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Study: Paper coupons still king

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Despite the popularity of online discounts, coupon codes and special offers through push notifications, one of the most effective customer incentives may be the tried-and-true paper coupon, a recent study from CreditCards.com suggests.

Although many restaurants and retailers are shifting away from traditional direct marketing, 63 percent of U.S. credit and debit cardholders say that when using coupons, they most often use those from newspapers, direct mailings and other paper goods, according to the study.

"Dead trees aren't dead when it comes to coupons," said Matt Schulz, senior industry analyst for CreditCards.com. "Plenty of Americans are still opening their snail mail and reading the Sunday paper.”

Still, just 19 percent of brands send their customers updates via traditional mail, according to findings from research firm MarketingSherpa.

Even tech-minded millennials tend to prefer paper coupons, CreditCards.com found, using those coupons twice as often as other types. And creating engagement with that demographic can be a gold mine for operators, as its members are more likely than others to provide marketers with a piece of personal information in exchange for targeted content, research from digital offer platform RetailMeNot shows.

Digital coupons are used less frequently by consumers overall, according to CreditCards.com’s findings, which showed that 17 percent of cardholders use coupon codes as their main method of accessing discounts, while 15 percent most often use coupons or coupon codes on their phones.

Despite the relatively low usage of digital offers compared to their paper counterparts, that usage may grow as consumers and brands become more comfortable with electronic coupons, Shulz implied, noting that he expects paper coupons to lose market share to digital versions in the future. 

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