Woman at checkout in grocery store

“Queenpins”: How a Blockbuster Comedy Can Show Us the Way to a More Serious Approach to Coupon Fraud

It’s not often that coupons get the attention of Hollywood. But, that’s exactly what has happened with the new blockbuster, “Queenpins.” Inspired by the real-life story of three Phoenix-area women who were ultimately convicted of orchestrating a $40 million coupon fraud scheme, the comedy tells the tale of two fictional housewives, played by Kristen Bell and Kirby Howell-Baptiste, who turn to coupon fraud to make money. Vince Vaughn and Paul Walter Hauser co-star as the fictional investigators trying to stop them.

The beauty of this comedy is that it might hold the key to developing a more serious approach to coupon fraud.

Here’s a small sample of the kind of humor we’ll get to experience when we head to theaters or tune into Paramount+ to see the movie.

Imagine this scene:

While riding in an armored vehicle, a law enforcement team in full SWAT gear prepares for an impending raid. One of the officers excitedly turns to a heavy-set gentleman wearing a plaid shirt and khaki pants and asks, “So, what are we dealing with here? Gun runners? Drug dealers?”

The gentleman answers quite seriously, “It’s two women who were counterfeiting coupons.”

The puzzled officer pauses awkwardly before responding. “This feels like a lot. You don’t think we’re coming in a little hot here, boss?”

The comedic genius of scenes like this stem from the way they cleverly contrast and caricature two very different perspectives on coupon fraud.

  • On the one hand, there is a tendency, especially from those outside the coupon industry, to trivialize coupon fraud. After all, who does it really hurt if somebody games the system to get an unearned 25-cent discount on a roll of paper towels?
  • On the other hand, there is an understandable tendency among some to sensationalize fraud. After all, those little discounts really do add up to large sums of money that can materially impact manufacturers, retailers and consumers.

A more serious approach to coupon fraud — unlike the caricatures presented in the movie — has to move beyond these extremes.

Yes, coupon fraud is a problem, and it needs to be taken seriously.  Its persistence and sophistication should not be dismissed with hyperbolic claims about being able to quickly eliminate fraud altogether.

But, taking fraud seriously is not the same as sensationalizing it. The reality is that our industry continues to advance the analytics, technology and controls that are being deployed to counter fraud. And, those advances are making a significant and measurable impact. By leveraging these tools, trading partners have an opportunity to keep fraud in check while continuing to benefit from the unique advantages coupons provide for inspiring consumer action.

So, how exactly do we get to a more serious and well balanced approach to coupon fraud?

  • Trading partners need to stay vigilant in their efforts to counter fraud. In fact, now may be a good time to get extra vigilant about watching for anomalies in your company’s coupon redemption. And, it may be a good time to review the tools you’re already using to fight fraud while exploring what additional tools may be available to enhance those efforts.
  • At the same time, make sure you’re not contributing to unnecessary panic. Educate other stakeholders throughout your company about everything you’re already doing to keep fraud in check. Make sure they understand that fraud is not unique to couponing; it rears its ugly head in all sorts of advertising and promotions. And, make sure everyone understands the many benefits that your company gets from couponing.

“Queenpins” appears to be a hilarious take on a really serious subject. And, while it makes perfect sense that a comedy would deal in caricatures, those of us who are in the business of countering coupon fraud in real life understand that farcical action just isn’t enough to fight such a serious problem. The irony is that this comedy, in presenting two very extreme and opposite views, actually hints at what a truly serious approach looks like.

For more details on what that approach looks like, check out our earlier blog: A Smart Strategy for Countering Coupon Fraud

Laura Czekala is the vice president of product management for NCH, a Vericast business. Laura positions NCH’s retailer and manufacturer clients to benefit from robust analytics, actionable insights, and advanced risk management by consistently innovating the technology, data collection, and information platforms that underpin the company’s coupon audit, settlement, and analysis services. With more than 30 years of experience, she is a respected industry expert, contributing to initiatives by the Association of Coupon Professionals (ACP), Joint Industry Coupon Committee (JICC), and the Coupon Information Corporation (CIC).

Doctor consulting with patient

Reaching a Moving Target: Cultivating Healthcare Relationships With New Movers

In the wake of the pandemic, people are reexamining their living spaces, work environments and lifestyles. At the top of the list for change is rethinking healthcare options and reengaging with providers now that vaccines are available and protective procedures have been implemented in offices.

Of course, we have plenty of care to catch up on. That creates new challenges, and a real opportunity for healthcare marketers.

Dentists as a case study of the opportunity

According to PR Newswire, 28% of consumers didn’t schedule a dental visit during the pandemic, along with significant drop-offs in morning brushing and flossing and increases in snacking on sweets. But this pent-up demand is offset by two very important industry factors:

  • Dental offices are merging and consolidating. Many private dental practices are merging into bigger practices to gain efficiencies and offset the cost of new elective approaches, while 7% of dentists are considering mergers to manage education debt. As a result, Dental Service Organizations (DSOs) are estimated to grow 15% over the next five years.
  • Patients are a moving target. A quarter of 2020’s movers were motivated by the pandemic, which uprooted many in search of a better living environment and more space in places that weren’t historically top destinations, choosing suburbs and rural locations over the crowded east and west coasts.

