October 6, 2005, 12:00 AM

Coupon program goes contextual to drive web-to-store sales

Google and others serve up contextual ads online that put the ability to buy products just a click away from relevant online content. Now, Coupons Inc.’s new Concordance provides contextual online placement of printable coupons for offline redemption.

Google and others have been serving up online contextual ads that put the ability to buy products and services just a click away from relevant online content. Now, Coupons Inc. is putting a spin on contextual ad serving with a new program that serves up coupons contextually, for home printing and store redemption.

Coupons Inc.’s new Concordance system, for example, scans copy relating to children’s nutrition and healthy cereals on a host site, and generates links to consumer-printable coupons for whole-grain cereals manufactured by or available at the coupon’s sponsor. The offer of a printable coupon appears in a small window that’s launched when a consumer mouses over highlighted words in the copy. When printed, the coupons are then redeemable at local retailers.

“One key application of the system is that it allows our CPG manufacturer clients to turn their corporate web sites into a consumer promotional vehicle,” says Coupons Inc. CEO Steve Boal. On the web site of Dial Corp., for example, a participating manufacturer, copy that mentions stain removal highlights the phrase. Mousing over the highlighted phrase launches a small window with a link consumers can click to generate printable coupons for two different Dial cleaning products. The Concordance system, which currently draws from a bank of about 500 live coupon offers, does not serve up competitors` coupon offers on client sites.

Boal says one metric of success for the system, now about three weeks old, will be an increase in coupon printing and redemption for participating marketers. While many CPG and other sites already offer printable coupons, consumers generally have to look for them in a dedicated area of the site. The contextual presentation of the coupons in the program already is producing multiple double-digit increases in the rate of coupons being printed on participating sites, Boal says. While he says it’s too early to gauge the program’s effect on store redemption, Boal anticipates that it could increase the store redemption rate, now averaging about 15% to 17% for Coupons Inc.’s distributed coupons, by a few percentage points.

But redemption isn’t the only metric involved, he adds, pointing out that coupon offers mentioning brand names amount to free impressions for the coupon sponsor, which can help drive sales both offline and online. “We don’t charge for those impressions, but we track them,” Boal says. “If you generate 350,000 impressions for a brand over a month, there will be purchases that take place as a consequence, with or without the coupon.”

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