traffic in March, while growing three
times as fast (off a much smaller base) over the past year.

The
one twist Tjoos offers is that it has its own specialists who confirm
that coupon codes work. Other coupon users can also contribute whether
the coupons worked. As this column was written, Tjoos claimed to have
133,000 online stores, 20,000 verified coupons out of 165,000, and
nearly 1,400 exclusive coupons. By comparison, RetailMeNot claims that
over the past few years, its users have shared over 100,000 discounts
at over 20,000 stores. The numbers aren’t as important as whether the
sites have current coupons for stores where consumers are shopping, and
from the anecdotal tests I tried, they both perform admirably.

You’ll
find both Tjoos and RetailMeNot in Google when searching for discounts.
Once you have a favorite way to seek a discount, though, Google’s
importance diminishes.

 

 

2 thoughts on “Searchers Don’t Pay Retail: A Review of Coupon Searches and Search Engines

  1. Thanks for the tip on Tjoos, I found a 15% off everything coupon that Payless Shoes didn’t want me to see (and kept off of RetailMeNot).

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