These dynamics should prompt healthcare marketers to effectively identify this new mover consumer to communicate changing practice dynamics and offerings, while reaching these potential patients where they are, in the moments that matter.

Moving Along the Path to Appointment

Reaching people with the right media and message is critical as they travel the increasingly non-linear path to engagement. Influencing healthcare consumers can be tricky, but it’s not impossible. The key is to find them and then give them a reason to try and to stay.

Now, dental patients do have a penchant for switching: Our research reports that 44% of patients frequently switch dental service providers. However, almost three-quarters of them also take the time to research healthcare options at least a month before deciding.1

Add to this that movers in general are more influenced by online, print, mobile and TV media. Prosper Insights reports that those planning to move within the next six months in the Medical Services category choose online media as their first choice, but that is closely followed by print media. In fact, 80% of new movers will redeem direct mail offers before, during and after a move.

Sixty-two percent of patients select a healthcare provider based on the office being at a convenient location. Therefore, consumer messaging should absolutely stress office accessibility in addition to engaging potential patients at the right times and in the right media along the way.

The bottom line is that the healthcare consumer, and particularly those who are moving, are actively seeking healthcare providers. So, the opportunity to engage and convert them is ready and available.

Finding healthcare consumers ready to decide

Of course, advertisers need to distinguish between the pre-mover and the post-mover, since they have very different sets of needs and decision-making modes. But that’s easily solved with vendors who offer great data sources — such as new homeowner deeds or new utility connect information — and predictive modeling of purchase intent can be achieved by ingesting data regarding the likelihood of moving based on weekly store visitation patterns.

Taking advantage of the opportunity

Healthcare practices have been changing to be more efficient and to better accommodate the needs of the post-pandemic consumer. As healthcare provider growth continues to accelerate and consumers continue to explore new places to live, the best strategy will be multitargeted, multichannel and frequent. Meeting these new movers wherever they are and with whatever media channels they choose will guarantee that healthcare providers stand out from the competition. That initial engagement will be just the first of many steps toward a long-term and mutually beneficial relationship with their new neighbors.

1. Valassis Awareness-to-Activation Study, January through March 2020

Susan Maurer is client strategy director for Valassis, partnering with clients to drive revenue. She has over 20 years of experience working in verticals such as CPG, Telecom, Healthcare and Finance, with a focus on using insights and strategy to help clients realize their consumer engagement objectives.

Meet Consumer Expectations and Drive Conversions With Deals and Savings

After a year like 2020, it’s no wonder consumer attitudes and behaviors are expected to change significantly. The economic impact alone is having a long-term effect on spending habits. Our 2021 Consumer Intel Report “A Cautious Return to a New World” notes that 70% of people whose income was affected in 2020 expect their spending power to continue to be impacted in 2021.

Practically, consumers just need to save and they are looking for savings on everything, especially their essential needs. Our research also found that 82% of Americans say it’s most important to them to save the most money by picking a grocery store with the lowest prices.

In fact, the search for deals is a virtually universal phenomenon that every brand and retailer must take into account.

And it is a trend that will remain as the number of consumers seeking ways to save more money has risen by 5 percentage points from 33% in 2020 to 38% in 2021, according to our survey. Most people have been finding ways to save more money during the pandemic, and 82% plan to continue this behavior.

Data callouts concerning income impact and saving behaviorsSource: 2021 Consumer Intel Report

Even though the economy is recovering and the demand for frugality may begin to subside, it will take time for people to feel comfortable enough to not feel the need to save. In part, that’s because many are still recovering from the economic impact they suffered during the lockdown.

Uncertainty, coupled with tough economic conditions, will drive consumers toward brands that offer deals and discounts. As people adjust to new variables in their lives, their cautious behavior will go beyond budget decisions. In trying times, savvy shoppers become more price-sensitive. They shop smarter and look for deals to get the biggest bang for their bucks. In fact, according to McKinsey & Company, 30–40% of consumers will switch brands or retailers to get the most value.

Chart data: power of a deal has held steadySource: 2021 Consumer Intel Report

Loyalty is up for grabs, and the best deal wins.

The power of deals and savings

People remain sensitive to deals and deal messaging as they were pre-COVID. Fifty-two percent say that a sale will lead them to make an impulse or unplanned purchase. Meanwhile, 37% of shoppers indicate that messages offering coupons or discounts will increase the likelihood that they’d buy from a specific brand.

While deals and affordability play an important role in consumers’ purchasing decisions, they aren’t enough on their own. Messaging and promotions must be nuanced to balance the latest consumer sentiment (e.g., a brand’s social and environmental responsibility) with their financial needs.

For instance, 51% of consumers say that a relevant and engaging brand message can entice them to try a new product — a 5 percentage point increase from 2019. What you offer, where you place the deals and how you serve your customers all matter.

Ads and coupons attract affluent consumers

Data points: affluent consumers love couponsSource: 2021 Consumer Intel Report

Seventy-four percent of consumers overall indicate that they can be swayed by ads that promote sales and incentives when deciding what to buy and where to shop. Deals can determine what goes onto a shopper’s “must-buy” list. This means brands can leverage promotion opportunities to influence consumer decisions during the planning stage.

