As consumers move toward using more electronic coupons, we’ve struggled with how to blend the use of paper coupons with the growing mobile coupon phenomenon. Two apps are making that transition seamless, allowing you to use your iPhone camera to shoot pictures of coupons or receipts, and then translate those photos into savings.
If you’re like me, you have the very best intentions when it comes to couponing -- until you enter the store and realize your coupon stack is still sitting on your countertop. Ted Mann found himself in this situation too many times, so he decided to try a new way to remember his coupons -- and ended up creating a successful app in the process.
“I have never been a very conscientious couponer, but I always aspired to be one,” Mann says. “I’m married with two young kids and kept forgetting my coupons when I went to a store like Babies R Us, so about a year and a half ago I started photographing coupons when I got them in the mail. I’d go to the store and show them the coupon on my phone because I figured it was worth a shot since I never had the paper coupons on me, and sure enough, it worked.”
Mann continued his quest with coupons for additional retailers, and it worked from one store to the next. “Nine times out of ten, people in line behind me would ask, ‘What app are you using? Where did you get it?’ and I realized that if I could take that idea, expand on it and build an app around it to make the experience better, it could help a lot of people.”
Mann did just that, creating the Snip Snap app, which allows you to snap photos of retailer's coupons with your phone and share coupons. The app also reminds you when an expiration date is approaching, among other features. “We launched in May and we’re at well over 350,000 users,” Mann says.
Create and Share Bundles
In addition to shooting photos of your own coupons, SnipSnap also lets you create coupon “bundles,” which are similar to folders where you can group only the coupons you need for a particular trip or only those used in a certain category, such as restaurants. You can share your entire bundle with others, and you can follow bundles created by other users.
My favorite feature of the app is when it reminds me that I have coupons at a store as I’m walking into the shop. As I entered Bath & Body Works to buy teacher gifts, the app reminded me that I had “snipped” a coupon in the app for $10 off a $30 purchase, so I actually ended up getting one teacher gift free, thanks to the app.
I have also saved money at Target, PetSmart, Pizza Hut, Chuck E. Cheese, and Olive Garden with SnipSnap, and it includes coupons for many other stores as well, which are tracked by the community based on their effectiveness. If a coupon comes up with a 100% success rate, I’m likely to clip it immediately.
The only downside of the app is that you can’t yet use it for manufacturer’s coupons (which are mainly what you use when grocery shopping). “Manufacturer’s coupons need to be collected by the store to show the manufacturer so they can get paid back,” Mann explains. Without having the piece of paper, the store can’t recoup the savings from the manufacturers. However, SnipSnap is working to incorporate manufacturer savings in the future. Visit the company's website for more information.
Everyone who likes deals knows that combining coupons, sales, and rebates results in maximum savings, but rebates are often hard to come by or are a hassle to process. The Checkout 51 app makes rebates a snap -- literally. All you have to do is check out the weekly deals posted to the site, buy a participating product, snap a photo of your receipt showing that you bought the item, and the app will credit you with cash. Once your savings balance hits $20.00, the company will mail you a check.
A friend of mine in Toronto was raving about this app to me -- she said she has gotten quite a few items free by combining sales, coupons, and Checkout 51 savings. I wasted no time checking for the app on the iTunes store but found that it’s currently only available in Canada. However, the company aims to be in the U.S. by the second half of 2013, Checkout 51’s co-founder Noah Godfrey says.
Stack Your Savings
Every Thursday, Checkout 51 lists its weekly deals. “We have done as few as six and as many as 14,” Godfrey says. “We tend to have about 10 offers per week right now.”
For instance, as of press time, app users who buy three bricks of Philly Cream Cheese will get $4.00 cash back. Right now, my Lowe's Foods has this product on sale for $2.00 each, and I have a coupon for 50 cents off of one brick (which the store will double). This means that if I had the Checkout 51 app, three bricks of it would end up costing me 33 cents each ($6.00 for the three bricks, minus the $1.00 in coupon savings, minus the $4.00 in Checkout 51 savings, which comes out to $1.00, divided by the three bricks that I purchased). Therefore, you can see why many couponers, including me, are absolutely drooling in anticipation of this app entering the U.S. market.
If you’re questioning whether this kind of “deal stacking” will be allowable by Checkout 51, the answer is yes. “Many of our readers combine sales with coupons already, which means that in some cases, they would be getting money back by participating with Checkout 51,” Godfrey says. “Members are permitted to use cash back offers with any other coupon or discount.” Visit the Checkout 51 website for more information about this money-saving app.
Check Out the App Store
Both Checkout 51 and SnipSnap are free and are compatible with both Apple and Android.