Consumers' usage of coupon web sites is increasing, most notably among the highest education and income brackets, according to the second annual Consumer Coupon Behaviour Benchmark Survey commissioned by web-based coupon distribution service RetailMeNot.com. This article is copyright 2009 The Best Customer Guide.

The survey also found that coupons have become the deciding factor in the purchases of a growing number of consumers.

With the ongoing recession putting extra pressure on household budgets, nearly half of the online adults surveyed (45%) said they plan to spend less money on gifts in the 2009 holiday season, compared to the 2008 holiday season.

In order to save money, 62% said they now look for coupons for online stores, and 12% said they never make a purchase without checking an online coupon web site first (a significant increase from 8% in the 2008 survey).

"Consumers are more aware of their spending than ever and are very active in trying to find the best deals. Coupon web sites are still growing rapidly in popularity, with nearly two-thirds of consumers checking for coupons when they shop online," said Guy King, co-founder of RetailMeNot.com. "As a result, we are seeing more and more merchants embracing coupons as a way to connect with budget-conscious shoppers."

Among the survey's other findings, coupon usage was seen to be increasing not only across nearly all demographics, but actually highest among the employed and educated (i.e. college graduated). For example:

  • 29% of college graduates use coupon web sites to find good deals, compared to 24% of those with some college and 20% of those with an education level of high school or less. In 2008, these numbers were 23%, 20% and 20% respectively.
  • 27% of online adults that work full time or are self-employed use coupon web sites (up from 22% in 2008), while 22% of online adults that are unemployed use coupon web sites (up from 18%), and 25% of students use coupon web sites (up from 23%). Perhaps not surprisingly, 18% of retired online adults use coupon web sites (up from 14%).

Consumers also appear to be increasingly defining their spending habits by whether or not retailers offer coupons:

  • 30% of online adults said they will not make a purchase at an online store if they can't find a coupon for that store (up from 27% in 2008).
  • 22% of online adults said they will go to a different store to make a purchase (up from 20% in 2008), while 8% will wait until a coupon is available to make the purchase (the same percentage as in 2008).

Of particular interest of lifestyle marketers, large families and homes with children are one of the fastest growing demographics to use coupon web sites:

  • 30% of online adults in households with children use coupon web sites (up from 24% in 2008), while only 22% of online adults in households with no children use coupon web sites (up from 20%).
  • 31% of online adults in households of five or more people use coupon web sites (up from 15%), while only 15% of online adults that live alone use coupon web sites (down from 17%).

Among the survey's other findings, the largest age group to use coupon web sites is 35-44 at 41%, while married adults who use tools or web sites to find good deals are significantly more likely to use coupon web sites (39%) compared to 29% of those who are single or never married, and 21% of divorced adults.