The rise in price consciousness isn’t just among shoppers who are negatively impacted by the pandemic. Affluent consumers (those with a household income over $100K) also demonstrate preferences toward deals and incentives. Seventy-nine percent of these shoppers use coupons when planning their shopping, 79% are excited to discover a deal on a product they’re already thinking of buying and 64% say a coupon or discount speeds up their decision to purchase.

Meanwhile, 71% of consumers rank saving the most money by “using coupons and discounts” as the second most important thing when buying groceries.

Offering discounts isn’t just about helping the “down and out.”  Hunting for deals adds an important dimension to the shopping experience that consumers want. As such, don’t overlook the importance of appealing to this segment in your marketing message.

An omnichannel approach to promoting deals

Fifty-one percent of shoppers prefer to receive their coupons on their smartphones. The number rises to 73% for millennials, 76% for parents and 81% for millennial parents. Sixty-one percent of consumers use a savings app from a grocery store, drugstore, mass merchant or supercenter once a month or more. The figure rises to 80% for millennials, 86% for parents and 90% for millennial parents. But many shoppers also use paper coupons from print sources (e.g., direct mail, newspaper) to maximize savings.

Many consumers use both digital and paper coupons to help them save more. Meanwhile, people — especially millennials, parents, and millennial parents — expect companies to engage them via online and mobile technologies.

Most shoppers rank saving money as their top priority, alongside convenience. Their decisions to activate coupons are less driven by media but more by value and ease of use. They want to save with both digital and paper coupons and therefore, brands must make them available to drive more sales.

As such, marketers must adopt an omnichannel approach to meet diverse customer preferences while dialing up specific channels based on the behaviors of their target audiences.

The search for deals and savings isn’t limited to retail and shopping. Forty-five percent of consumers use coupons, discounts or offers at least half the time when ordering from restaurants. This is particularly prevalent among millennials (61%), parents and millennial parents (67%).

While some consumers are still reluctant to dine at restaurants, 63% say they are comfortable with ordering carryout or delivery. Coupled with the sentiment to support local businesses — 65% of people say it’s important to support local restaurants — there are many opportunities for restaurants to attract diners by offering discounts and incentives through various channels.

In particular, restaurant booking apps speak to consumers’ desire to engage with brands via smartphones. Promoting discounts and deals on these channels is a strategy that restaurants should lean into in 2021 and beyond.

Leveraging deals and savings is critical for restaurants as they recover from the economic downturn. They must adjust and promote their services and offerings to meet consumer expectations. For example, since more parents (61%) and millennial parents (60%) are comfortable with outdoor restaurant dining, marketers should use local ads to target these demographics.

Get the full scoop on driving sales with deals and incentives

The data and insights in this article came from a study conducted by Valassis in conjunction with a global, third-party market research firm with proficiency in internet surveys.* We looked at how consumers are cautiously returning to the new world and offer practical steps for marketers to harness this cautious optimism.

Download the full report and stay tuned for a new study that takes a deeper dive into deals and incentives.

*Except where otherwise noted.

Matthew Tilley is senior director of content marketing for Valassis and leads content marketing for the company. He has more than 20 years of experience in digital advertising and consumer promotions to develop, communicate, and distribute ideas to make modern marketers more effective. 

Understanding Connected TV: Including CTV in Your Omnichannel Approach

While Connected TV (CTV) is a powerful media tactic in its own right, one of the most valuable ways to leverage this tool is within an omnichannel strategy, connecting it to the power of multiple media sources to drive sales. The good news is that marketers have quite a few options for effectively executing CTV as part of their larger strategy.

Recently, Nuttipol Thuwirat, director of strategy development at Vericast, and Mary Heman, Vericast’s executive director of shopper marketing discussed this topic in virtual conversation.

This is a part of series of posts intended to help you understand CTV. Here are links to other posts in the series, with more coming soon:

To get more details about consumer sentiment toward advertising media like CTV, download our 2021 Consumer Optimism Outlook.

Matthew Tilley is senior director of content marketing for Valassis and leads content marketing for the company. He has more than 20 years of experience in digital advertising and consumer promotions to develop, communicate, and distribute ideas to make modern marketers more effective. 

The Increasingly Socially Conscious Consumer

The socially conscious consumer segment has been around for decades, becoming a catalyst for change. However, this is no longer a niche market. It represents more and more of what mainstream consumers expect from brands. And this trend only accelerated during the pandemic, as revealed in our 2021 Consumer Intel Report entitled “The Cautious Return to a New World.

The socially conscious consumer makes mindful purchase decisions, deliberately buying ethical and environmentally friendly products. They vote for their values with their wallet. In fact, 45% said they are willing to pay more for sustainable products.

From activism to consumerism

Environmental concerns have long been an issue for consumers. And they remain the top consideration for socially conscious consumers. Aside from sustainability, consumers also care about diversity and inclusivity, gender equality, poverty eradication, support for small businesses, animal protection and more. And they want to buy from brands that reflect the same values and support the same causes.

Data from 2021 Consumer Intel Report

Consumers also exert power as activists, making their preferences known by their purchase decisions. This compels companies to change and to take a stand. Over the years, this social activism has given rise to specific demands for corporate social responsibility, sustainability, ethical consumerism, fair trade and conscious capitalism.

And these social movements have taken greater power through social media. As more people become more aware of the issues, brands are even more influenced — and even pressured — to act.

