AUSTIN -- Fifty cents, a dollar, five dollars, the savings add up every weekend when you open the Sunday paper. It’s been this way for generations because of coupons.
“The coupon is as old as the late 1800’s. Coca Cola was the first company that we know of in the United States to issue a coupon to try its new soda that it was marketing,” said Brian Hoyt with Whale Shark Media.
Hoyt knows the history and he is part of a company that says it is the future of coupons.
Whale Shark claims its website RetailMeNot.com is the most widely used coupon site in the United States with hundreds of thousands of coupons and offers from tens of thousands of merchants.
Whale Shark is in four countries with numerous websites but retailmenot is what drives about 300 employees, most of them working out of a hip Congress Avenue headquarters in downtown Austin. It is complete with video games, a stocked kitchen, and even catering several days a week.
“We try to do a lot to make working here fun,” said Hoyt.
Along with the fun comes the hard work of moving couponing to the next level and Whale Shark believes it is doing that with mobile devises. More than three million people have downloaded the retailmenot app. One of the new features to help spur purchases is location recognition. If you agree, retailmenot sends a notice to your smartphone as soon as you enter the parking lot of a retailer offering coupons.
That may be the future, but what is right now is online shopping, and offers.com is capitalizing on that.
Started by Steve Schaffer and his company Vertive in 2009, offers.com has grown every year.
“Some of our growth is 50 percent year over year and some is 25 percent year over year,” said Schaffer.
Offers.com bills itself as a fast way to save cash with your online purchases.
“It’s very convenient,” said Schaffer. “A consumer can save $25 sometimes in as little as a minute.”
Vertive and Whale Shark Media get paid by merchants when consumers use a coupon to make a purchase.
The growth in the coupon industry is having a positive effect on the Austin job market.
Vertive currently has about 50 employees and plans to add 10 to 20 by the end of the year. Whale Shark Media will add several dozen positions in 2013, mostly technologists.
Both of these money saving ventures are money makers. And that has been great news for the local tech industry and the Central Texas economy.