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News - 22 August 2009

Raising the bar on voucher schemes

UK Internet searches for discount vouchers have increased by 47.5% in the last 12 months. Both consumers and retailers have cottoned on to a more sophisticated way of using vouchers to improve the retail experience.

Hitwise, a leading online competitive intelligence service and an Experian company, have released figures showing that UK Internet searches for discount vouchers have increased by 47.5% over the last 12 months.

The increase in searches for a portfolio of 4,500+ voucher-related search terms between the weeks ending 02/08/2008 and 01/08/2009 reflects British consumers' hunger for bargains and discounts during the recession.

“Vouchers offering everything from discounts at high end retailers to 2-for-1 pizzas have become immensely popular in UK, as British consumers look for the best deals to save money during the recession,” commented Robin Goad, Director of Research for Hitwise in the UK.

“Discount vouchers really hit the mainstream in the run up to last Christmas, but since then the market has matured and consumers have become increasingly sophisticated in their search for and use of all kinds of discounts. We are seeing the emergence of the 'maximising consumer'; these shoppers don't necessarily buy the cheapest products or services, but they do spend a lot of time researching online before selecting what to buy, and then a bit more time to find the best price or discounts before making a purchase.”

Over the last 12 months, UK Internet searches for generic terms such as 'voucher' or 'discount vouchers' have decreased or remained flat.

The growth in voucher searches has come from people searching for ever more specific deals and discounts for particular products or retailers. During July 2008, UK Internet users searched for 8,300 distinct variations of search terms that contained either the word 'voucher' or 'vouchers'; by July 2009, this figure had more than quadrupled to 34,200.

The first companies to take advantage of the online voucher boom were specialist voucher sites, which aggregated all of the best deals in one place and typically made money by referring traffic to retailers and other websites. During the first phase of the online voucher boom these sites grew rapidly, but over the last 12 months traffic to specialist voucher websites has actually decreased by 5.0%, despite the 47.5% increase in voucher searches.

“Although the popular voucher websites remain significant players online, they no longer dominate the market,” commented Goad. “There are two reasons for this. The first is that consumers have become wary of the more opportunistic voucher websites, which appear high up in the search engine results for voucher related terms but often contain out of date deals - or in some cases no relevant vouchers at all. The other change is that the retailers themselves - both online only and high street players - are trying harder to pick up traffic from voucher searches directly, rather than pay for a link from a voucher website. Online retailers only picked up 28.2% of all UK Internet traffic from voucher searches during July 2008, but by 2009 that figure had increased to 41.5%.”

“It is interesting to see that consumers are becoming more sophisticated in the way they search for bargains online. It is no longer enough to simply offer a voucher. Consumers need to be recognised as individuals that are defined by a particular set of behaviours and discounts need to reflect this,” added Marie Myles, Director of Marketing Consulting for Experian's Integrated Marketing division. “This type of insight will play an instrumental role in raising consumer confidence and encourage the availability of greater and more relevant offers that mirror the needs of the maximising consumer.”

After retailers, restaurants are the sector that has benefited most from the growth in online vouchers over the last 12 months. UK Internet searches for restaurant vouchers have increased by 226.3% over the last 12 months.

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