Consumers are people first

Companies think in terms of consumers, shoppers, unique selling propositions, product positioning and brand personality. These have their place and can be helpful. In fact, price, quality and value remain critical factors for purchasing decisions. However, consumers also factor in their social, health and environmental concerns in the equation.

That is because buying or consuming is only one part of who they are as humans. They do want good value for their money. But they also care about values. Fifty-two percent of respondents said it’s important for them to buy from companies whose values match theirs. That’s a huge spike from 43% in 2019.

And the values they care about now are increasingly about the impact they make on their family, community, country and planet. And they consider these values in making decisions about where they live, who they work for and where they buy from.

Meeting people where they are

People prefer to have familiarity, consistency and connection with the brands they buy from. They are wary of marketing messages that only play to base desires. And they are distrustful of companies that project a positive image, only to find out they are unethical in sourcing or production. They dislike greenwashing, misleading marketing claims that products or business practices are sustainable when they are not.

Bar chart from 2021 Consumer Intel Report comparing 2021 vs. 2019 consumer sentiment re: brand messages

Companies need to be consistent and transparent to win their trust and loyalty. In our 2021 Consumer Intel Report, 76% of survey respondents said they are more likely to buy from a brand or store they trust, up from 71% in 2019. Twenty-one percent plan their in-store shopping with recommendations from family and friends. And 47% are more likely to purchase a brand that shares reviews from users.

Of course, brands need to be authentic and relatable to connect with their customers. That means their marketing messages should reflect their market. Forty-two percent are more likely to purchase from a brand or store whose ads feature people like them.

Massive changes and social shifts

The past year has been marked by unrest and tragedy. From racial injustice and climate change to pandemic deaths and the loss of jobs. People have become more sensitive about what they buy and who they buy from.

Fifty-four percent of consumers are more likely to be loyal to a brand or store that shares its efforts to be environmentally responsible or has sustainable and ethical business practices. And this figure is highest among millennials, parents, and millennial parents, with 72% saying so.

There is also strong support for local small businesses, many of which have been severely affected by the lockdown. Sixty-one percent of consumers prefer to shop at local, neighborhood stores.

The cost-conscious consumer

Yes, socially conscious consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable products from ethical and responsible companies. And with the slow reopening of the economy, people are becoming more optimistic, even excited to spend more. Some 18% of consumers are looking for more opportunities to treat themselves and others in their household.

However, many others have been affected financially by the pandemic. Seventy percent of those whose income was impacted in 2020 expect this to remain the case in 2021. As a result, 72% increased their saving behaviors during COVID, with 82% planning to continue to do the same in 2021. Even if they care as much about ethical, sustainable, and conscious consumption, the reality forces them to prioritize price.

As such, brands need to be sensitive in their messaging and promotions. They should strike a balance between addressing the preferences of optimistic, socially conscious consumers and the financial needs of their cautious, budget-conscious customers.

Learn more about today’s consumers

The socially conscious consumer is just one of the major themes that emerged from our 2021 Consumer Intel Report. It covers the shopping habits, home lives, work lives and financial situations of consumers, and how COVID has impacted it all. It also reveals the cautious optimism many share as we look forward to a post-pandemic world.

To learn more about conscious consumption and other trends, and how marketers should respond, download the full report

Matthew Tilley is senior director of content marketing for Valassis and leads content marketing for the company. He has more than 20 years of experience in digital advertising and consumer promotions to develop, communicate, and distribute ideas to make modern marketers more effective. 

Woman at grocery store checkout

What Will Universal Digital Coupons Mean for Retailers?

There’s a new type of coupon being introduced into the grocery market. It’s called the universal digital coupon. And, while we’ve discussed the benefits for marketers and consumers, the benefits to retailers are especially exciting.

First, these new coupons will help retailers engage with shoppers who don’t yet belong to their loyalty programs. Second, early adoption of these new coupons may offer a competitive edge with shoppers looking for deals and value. Third, the technology and controls of universal digital coupons will help retailers mitigate some of the fraud risks they face today.

Expanding Shopper Engagement Opportunities

Discount coupons clearly play an important role in helping grocery retailers reward loyal customers and win new ones. Coupons can help drive incremental shopping trips and bigger basket sizes.

And, as people have become comfortable with the digital ecosystem, more shoppers are looking online for savings. In the past decade, digital coupon use has seen impressive growth in the grocery sector. Representing a mere 6.9% of all grocery coupons redeemed in the U.S. back in 2012, digital coupons have nearly quadrupled their share to account for 27% of all redemption in 2020.1

Despite the impressive growth, there remains an important segment of shoppers that most of today’s digital coupons simply can’t engage. That’s because most digital coupons need to be activated through a retailer’s loyalty program.

These loyalty-connected offers play an important role in the promotion mix by building and rewarding loyalty with existing customers. However, this older generation of digital coupons also leaves a critical gap; they can’t help retailers engage shoppers beyond their loyalty programs.

Why does that matter?

1. No matter how great their loyalty programs may be, many retailers will have a substantial segment of shoppers who don’t use them. A Synchrony Financial poll revealed that only about 80% of American adults belong to some type of loyalty program, leaving a full 20% that do not belong to any. According to KPMG, “One in seven millennials do not belong to any program.” And, some research indicates even worse statistics: “Only about half of male shoppers reported using a grocery loyalty program during the previous three months compared to 65% of female shoppers.” That leaves a huge segment of shoppers that grocery retailers simply cannot engage with via loyalty-based coupons.

