By Yuki Noguchi
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
Bargain shoppers know the value of the coupons that come in the Sunday paper or arrive in the mail in a baby-blue envelope -- 10 percent off of carpet cleaning or buy-one-get-one-free at your favorite neighborhood restaurant.
Now, those coupons are available online -- courtesy of coupon dealer Valpak and Internet giant Google Inc.
Google is pairing its popular online maps service with Valpak's roster of local merchants, allowing users surfing the Web for a dry cleaner, say, or a pizza joint to also get a coupon served up alongside the location of the place.
Click, print, go.
The goal is not only to make the Internet a more appealing destination for consumers to shop but also an easier place for businesses to advertise.
The Google service includes a feature that allows small- and medium-size businesses to market themselves through their own coupons, which in turn appear below the map and address when a prospective buyer searches the local area for "dry cleaning" or "day spa."
"The Internet becomes a place for consumers to look for local discounts," said Greg Sterling, founder and analyst with the California research firm Sterling Market Intelligence.
It will also allow both retailers and Google to understand better how the Internet drives traffic to stores, he said. Currently, Google's advertising business is measured by the number of times a person clicks on an ad, which is an opaque way of measuring consumer interest. By tracking the clicks, the number of printed coupons and the number of people who bring those coupons into the store, those companies will be able to better understand how the Internet influences consumer behavior, he said.
At its launch today, the service will have more than 20,000 coupons available online, from a roster of advertisers that have relationships with Valpak, a company that mails out 45 million envelopes monthly to households throughout North America. For Valpak, which is based in Largo, Fla., the partnership with Google was a way to enhance the digital distribution of its coupons, said Todd Leiser, vice president and manager of Valpak.com.
"It will enhance the user experience for local shopping," said Gokul Rajaram, a director of product management for Google.