Why use paper coupons in the digital age?

Stop giving me more paper!

It has been a while since I published my last supermarket-related article Is False Conversation Really Good Customer Service? So I feel the need for another release and this time I am targeting the paper coupon.

Every time I shop at my chosen supermarket I am given a huge bundle of paper along with my receipt. Although receipts can get annoying once they begin to accumulate in your wallet, I do recognise their necessity. It is the paper I am given alongside the receipts that really angers me. The supermarket in question gives me a piece of paper that informs me how much more expensive or inexpensive my shop has been when compared to their largest supermarket rival. If my chosen supermarket doesn’t perform well against their competitor’s prices then I get a paper voucher with some money off my next shop. Sounds good right? Wrong!

This annoying piece of paper has an average value of about £1 but can be as little as £0.30. So it is stuffed in my wallet along with a huge receipt and a couple of additional coupons giving me promotional offers on things I don’t need.

I don’t need to restock now for a couple of weeks and in the meantime my wallet becomes full to the brim with paper. I routinely empty this to avoid thinking the weight is actually money and sort out the things I need to keep from the things I can throw out. Out comes my coupon — available to use in store by a set date — so it gets put on a shelf ready to grab should I go back to the shop within the given deadline. Herein lies the problem:

a) I generally don’t revisit the store in the time period given.

b) I would not remember to pick it up if I did revisit the store.

c) I am not motivated sufficiently by the value of the voucher to let it change my shopping habits.

As a marketer I understand that vouchers are just as appealing now as when people collected Green Shield Stamps with their fuel to get crystal cut wine glasses back in the day. What surprises me is that we are not yet wholly experiencing that joy through e-vouchers or that the supermarket doesn’t just credit me with loyalty points on the card that I use in their store every time I shop!

My message is this: I don’t want your paper but I do want to get money back when you are more expensive than your rival. Surely as we cut back on plastic bag use we should be cutting out the paper too?

What do you think about the paper voucher? Does it have a place in your world?