2. It’s important for retailers to be seen as welcoming all shoppers and helping them save money — not just the members of their loyalty programs.

3. No retailer wants to lose sales to its competitors. Capturing a $50 shopping trip from an occasional shopper is worth just as much as capturing a $50 trip from a loyal shopper — maybe even more, since every trip captured from a non-loyal customer provides a new opportunity to turn them into a loyal customer.

4. The beauty of the new universal digital coupon is that it fills this void left by the current digital coupon format. Since universal digital coupons can be used by shoppers without being activated through a loyalty program, retailers can use them to engage this large and valuable segment of shoppers.

Gaining a Competitive Edge

Universal digital coupons are still in their infancy. It will take time for retailers to make adjustments to their point-of-sale systems and front-end processes, so they can accept these new coupons. This creates an opportunity for the retailers who move quickly and start accepting universal digital coupons first.

According to research by Washington University in St. Louis, 83% of surveyed shoppers regularly visited between four and nine chain stores over the course of a year to purchase groceries. Less than 1% stayed loyal to just one store. What’s more, the research found “a substantial number of shoppers who are ‘cherry pickers’ clipping coupons and shopping from store to store for bargains.”

In other words, retailers must compete for every shopping trip — even among their ‘loyal’ shoppers — particularly when deals and savings are up for grabs. When a shopper leaves the house or logs onto a third-party website site like Instacart, it’s up to the individual retailer to lure that shopper to their storefront over the competitors’. Retailers who adopt universal digital coupons first will have a whole new array of manufacturer-sponsored savings opportunities to use in that battle — opportunities that the slow-to-market competitors simply cannot offer.

Advancing Coupon Security Measures

Retailers should be happy to learn that universal digital coupons feature built-in controls to promote security. These include offer validation to make them resistant to counterfeiting and streamlined purchase validation to enforce coupon terms.

What’s more, there are plans to extend the essential technology and controls underpinning universal digital coupons to a new type of paper coupon. So, over time, manufacturers would have opportunities to shift their paper coupon distribution volume to a type of paper coupon that includes these built-in validation and anti-counterfeiting measures. As a result, retailers could see some of their biggest concerns with coupons being alleviated.

Taking the First Steps

Of course, reaping the benefits of universal digital coupons requires retailers to be ready to accept them. Retailers can reach out to The Coupon Bureau, the non-profit data exchange that offers connectivity to a centralized database of universal digital coupon offers, for more information.

As important as loyalty-based channels may be, a true omnichannel strategy also means engaging with shoppers beyond the loyalty program. For more about the omnichannel savings opportunities that people are wanting, check out our latest snapshot of coupon distribution and redemption activity from the first half of 2021.

1 Projections based on measurements and proprietary modeling of market activity by Vericast’s NCH Coupon Solutions

An industry veteran, Meggie Giancola specializes in connecting the dynamics of the CPG ecosystem and the Valassis/NCH suite of solutions, providing strategic thought leadership in marketing strategy, analytical solutions, media activations, and performance measurement. She is a graduate of Miami University and an active member of the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation.

In the Age of Consumer Privacy, Relevance Is King

Privacy and the management of user data have become primary considerations among advertisers, consumers and legislators. Brands not only must secure, but they must also responsibly use, consumer data — completely changing how the business of advertising will be done going forward.

The challenge now is how advertisers can best operate in this new world.

As consumers take more control of their personal information, advertisers may be restricted in how and when they do one-to-one targeting. But that does not mean that brands can never use data or must only generically advertise. Rather, they have to treat consumers as people, not merely data points. That means brands must use data in ways that respect consumer choices and preferences. And that makes targeted marketing based on demographics, interests, location or other consumer information just as essential as ever for effective marketing campaigns.

Relevance still wins

Consumers have always appreciated relevant advertising — that’s not a new development with the demand for privacy. And recent research only serves to underscore the importance of relevance which found that more than half of consumers have a positive view of brands that send them relevant messages and deals. During the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly 90% of consumers surveyed indicated an appreciation for brands that delivered relevant and timely information.

So, relevance may be the best tool marketers have in their efforts to maintain and respect consumer privacy. But what does it look like to engage consumers in a privacy-safe but relevant way? Here are four practical recommendations:

1. Find partners with both brains and brawn

The formula for relevance is data-driven insights plus the tactical prowess to execute marketing across the channels that matter. Just getting the data right — ensuring opt-in, using advanced modeling, and the like — is only half the battle. Even if you have a willing and interested audience, they may not want to learn about your brand in their social media feed. But they may be very open to a deal in their mailbox.

Being relevant means being able to identify and understand your audience in a privacy-sensitive way. But it also means engaging those right people in the ways — email, display ads, mobile devices, connected TV, direct mail, etc. — that resonate with them without losing the power of your data.

That puts getting the right martech partners at the top of your list. You need companies on your side who can take on the twin challenges of intelligence (the brains) and execution (the brawn) to win the hearts and minds of everyone in your audience.

