The Rise of the Coupon
In addition to getting the world hooked on soda, Coca-Cola also got people hooked on savings by introducing the first coupon in 1887 . Less than 30 years later, Coca-Cola was a major brand and had given away over 8.5 million free beverages through couponing. After seeing the success of this type of promotion in increasing sales and brand awareness, paper coupons took off and infiltrated into consumer behavior, and later achieved pop-culture status on shows like Extreme Couponing. In 1957, to manage the redemption of paper coupons, Nielsen Coupon Clearing House was formed to help make the process more efficient . While the business processes were improving and changing with the times, the actual coupon itself wasn’t undergoing the same transformation. With the rise of internet shopping and the pressures of the Great Recession, the industry was about to shift.
It was almost impossible to use paper coupons in e-commerce transactions. To facilitate the transition to online shopping while still offering consumers value, retailers began to offer promo codes, or coupons that could be applied to an online shopping cart. Whereas coupons were easy to distribute in stores, there weren’t easily accessible places on the web to find deals on your favorite stores.
The Start of the e-Commerce Era
Enter RetailMeNot.com. In 2006, the website was founded to help online shoppers save money across multiple retailers . The site aggregates deals from across the web, leading it to have greater than 600,000 promo codes from more than 70,000 retailers on the web . However, a lot of these coupons are available all around the web, and on the websites of the retailers themselves. To help combat this, RetailMeNot utilizes the power of social networks to help improve its content and increase its competitive barriers through user-generated content, which makes up roughly one-third of the offers available on site . Realizing that a lot of the best deals are hard to find, the company allows users to submit new deals for points and badges. The company has even created its own mini social network, with chat rooms available on its website and private Facebook groups for its most active supporters . By using technology, RetailMeNot has been able to strengthen its competitive moat compared to opponents.
Providing a savings resource for consumers is great, but would not be sustainable without revenue streams. To create value for the business, RetailMeNot uses cookie tracking through affiliate networks to earn commissions from retailers . In the time of paper coupons, it was difficult to accurately attribute the value of different marketing channels. However, with the digitization of this industry, marketers were able to determine that value and pay partners appropriately, which is how the company gained credibility with retailers. This credibility also led retailers to give RetailMeNot exclusive offers, thereby increasing its competitiveness .
The Rise of Mobile
With the ubiquity of mobile devices, RetailMeNot is now entering its next phase of growth. The company launched its mobile app in 2012, and made mobile one of its key priorities for 2016 [3,8]. Focusing on bringing digital coupons to the stores, RetailMeNot launched its Mobile and In-Store Solution to help retailers digitize their in-store coupon offers and to help consumers remove their reliance on paper coupons completely . The company now offers a completely omnichannel solution, helping retailers reach consumers via their phones, desktops, email, and social networks. RetailMeNot has also used its vast network of information on customers to provide key insights to retailers, which were hard to gather in a brick-and-mortar, mobile-less world.
Source: US Census Bureau
While the company has hit some stumbling blocks through this transition, there are still many opportunities to grow in the digital world . E-commerce is booming, but in-store transactions still make up over 90% of transactions . Additionally, with mobile shopping growing, the company should continue its investment in its mobile app. However, there are two main things the company needs to ensure happen in order to secure success. First, the sheer volume of discounts that RetailMeNot offers, once a great strength, could be overwhelming for an on-the-go or mobile shopper. To combat this, they should utilize machine learning to show users the offers they are looking for based on interests, where they are / where they are going, etc. This will help make sure shoppers get the right deal at the right time. Secondly, they need to make sure that their coupons work 100% of the time. A user might be disappointed if a coupon doesn’t work online, but there could be a sense of embarrassment that could come along with a failed coupon use in-store. By making sure coupons work all the time and showing consumers what they want, when they want it, they can strengthen their relationship with their users.
Word count: 799
 Megan Geuss, “Prototype: Coca-Cola and the Birth of the Coupon,” Wired, https://www.wired.com/2010/10/pl_protoype_cocacola/, accessed November 2016
 Nielsen Clearing House, “NCH History,” https://www.nchmarketing.com/NCHHistory.aspx, accessed November 2016
 RetailMeNot, “Real Deal: History of Coupons,” https://www.retailmenot.com/blog/sc-history-of-coupons.html, accessed November 2016
 RetailMeNot, “About Us.” https://www.retailmenot.com/corp/about/, accessed November 2016
 Morey Stettner, “RetailMeNot Founder Harnesses User Generated Content,” Investor’s Business Daily, http://www.investors.com/news/management/managing-for-success/retailmenot-cotter-cunningham-stays-close-to-customers/, accessed November 2016
 RetailMeNot, “Community,” https://www.retailmenot.com/community/, accessed November 2016
 RetailMeNot, Inc., Form S-1 (June 17, 2013), http://investor.retailmenot.com/Cache/30024211.pdf, accessed November 2016
 “RetailMeNot Announces Fourth Quarter & Fiscal Year 2015 Financial Results,” press release, February 9, 2016, http://investor.retailmenot.com/Cache/1001206763.PDF?O=PDF&T=&Y=&D=&FID=1001206763&iid=4296416, accessed November 2016
 RetailMeNot, “Solutions,” https://www.retailmenot.com/corp/solutions/, accessed November 2016
 Jignesh Gohel, “The Real-World Impact of Panda 4.0: A Case Study of RetailMeNot,” SEM Rush, https://www.semrush.com/blog/real-world-impact-panda-4-0-case-study-retailmenot/, accessed November 2016
 U.S. Census Bureau, “Quarterly Retail E-Commerce Sales,” http://www.census.gov/retail/mrts/www/data/pdf/ec_current.pdf, accessed November 2016