Do digital coupons discriminate against those who can least afford it?
Public interests groups are taking aim at digital couponing, saying that the practice is discriminatory insofar as the less tech-savvy consequently pay more.
A letter to the supermarket industry signed by a number of public interest groups alleges that low income shoppers and seniors, demographics that statistically have less access to and a lower level of comfort with technology, are being unfairly restricted from accessing in-store digital-only deals, Consumer World reports.
The letter’s criticisms pertain specifically to those discounts which are advertised in-store on shelves, signage or circulars, but which require customers to digitally redeem them with a loyalty program account. Customers who are able to utilize the deals receive significant discounts while less tech-savvy shoppers miss out.
The letter cites Pew Research estimating that 25 percent of seniors do not use the internet and 39 percent do not have smartphones. It further states that 43 percent of low income households have no broadband internet access.
The criticism of the digital couponing practice comes as a Moody’s Analytics study finds that American households are spending $445 more per month this year on the same grocery items they bought in 2021, according to a KSDK report.
Controversial as it may be, the practice of offering app-based digital coupons is producing growth for retailers.
BJ’s Wholesale Club has experienced a 43 percent growth in digitally-enabled sales since its implementation of coupons that can be digitally “clipped” and redeemed via app, according to PYMNTS. And in a survey cited, 74 percent of 300 major retailers saw a significant risk that customers would switch to another retailer if they did not provide digital coupons.
Developments over the past few years have shown that those retailers who make technology user-friendly for less wired, older demographic groups tend to benefit.
Walgreens, for instance, developed its app with more easily navigable menus, auto-login and other special features that has made it popular with customers 55 and older, a demographic that generally has a lower rate of technological adoption.
- Advocates to Grocers: Stop Digital Discrimination of Unplugged Seniors – Consumer World
- ‘There’s no going in and grabbing things now’: Food inflation impacts shoppers ahead of Thanksgiving – KSDK
- BJ’s Sees 43% Digital Growth With Coupon Push – PYMNTS
- How is Walgreens getting older shoppers to use its mobile app? – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you think it is accurate to say that digital coupons discriminate against some demographics? What should retailers do to make sure populations without tech access can still get advertised discounts, and do they have an obligation to do so?