This lets advertisers deliver multichannel advertising to a richer ideal prospect pool to grow their businesses.

As the marketplace evolves, the best partners will continue to adapt and innovate their technology to help brands reach and engage today’s omnichannel consumer to drive commerce.

2. Don’t put all your marketing into one technique

With consumers taking more control of their data, the industry is likely poised to see a decrease in precise location data and fewer device signals. Smaller audiences will, in turn, limit the ability to reach consumers at scale to drive performance. Similarly, the digital identifiers used to deliver individualized ad experiences may be limited. For example, mobile device IDs and cookies may soon be off the table, requiring advertisers to look to other means of understanding consumer behavior.

Changes like these are a constant in ad tech. Instead of fearing these changes, embrace them!

That will require partnering with companies that can easily adapt to these changes and continue to drive performance. The right partners should put you out front in the data and privacy revolution—and on the side of the consumer.

3. Build on what you know to get the scale you need

In conversations about consumer privacy, so much emphasis tends to be put on what you don’t or can’t know. But you likely know a lot about your best and most loyal buyers — and much of it was given to you — with permission — by your customers.

You certainly want to meet and engage more buyers. But that can be a matter of leveraging your owned and opted-in first-party data to build predictive look-alike models. One of the best ways to do this is targeting at the neighborhood level. This natural grouping of consumers enables you to make reasonable and intelligent assumptions and can be your most sustainable method of marketing. And with an integrated marketing platform that gets smarter each time you reach out to your audience, you can identify people who have interests similar to your top prospects … and you can reach them at scale.

But this will require good partners who can analyze diverse data sources and use proven advanced modeling techniques to go beyond one-to-one targeting to reach people who fit your ideal profile.

4. Never underestimate the power of creativity

Being an interesting brand simply means having a sense of what your audience cares about and speaking to it in a compelling way. That makes creativity an important element of relevance, regardless of whether you’re taking an entertaining or informational approach. Best-in-breed technologies play a crucial role in making this a reality.

This is ultimately about respecting consumers as people, not just data points. As people, we’re more complex than any one dimension of interest or past purchase may suggest. For example, the Valassis Consumer Graph combines compelling insights about in-store visits, past purchases, coupon redemptions and a host of other data points to help you identify larger segments — locally, regionally or across the country — of qualified consumers likely to be in the market for certain products or categories.

Marketing is a lot like being invited to a party. Once your brand is at that party, you need to create, cultivate and curate the contacts you make in an engaging, relevant, and — yes — privacy-compliant manner. But it all starts with making authentic connections with people who have a real interest in what you’re talking about and then respectfully engaging with them as people first.

Kelly Kimura is senior director of product management at Vericast where he oversees the award-winning Consumer Graph. In addition to product management, his background includes product and business planning with large companies, including Microsoft and Ford Motor Company, as well as several software startups. Kelly has held multiple leadership roles and led sales team restructuring through two acquisitions including as chief of staff to the business unit general manager at Oracle where he oversaw all operations and planning across worldwide sales, marketing, engineering, services, and business unit reporting.

Is Your Marketing Future-Proof?

The world of marketing is dynamic and ever-evolving — perhaps now more than ever before.

What worked to engage and convert the customer yesterday might not work today.

And it definitely won’t work tomorrow.

With things changing so rapidly, marketing teams need to be on their toes at all times to continue meeting the needs of their audience and maintaining relevance in their industry.

Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for marketing teams — and entire companies — to get swept away in a sea of constant change. The inability to adapt is, in many ways, one of the top reasons marketing initiatives fail.


Adapting to change doesn’t have to mean constantly scrambling to keep up.

The more efficient approach is to future-proof your marketing efforts and initiatives, overall.

What Does It Mean To Future-Proof Your Marketing — and Why Is It Important?

To future-proof your marketing is to ensure that your marketing team can handle any sweeping changes that come their way in terms of customer expectations, industry trends, and all in-between.

While adapting to change will always take effort, future-proofing removes the need to start from scratch or reinvent the wheel with every marketing initiative you put together.

Future-proofing your approach to marketing means putting structures and processes in place to stay agile as your industry evolves. In some cases, this may mean identifying emerging technology to invest in. In others, it may mean keeping closer tabs on the changing winds in your industry. In still others, future-proofing your marketing may mean improving your understanding of your customers’ evolving needs, altogether.

In any case, a future-proof approach to marketing will allow you to stay competitive within your industry — and to continuously be able to deliver value to your customers as time marches on.

Four Important Steps Toward Future-Proofing Your Marketing

Future-proofing your marketing efforts will likely require you to rethink, revisit, or even revamp parts of your current approach.

Here, we’ll take a look at the most common areas to focus on.

Focus Less On What Works, and More On Why It Works

As we said at the beginning, what works in the marketing world today may be completely irrelevant and ineffective tomorrow.

However, the underlying reasons why certain tactics are effective at certain moments typically remain pretty constant. If you’re just focused on what’s working — or what isn’t — you’ll have a very rough time figuring out which direction to turn in the future.

But, by understanding why a certain marketing strategy or tactic is so effective, you can replicate and continue to build on this success over time.

Take, for example, the evolution of FAQ pages into knowledge bases and concierge-like support via chatbot. While FAQ pages typically provide basic answers to quick questions, the latter two can be used to deliver in-depth, highly relevant information to the customer as needed.

