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AMY SCOTT: If pinching pennies is one of your New Year's resolutions, take note. Coupons are going digital. Next week Valassis Communications plans to launch a website it hopes will reinvent the lowly paper coupon for the Internet age. Marketplace's Sam Eaton reports.
SAM EATON: When it seems like just about everything has made the jump into cyberspace it may come as a surprise that coupons have had a tough time shedding their scissor-and-paper roots. Over the last year the small number of existing online coupon sites like Cool Savings and ValPak.com have struggled to catch on. That's where Valassis Communications, which represents clients like Eggo waffles and Dr. Pepper, hopes to break new ground. Chief marketing officer Suzie Brown says their new website, RedPlum.com, is about a lot more than just coupons.
Suzie BROWN: This is really more of a lifestyle site. This is a way that people can find value and use that value to make their lives better. And so I think coming late to the game -- if that's the way you want to put it -- is not necessarily a bad thing.
Brown says features like product reviews, recipes and the ability to match coupons to your shopping list make the site unique. But retail analyst Patti Freeman Evans with Jupiter Research says there's another reason companies like Valassis are going digital -- to capture that coveted 18- to 24-year-old consumer.
Patti Freeman Evans: They're not as interested in direct mail. They're not so interested in e-mail marketing in order to make purchase decisions. And so retailers need to find new ways to appeal to these customers.
The traditional shotgun approach -- sending millions of paper coupons by mail -- has grown less effective over the years. Currently the response rate is only about 0.1 percent. Evans says customizing coupons to individual users, especially younger ones, may be the only hope for boosting those numbers.
In Los Angeles, I'm Sam Eaton for Marketplace.