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Kroger Part of Coupon Resurgence in Recession

The recession has become a clinic in coupon evolution as retailers look for ways to effectively channel discounts to consumers who want them most while simultaneously meeting critical goals including gaining new customers and enhancing shopper loyalty.

Now, Kroger has teamed with Unilever and You Technology Brand Services to provide an online catalog of exclusive coupons customers can download to their loyalty cards. Consumers just browse the offers online, register and download via the Kroger website. Safeway is running a similar program with the same partners, Supermarket News reports.

Of course, Kroger is majority owner of the American branch of market research firm and loyalty card specialist dunnhumby, so the program's form is no surprise. Kroger already uses its loyalty card program to target coupon distribution, which has significantly boosted redemption rates.

The ability to specifically target coupon promotions has become increasingly attractive to retailers who want to draw consumers they concede have become more promotionally driven in the recession without resorting to the kind of 60 and 70 percent off clearance sales that were common late last and early this year. Blanket promotions draw consumers who will select one or two critical items that truly interest them, but they often just cherry pick other deals afterwards. That conflicts with the retailer's goal, which is to bring consumers into the store with promotions of interest then sell them other items at full price to make the shopping visit profitable.

Of course, the dynamic isn't quite that simple because suppliers usually foot at least part of the bill. Naturally, a retailer will provide more wide-ranging promotions if a vendor is contributing and ensuring it will make money. Hence, Unilever's involvement and the exclusive nature thereof.

Among other retailers paring up for such promotions, Rite Aid just announced that it is working with AdPerk, a video marketing firm, to provide a series of online product presentations that consumers watch to generate a coupon. Rite Aid backs up the product coupon with a $5 Rite Aid Bonus chit provided consumers after they earn 20 video credits, which come one or more per viewing. Suppliers supporting the program include Procter & Gamble, Kimberley-Clark, L'Oreal, Johnson and Johnson.

Retailers increasingly work with coupon websites as well. Savings.com has seen circumstances as an opportunity and early this month relaunched its web site with a more user-friendly design and capabilities that make it more community oriented. Savings.com has organized a team of in-house experts who search out coupons across the Internet to find superior values they can introduce on the site. Savings.com members then can vote coupon ratings so all visitors can quickly check out the most popular. They also can share their discoveries with friends. Loren Bendele, CEO of Savings.com, told Bnet that the idea was to simplify site navigation and identify bargain that have struck a chord while providing better deals, often through specific negotiations with top manufacturers. Bendele said he plans to enhance the expert participation in the site, perhaps even convening meetings of its experts, to provide even more effective means for the value driven to get deeper discounts.