It’s not that “customers want chatbots instead of FAQ pages nowadays.” The lesson to take away, in this example, is that modern consumers want instant and user-friendly access to comprehensive information regarding the brands they patronize.

See the difference?

In understanding the reason the latter two have become more popular, shifting from a basic FAQ page to a chatbot-powered knowledge base would be a logical next step for your team. If your takeaway is “no one visits our FAQ page anymore,” you’d have very little idea of what more you could be doing to better serve your audience.

“Avoid getting stuck in the past and doing what ‘you’ve always done.'” “Look to the future: It’s a great time for experimentation.” – Kelly Kimura, senior director of product management at Valassis

The same applies to your brand’s approach to messaging: Understanding why certain messages resonate with your audience will allow you to expand on your messages, and to communicate them in various ways throughout your customers’ experiences with your brand.

(In other words, it’s not about finding a few key phrases and sticking to them; it’s about allowing your message to evolve with your customers’ expectations.)

To future-proof your marketing, stop worrying about the “thing” you’re delivering your customers — and stay focused on the value that “thing” brings to their lives.

Stay Driven By Data and Context

To be blunt, taking your “best guess” as to what will work for your marketing efforts in the future won’t get you anywhere.

You also don’t want to fall into the trap of making uninformed decisions first, then using the data you’ve collected to rationalize your decision.

Instead, in the interest of future-proofing your marketing efforts, you need to become wholly driven by data.

This goes back to focusing on the reasons a certain marketing initiative worked so well (or why it didn’t). In staying data-driven, the info you collect on your customers and within your industry will allow you to paint a crystal clear path for your marketing team’s future efforts.

More than just looking at this data on paper, being data-driven means understanding the context in which this data exists. This will provide even further insight into why a campaign or initiative was or wasn’t effectively able to engage your audience — and will allow you to make laser-focused improvements moving forward.

In many cases, what will work in the future for your marketing team can be determined by the data you collect today. Stay data-driven, and you’ll always be able to stay one step ahead of your competition.

Diversify Your Marketing Efforts

By today’s standards, multichannel (and, ideally, omnichannel) marketing is vital to the success of your business.

So, for starters, future-proofing your marketing efforts means actively looking to branch out to new and emerging channels as time goes on.

“There’s no one media type that works for everything.” – Kelly Kimura

But, this doesn’t mean you need to be active on every digital channel under the sun. Nor does it mean jumping onto a newly emerging channel just because it’s the newest platform on the block.

Instead, you need to look for the channels that will allow you to most effectively engage with and deliver value to your audience.

Moreover, you need to ensure your team is equipped to optimize your presence and overall approach to each marketing channel you use. Perhaps the only thing worse than not knowing how to reach your audience is knowing how to do so — but not being able to effectively do it.

Speaking of which …

Invest in the Right Technology

This is pretty straightforward.

Without the latest and greatest marketing technology in hand, you’re going to have a tough time keeping up with your future competition.

Now, chances are you already have a pretty decent-sized MarTech stack.

It’s of critical importance that you continue adding to it over time. Whether you’re looking to improve internal communications, supercharge audience research, or enhance your customer experience in some way, technology is the key to making it happen.

Again, this doesn’t mean splurging on every marketing tool available.

Your goal is to identify your team’s needs and your customers’ expectations — and figure out which available tools will allow you to continue meeting them both now and in the future.

Valassis, A Vericast Business, offers marketing tools to help teams stay up-to-date with the latest info, news, and events in their industry — and allows them to use this data to better serve their customers daily.

Take a closer look at the tools we offer, then get in touch with our team to learn more!

For more on how to future-proof your marketing, check out a replay of our webinar, The New Era of Personalized Marketing: Data, Analytics & Customer Insights.

Matthew Tilley is senior director of content marketing for Valassis and leads content marketing for the company. He has more than 20 years of experience in digital advertising and consumer promotions to develop, communicate, and distribute ideas to make modern marketers more effective. 

Woman watching TV with remote in hand

Understanding Connected TV: Describing the CTV Audience

Analysis of CTV campaigns certainly can offer you a clear picture of who you are reaching with each campaign and the tactic necessarily allows for some great personalization. But the question is whether the CTV audience is fundamentally different than you can reach otherwise.

In a recent virtual conversation with two consumer technology and trend experts — Nuttipol Thuwirat, Director of Strategy Development at Vericast and Rachel Dalton, Director of Ecommerce and Omnichannel at Kantar — Vericast’s Executive Director of Shopper Marketing, Mary Heman posed this very question:

First, how is the CTV audience different from other channels?

Second, is this CTV audience just a temporary thing?


This is a part of series of posts intended to help you understand CTV. Here is a link to the first post of the series (additional posts coming soon): Defining CTV.

To get more details about consumer sentiment toward advertising media like CTV, download our 2021 Consumer Optimism Outlook.

Matthew Tilley is senior director of content marketing for Valassis and leads content marketing for the company. He has more than 20 years of experience in digital advertising and consumer promotions to develop, communicate, and distribute ideas to make modern marketers more effective. 

Coupons Not Meeting Shopper Expectations in 2021

Businesses exist to serve their customers. Any business that consistently fails to meet its customers’ needs won’t survive long. So, the customer always has to come first.

