CINCINNATI — More than 20,000 Kroger shoppers have already signed up for the retailer's three-week-old electronic coupon program.
They have registered their loyalty cards at Shortcuts, a free paperless online coupon service from AOL. Kroger is the first retailer to join Shortcuts, although other supermarket partnerships are in the works, Shortcuts executive director Sharon Baker told SN.
Baker expects many more Kroger shoppers to join.
The Kroger.com website provides a link to Shortcuts, where participants can set up an account using their Kroger loyalty card number. Members can then search Shortcuts coupons by brand, product or category. Once they see an offer they like, they click on it, and the savings are added to their loyalty card. They can print out a shopping list to remind them of the offers they've chosen. Coupons are automatically applied to their purchases at the checkout once they scan their loyalty card.
As of last week, nine coupons were available, all from General Mills. Participating brands were Green Giant frozen vegetables, Honey Nut Cheerios and Nature Valley granola bars, among others. Face values ranged from 25 cents off one product to $1 off two. General Mills did not return SN's request for comment.
Kroger may eventually include coupons for its private-label products, Baker said.
Additional offers will be posted from Kraft and Kimberly-Clark within the next few weeks, for a total of about 30 offers, Baker said.
Kroger declined SN's request for comment, but Ken Fenyo, the retailer's corporate loyalty vice president, said in a statement that the partnership is a way to build customer loyalty.
“Shoppers are spending more time online and are always looking for ways to save money and save time,” Fenyo said. “Shortcuts is a perfect fit.”
AOL is promoting the service on various AOL properties, such as its food.aol.com website.
“We want to make sure that people are aware there's a new way to get coupons,” Baker said.
AOL planned to send representatives to several hundred Kroger stores last weekend to demo the program and encourage people to register.
The launch of Kroger's Shortcuts comes at a time when Kroger is testing other forms of paperless coupons. Kroger is reportedly piloting a program with Cellfire in which coupons can be downloaded to cell phones.
Kroger is also the retailer partner for Procter & Gamble's “eSaver.” Available via a link on the Kroger website, eSaver allows Kroger customers to load P&G offers onto their Kroger loyalty card accounts.
Meanwhile, a just-released report from coupon processor CMS shows that the 16-year trend of declining coupon redemption rates has ended. Consumers redeemed 2.6 billion coupons in 2007, the same number as the previous year.