Coupon sites gain popularity as holiday season widens

December 5, 2012 8:34:47 AM PST
Did it seem like this year's holiday season got off to a quicker start than usual? The growing numbers of customers who are using coupon sites to try to snag the best -- and earliest -- deals certainly backs up that sentiment.According to a recent survey sponsored by the popular coupon site RetailMeNot.com, close to 40 percent of those surveyed earlier this year said they would start crossing items off their lists before November -- way before the traditional wait for the door-busting deals on Black Friday.

That study resulted in the advent of a funny term, "OctoNovemCember," a name encompassing all three months that make up the holiday season, and a funny mascot as well: the "Pumpkin-Headed Turkey Claus."

"We started thinking about what does that mean?" said Trae Bodge, an "avid saver" who serves as the senior editor of the company's online magazine The RetailMeNot Insider. "Obviously it's sort of Christmas [shopping] bleeding out in big way and so we came up with this term... which for us indicated this broad shopping period. What we were also seeing is people were already looking for Black Friday-worthy deals every single day, so we thought that idea really had legs."

And so the site, which offers close to 500,000 coupons from a database consisting of approximately 60,000 businesses both big and small, launched the campaign in early October with a holiday section to help cater to this burgeoning trend.

"What we really think it is, it's economics," Bodge said. "If you start in October it's less hurtful on your bank account every single month and that's what we think is happening here."

Even though more customers may be looking to shop early, RetailMeNot still served as a hot spot during the busy period from the recent Black Friday to Cyber Monday. The site's traffic grew from 39 percent compared to a year ago during that same time frame. Furthermore, the site helped facilitate 2 percent of all e-commerce sales in the country during that time. Those who used the site reported a savings of around $23.64 on Black Friday per coupon. That bump in traffic echoes another survey conducted that showed that close to a third (32 percent) of all customers were actually done with all of their holiday shopping by the end of Cyber Monday, according to RetailMeNot's head of communications Brian Hoyt.

Still, there are plenty of deals to be found as the holiday season marches on if you follow few simple steps offered by Bodge:

  • Make a list and stick to it. "I think many of us do our holiday shopping in our head, so we're walking around and saying 'Oh, that would be nice for Aunt Marge, and that would be nice for my husband' but I think it's important for people to make a list and to stick with it, so you know what your budget is, you don't go over," Bodge said.
  • Clear out the clutter. Instead of experiencing email overload from companies sending in swarms of emails with deals and coupons, use a coupon aggregator site or their related smartphone apps to provide some order in your shopping life. Bodge also recommends to a desktop app called Clipix, which allows users to create little clipboards that they can use to jot down sales and other shopping-related thoughts. "It's just a way to clean things out a little bit, quiet things down a little bit because I think we're all just overwhelmed during the holiday season."
  • Compare prices. Before jumping to buy an item through a coupon or coupon code, use a price comparison site such as Google Shopping, PriceGrabber.com or download eBay's Red Laser app to have a general sense what an item should cost, so you know how good a particular deal is.
  • Take a breath and look up information. Using a coupon site, search for a particular item and see what deals are being offered for that item. Sure one might be for 20 percent off, but another might have that discount plus free shipping. "That's just a way to be a more informed shopper in literally under a minute. It's so fast to find that information out and that way you know you made the right choice," Bodge said.
Although RetailMeNot is now enjoying its status of being one of the most visited coupon sites, it was started in 2006 a "mom-and-pop" site by a small group of people in Sydney, Australia, who wanted to create a community aggregator site where people could post information that they had found for various merchants. At the moment, approximately 30 percent of coupons shown are still submitted by users, Hoyt said.

Whale Shark Media, which owns RetailMeNot.com after buying the site in 2010, expects to generate more than 450 million visits in 2012 to its various sites -- most of which are other coupon sites such as Deals2Buy.com and CouponShare.com -- compared to 300 million in 2011.

So as the popularity of coupon sites continues to climb, here a few other coupon sites worth checking out:

  • Yahoo Deals : The site offers a combination of local deals, online deals and coupons of all kinds.

  • Savings.com : In addition to providing coupons for holiday gift items, the site also offers an array of deals for grocery items as well and features "Deal Scouts Coupon Contest."
  • Slick Deals: Besides offering many deals and coupons, the site also has a number of forums where saving enthusiasts can post information about freebies, rebates and other related matters.
  • Coupon Cabin: The site specializes in coupon codes and features "The Coupon Newsflash" which will email information about deals, coupons and freebies as soon as they are released.
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