This article is re-posted from User Centric’s blog.
I know I could save a lot of money on groceries if I used more coupons. But the clipping, sorting, and in-store shuffling is tedious, and often I end up feeling it just is not worth the hassle. That’s why I was intrigued to learn about electronic coupons. Basically, certain websites allow you to load coupons directly to your existing grocery store preferred/savings cards. When the store scans your card, any applicable coupons for items you’ve purchased are automatically redeemed which means no more cutting, organizing or paper hassles!
I decided to evaluate three websites that offer this kind of coupon to see which offers the best user experience (UX) for online grocery card coupons: Coupons.com, Cellfire.com, and ShortCuts.com. There are probably other coupon Web sites out there, but I focused on these three because they came up first on a Google search.
All three sites offer electronic grocery card coupons, but the business model of Cellfire.com is a little different. In addition to offering grocery savings card coupons, Cellfire.com also offers coupons for things like restaurants and local businesses. Cellfire.com has built their business around the increasing popularity of smart phones, which customers can use to redeem coupons without any paper.
I evaluated the sites on four topics: first impression, ability to find information, registration, and searching for and adding coupons:
Table 1. Summary of “winners” in each category.
First impression and overall look & feel
Coupons.com had the most streamlined and visually appealing page layout. It was also easy to find the Savings Card section on the site.
The Coupons.com homepage
Shortcuts.com layout was more disorganized and had ads on the top and sides that made it feel cluttered. It was also confusing to find which section was for online grocery savings card coupons, in part because the headings were not self-explanatory.
The Shortcuts.com homepage
Cellfire.com would rate somewhere in the middle; it had a fairly simple home page layout, since Cellfire.com has all of its coupon types on the same page. However, a large banner ad at the top pushed most of the coupons below the fold.
The Cellfire.com homepage
Finding information on the site about online grocery savings card coupons
Most coupon users are very familiar with paper coupons, including those available to print from websites; and most grocery shoppers are familiar with saving money with their store savings cards. However, linking coupons to a grocery savings card is a fairly new concept, so I felt it should be easy for new users to find this information.
Coupons.com – It was very difficult to find an explanation of the service on Coupons.com. I expected to find an explanation on the “Savings Card” page but after searching there and the “Member Center” tab, I located the “How does it work” FAQ section on the “More” tab.
Shortcuts.com also had a fairly good “what is” section, but it was located at the very bottom of the “Electronic Coupons” page. Most people are not going to scroll down that far when looking for basic information. The explanation would be easier to locate if it was at the top of the home page, or if it was included as part of the registration process.
The Shortcuts.com “What Is…” section
Cellfire.com had a good section explaining what the site is and how it works, and this section was very clearly marked “What is Cellfire?” in an easy-to-find location on the home page.
Coupons.com had the shortest, simplest registration process. In fact, it prompts the user to begin registration when attempting to add your first electronic coupon. It also asked for very little personal information to get started, which sped up the registration process.
Shortcuts.com – The registration process on Shortcuts.com was very easy, but was longer than Coupons.com and required some information I did not feel was necessary, such as my entire birth date (rather than just birth year) and a security question. However, Shortcuts.com was the only site that allowed me to enter some shopping preferences. This means that users can opt out of receiving coupons for things they never would buy (e.g. diapers, pet food, etc.), and get coupons more suitable to what they typically buy.
Cellfire.com was the only site that required a phone number. And though they clearly explain why, I would’ve appreciated the ability to opt out from giving this information since I do not plan to use the smart phone coupon option. Still, the remainder of the registration process was very simple.
Winner: Shortcuts.com (liked the shopping preferences feature)
Searching and adding coupons to my card
All three sites had an easy, one-click option for saving grocery card coupons to my card.
Coupons.com had the most useful categories, which made it easy to browse through the coupons available. However, it was not as easy to see individual details about each coupon. I had to go to a secondary page, “What’s On My Card,” to see expiration dates. For me, this seems like an inconvenience as I sometimes choose coupons based on when they can be redeemed. Still, the “What’s On My Card” section was useful to print out a list of the coupons I’d saved.
ShortCuts.com – The categories on the site seemed to overlap and, based on the labels (“Newest,” “Today’s Top,” “Jimmy Dean,” and “Other”), it was unclear what the difference was between each one. One is left to wonder why Jimmy Dean would have an entire category. I assumed it must be the result of some kind of sponsorship, which makes me a little skeptical. However, on ShortCuts.com I did appreciate the hover-over feature that allows quick and easy viewing of coupon details. Also, information about expiration dates is right up front — no extra clicks are required to see it. Like Coupons.com, Shortcuts.com also offers a way to print out the coupons I’ve saved.
Cellfire.com also makes it easy to see coupon information, but the expiration date labels were confusing (i.e. what’s the difference between “must save” and “expires on”?) and I couldn’t find any clarifying information on the site. Cellfire also had only one grocery category (“Food/Beverage”), which does not narrow things down much at all. It’s easy to see what offers I’ve saved on Cellfire, but there is no way to print them to bring to the store with me. This is probably because of their business model, which assumes I would pull up the coupons on a smart phone.
Categorization approaches on Coupons.com (left), Shortcuts.com (center), and Cellfire.com (right)
Winner: Coupons.com (best categories to browse through)
In general, although there were a few quirks here and there, it was relatively easy to add coupons to my grocery savings card using all three Web sites. If I had to pick a “winner,” I’d probably say it’s a toss-up between Coupons.com and ShortCuts.com, giving ShortCuts a slight lead for the easy access to coupon details and the shopping preferences feature.
In the future, I personally plan to use online grocery savings card coupons as bonus savings. I would load coupons onto my grocery savings card from the Web sites for anything I might possibly purchase. Then if I happen to buy that product when I got to the store, I would get an extra discount. But no matter how you use them, compared to clipping and carrying coupons, electronic grocery savings card coupons seem like the way to go.