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Toronto company revolutionizes coupon cutting

Loblaw and Longo's sign on with mobile coupon app Coupgon

Since its launch in 2013, mobile coupon app Coupgon has increased its presence to about 800 stores across Canada. Canadian Grocer spoke to Sinead Archbold, vice-president, operations at Coupgon about the growth. Here's an edited version of the conversation.

How does Coupgon work?

Customers can download Coupgon from the app store onto their iPhone, Android or Blackberry. The first time you open up the app, you need to pick the store you want to shop at and create an account. Our new offers come out on Thursdays, and are automatically uploaded to the app.

A big thing for us was keeping things really familiar to traditional paper coupons. You use scissors to cut out paper coupons–you tap scissors in our app to use digital coupons. Shoppers can clip from anywhere, but can only redeem the offers when they’re at the checkout, where they scan a sign that reads ‘redeem your Coupgon here.’ One scan activates all of the offers. The shopper presents their phone to the cashier and they save instantly.

Why was Coupgon created?

Our CEO was talking about coupons while playing basketball with a friend. He made a couple of phone calls to one of his original partners and myself and said ‘I’ve got it.’ He created a whole Powerpoint presentation built on the idea. We immediately bought in. We didn’t even realize the power of the idea until we started investigating it more. We were three people that just kind of thought it was cool.

Do customers find the redemption process complicated?

I don’t think so–I think it’s simple. New users need to get used to scanning the code and showing their phone to a cashier, but it’s easy to pick up once you’ve done it once. All our customers use this app regularly. Our active rate per month is seven opens–seven uses of the app from our active users.

How has the app grown?

When we started this , we were in 24 stores. Now we’re in nearly 800 stores, and growing. A new user registers on our app nearly every minute of the day, and we’ve done next to no marketing, with the exception of Superstores signing on.

Loblaw was a big launch for us on the east coast. We did a pilot with them that we’re just wrapping up, and then we are going to expand to some of their banners in Ontario and out West. In the next couple of months we expect to be in another 200 locations.

We’re looking at the Zehrs group and other independent banners. We’re launching in Longo’s next (week), which is an exciting one for us as we’re based out of downtown Toronto. For the first couple of years, we weren’t even able to use our own app.

Giant Tiger was our first national partner and our first real presence in Quebec. We’re also in the Coleman's in Newfoundland and Federated Co-op.

We’ve been at Calgary Co-op a little over a year and we already represent a little over 35% of their total coupon intake.

What does the future hold for you?

We’re in the middle of patenting probably the most advanced shopping list you will have ever seen. It will be its own separate app because we think it will appeal to so many people.

We’re also testing our beacon technology in Calgary Co-op stores. When you walk through the aisles of the store, and you’ll be getting alerts. Imagine stopping in the chips aisle and trying to decide between Lay's and Doritos, and “bing” you get a notification telling you that if you purchase the Lay's chips in the next 45 minutes, you’ll save an extra $1.50.

When you tie beacons into the technology of the smartphone, we can actually figure out time and aisle position of the phone, or what direction the customer is facing. We could find out the shopping path of males between 35 and 37 when they enter the store after 6 p.m. The brands are excited about that for obvious reasons. It’s not one of those big brother creepy things–you have to opt into it. We never push services on people. We ask them if they’d like to get special coupons when they walk into the store, and the customer would have to say yes.

How are you working with retailers that have their own loyalty programs?

It’s hard to get a retailer who has their own app to promote a third party app like ours, so we’ve created a solution where a customer can be, for example, on the PC Points app and have another Coupgon tab they can open. The Coupgon app will actually launch our library of offers, but to the consumer it appears you’re still with the PC Points app. We’re just fueling it from behind the scenes.

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