Publix Supermarkets is about to take a huge leap into the world of digital couponing.
The grocery giant is launching an online system this week that lets shoppers browse hundreds of relatively higher-value coupons online, virtually clip them out, and redeem the discounts automatically at the checkout lane.
"We are always striving to enhance the shopping experience for our customers and want them to be able to take advantage of any cost savings available," said Shannon Patten, a Publix spokeswoman. "By allowing our customers to utilize digital coupons, we're offering them savings that are just a click away."
The digital system is by no means a replacement for the paper coupons, which will remain the largest part of the coupon industry.
But the digital coupon market is expanding. Publix started testing its online system at a few locations in Florida last year, and is training store employees to turn the system on this week in parts of Tampa Bay. The remainder of the stores in Central Florida will be on the program in the next few weeks, and all 1,000-plus stores through March.
How it works
To use the new system, shoppers sign up online at publix.com/coupon/Home.do. Once enrolled, they register their phone number for ID purposes, then scroll through digital coupons, then click which ones they want. The system stores that information virtually. (The system can email shoppers a reminder list of coupons clipped to use while walking the aisles.)
When shoppers reach the cashier, they enter their phone number in the keypad, and if shoppers ultimately put those items on the belt for checkout, the system automatically applies the discount to their total.
That phone number system is something of a work-around because Publix does not have a membership club card as many northern grocery stores do. Many of those stores have built their own systems that essentially plug the value of virtual coupons on their membership card account for redemption at the cashier.
For Publix, the system has the benefit of avoiding the processing and handling of paper coupons, helps prevent coupon fraud, and allows Publix to compile shopper statistics in real time to see how coupons change buying behaviors.
For shoppers, one major benefit is access to a different variety of coupons to add to those found in their weekly circulars. This week, the system had 105 coupons, including $1-off coupons for Axe deodorant, $1-off two Barilla pasta boxes, and $1-off Del Monte fruit snack cups.
Patten said the discount is ultimately up to the product manufacturer, but relatively speaking, "we have seen very good coupon values."
The other major perk is that shoppers can avoid the cost of printing coupons at home from the Internet – as the cost of ink for printers quickly erodes the value of coupons found online.
Patten said the new digital system won't interfere with one of Publix's most powerful marketing tools, their buy-one/get-one free deals. And shoppers can still print out coupons from other websites, such as Coupons.com, SmartSource or RedPlum.
Publix thus joins a slew of grocery companies getting into digital coupons in some fashion.
Stores such as Wal-Mart, Target and Sweetbay have all built systems or joined into systems that let shoppers clip online coupons, but shoppers still must print out those coupons and bring them into the stores.
Winn-Dixie just launched a system in Florida that goes a step further and lets members of their shopper club load coupons onto their shopping card for redemption at the store without printing.
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