AOL Promotes Web Coupons from SuperMarkets Online

SuperMarkets Online seems to be the next company to benefit from the AOL marketing machine. The company has signed an agreement with America Online that will bring the company’s ValuPageSM grocery coupons to the attention of millions of additional users, through AOL’s main service and AOL’s Digital City, a local content network and interactive community guide.

The online coupon program offers a new way for traditional, brick-and-mortar grocery stores to reach shoppers on the Internet. Though the ValuPage online coupon program doesn’t exactly qualify as “e-commerce,” it certainly provides a new way for grocery vendors to promote their brands to a targeted, local audience via the Web. Like other forms of online marketing, it also eliminates the paper waste, printing cost, and postage associated with sending direct mail through the post office.

David Rochon, president of SuperMarkets Online indicates that, as “the largest mass market community in cyberspace,” AOL offers a “very appealing audience” for his company’s online coupon offers.

SuperMarkets Online also announced a similar arrangement in December with iVillage.com, the popular online network for women that claims to have more than 850,000 unique visitors, and more than 77 million page views per month.

Financial terms were not disclosed for either of the two deals.

How It Works

ValuPage users enter their U.S. zip code, choose from a list of local supermarkets, and then print out a current list of products that have coupon rebate offers. The list includes a special bar code for presentation at the checkout stand of participating markets.

When ValuePage shoppers present the coupon list to the cashier, they receive “Web Bucks” for each item they buy that was specified on the list. Web Bucks are cash coupons that shoppers can use to buy anything they want on their next visit to the store. For example, if I buy two boxes of Cheerios cereal this week at my local Ralph’s market, I can get a coupon to save $1 (US$) on my next shopping order at the same store.

Although the ValuPage Web site offers can total up to about $40 per week, the offers are for a limited time only, and only for certain products. From the range of products being offered though, it looks like a typical shopper could save at least a few dollars each week through the program — or more perhaps, if buying for a family.

SuperMarkets Online indicates that more than 9,000 U.S. supermarkets are currently participating in the program. The company first brought coupons to the Internet in 1996. Since then, they have seen the number of consumers using online coupons grow dramatically. Their figures indicate that the site receives more than 600,000 user sessions each week, up from 8,000 visits a year ago.

Company Details

SuperMarkets Online, Inc. is a subsidiary of Catalina Marketing Corporation (NYSE: POS), based in St. Petersburg, Florida. The parent company provides a network of marketing programs to more than 150 consumer goods companies. The company reports that its targeted promotions reach 156 million U.S. shoppers every week, in more than 11,800 supermarkets.

In addition to SuperMarkets Online, the company’s other businesses include Catalina Marketing Services operating in the U.S.; Catalina Marketing International operating in the UK, France and Japan; the Health Resource Publishing Company, which delivers targeted advertising through customized newsletters to pharmacy customers based on prescription purchases; and Market Logic, which specializes in personalized direct marketing programs.

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