Unfortunately, distribution and redemption numbers for U.S. grocery coupons seem to indicate that marketers were not fully aligning themselves with consumer expectations for deals and coupons during the first half of 2021.

The numbers reveal two separate disconnects.

Disconnect: Not Aligning to Consumers’ Demand for Coupon Savings

Although marketers significantly reduced the number of grocery coupons they made available during the first half of 2021 (-10.8% vs. the same period last year), consumers showed strong demand for whatever coupon savings they could find. As a result, the redemption of grocery coupons fell by a smaller percentage (-7.9%) than distribution.

Graphs comparing first half 2021 coupon distribution and redemption trends

Even more striking, as people began to regain some semblance of normalcy in their lives during the second quarter, they actually redeemed 27.8% more coupons compared to the same period last year.

Despite Declining Distribution, Redemption Grew in the Second Quarter of 2021

Bar charts comparing Q2 2021 and Q2 2020 redemption

Two key factors appear to be driving the heightened demand for coupons:

1. Shoppers finally have favorable conditions for using grocery coupons.

With cleared shelves and fewer options to choose from, as well as a reluctance to go into stores, the pandemic made it much harder for people to use the grocery coupons they had. Now, as we regain some semblance of normalcy, shoppers are finally finding themselves in conditions that are more favorable to using the coupons they have available to them.

Over the first half of 2021, the grocery supply chain has started to return to a state that at least approximates normalcy. As a result, shoppers now have more access to the products they need and the brands they prefer. And, a majority of people are feeling more optimistic about their health, so they are more willing to venture back into stores. For example, surveys conducted in February and March for our 2021 Consumer Optimism Outlook found that 52% of vaccinated people were comfortable shopping in stores – a number that climbs to 54% for millennials and 57% for parents. As a result, conditions have started to become more conducive to shoppers using the coupons they have available to them.

Pie charts showing comfort level of shopping inside stores for vaccinated, millennials, and parents

2. Lingering financial pressures have heightened the demand for deals.

Our 2021 Consumer Optimism Outlook found that nearly half of consumers said their household income was negatively impacted by COVID in 2020. Among those consumers, 70% expect their incomes to remain negatively impacted in 2021. With financial concerns top of mind, consumers are looking for ways to save money. More than 70% said they increased their saving behaviors during COVID, with 82% planning to continue those behaviors.

In short, consumers are looking for good deals. To their credit, that’s exactly what marketers delivered with the quality of coupons they offered during the first half of 2021. Compared to the same period in 2020, the average face value offered increased 9.3% to $2.58 per coupon, and the average time to redeem an offer increased 5.4%. At the same time, purchase requirements did not become materially more burdensome; the share of coupons requiring the purchase of more than one item grew by only one share point to 22%.

Icons showing avg. face value, coupon duration, and multiple purchase frequency

The quality of coupons offered may have been responsive to consumers’ demand for a good deal, but with a 10.8% decrease in distribution volume, the quantity of coupons offered was not. As a result, we saw distribution and redemption volumes take very different trajectories throughout the first half of 2021, especially in the second quarter.

Disconnect: Not Aligning to Consumers’ Demand for an Omnichannel Experience

During the first half of 2021, marketers continued to scale back coupon distribution across all media except digital formats. They increased their distribution of digital paperless coupons by 45%, and they increased their distribution of digital print-at-home coupons by 20%.

Bar chart showing first half 2021 CPG coupon distribution shares & indices by medium

Naturally, with the growth of online shopping and saving behaviors, consumers ended up redeeming more digital coupons over the first half of 2021. Although they redeemed 16% fewer digital print-at-home coupons, they made up for it with a 42% increase in the redemption of digital paperless coupons. But, unlike the marketers who were trying to connect with them, shoppers did not turn their backs on more traditional places of finding coupons. In fact, they redeemed 10% more direct mail coupons.

Bar chart showing first half 2021 CPG coupon redemption shares & indices by media

Consumers have made it clear that they expect a consistent experience across online and offline channels.1 In order to deliver that experience, brands and retailers have rightfully expanded online savings opportunities. But, a true omnichannel experience requires marketers to keep supporting traditional offline channels. If anything, they should be leveraging data and emerging technologies to enhance their use of offline media channels in ways that complement the online experience.

Brands and Retailers at the Crossroads

CPG marketers and retailers are at a critical juncture. They can continue, as some have done, to disregard the expectations of their consumers. Or, they can align themselves more fully to demands for readily and conveniently available coupon savings across a variety of online and offline channels.  The choice is up to each individual brand and retailer. But, those that fail to embrace the expectations of their consumers do so at their own peril.

For more about what’s on the mind of the consumer at this critical point in time, check out our 2021 Consumer Intel Report, The Cautious Return to a New World.

Amanda Ivanovic, a manager of insights & strategy at Vericast, has been providing analytical support for our NCH coupon redemption solutions since 2012, and she has been spearheading the company’s efforts to aggregate and report on coupon industry trends since 2014. With a bachelor’s degree and mathematics teaching certificate from Eastern Illinois University, Amanda is highly skilled at bringing industry data to life in ways that are meaningful to our customers.

125 Amazing Omnichannel Statistics Every Marketer Should Know,” V12. Updated June 29, 2021.