Do coupon clippers use Facebook? Walgreen's, Canadian Tire, JC Penney, Save-A-Lot, Sports Authority, Staples, and True Value intend to find out. They have been among brands recently incorporating the web version of their weekly newspaper circulars into their Facebook pages.
"The creative is the same as what appears on the retailer's website but is different than what appears in the newspaper," explained Brendan Flynn, senior director of product development for ShopLocal, which developed the Facebook app for the brands. It is owned by newspaper giant Gannett.
ShopLocal serves Facebook users the virtual circular for the nearest branded store based on the current city in their profile. Viewers can enlarge and print barcode-enabled coupons, as well as author comments underneath each of the specials. They can also click a "share" button for each individual coupon/special to include in their newsfeeds.
The app has been more heavily integrated by some companies when compared to others. For instance, JC Penney's version asks permission to access a user's publicly made profile information on Facebook. This can include name, profile picture, gender, networks, user ID, and list of friends.
Flynn said that JC Penney's circulars app targets users according to their profiles. "You’ll see that if you go to JC Penney’s [Facebook page] and click 'allow,' you receive targeted deals that are much different than the ones a 75-year-old female would receive," he said. "However, the user can 'deny,' and still have access to the online circulars. They just won’t be as targeted."
JC Penney's app also allows direct buying for some products in a click or two. Walgreen's app, on the other hand, is more basic. The pharmacy chain's Facebook page includes a "Weekly Ad" tab, which was pushed on Sunday with the following post: "Check out this week's candy deal in our Weekly Ad on Facebook (click the tab up top) or visit the full site…."
Those who have clicked on the tab have been taken to an application where they can browse traditional newspaper specials. A few examples: three boxes of Kellogg's cereal for $5, a 24-pack of crayons for $1, and a 12-roll pack of Scott bathroom tissue for $6.99.
Even for less heavily integrated brands like Walgreen's, Flynn suggested, the circulars zero-in on some of the Facebook users' profile attributes. "They target users based on location, age, and gender," he said. "If that information is not public, [the system] uses defaults - specific, pre-set groupings of products, to serve to the consumer."
Most of the aforementioned brands are using the app similarly; though small nuances exist in the ad copy for the tabs. For instance, Office Depot labels the tab "Weekly Deals," The Sports Authority calls it "This Week's Ad," and Save-A-Lot uses "Local Ads." And the circulars for bigger-item retailers such as Canadian Tire are presented in more of a catalog-like fashion than like coupons.
Meanwhile, Staples, Target, Kohl's, and Radio Shack have each begun running virtual circulars in MSN's Local Deals section. Unlike the Facebook app, the user experience on MSN is primarily focused on visually zooming-in and -out of the circulars. Clicking on the products allows the user to eventually buy items or add them to a wish list. However, of those examples, Kohl's appears to be the only retailer that links to landing pages or specific product details pages.
Follow Christopher Heine on Twitter at @ChrisClickZ.
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Christopher Heine was a senior writer for ClickZ through June 2012. He covered social media, sports/entertainment marketing, retail, and more. Heine's work has also appeared via Mashable, Brandweek, DM News, MarketingSherpa, and other tech- and ad-centric publications. USA Today, Bloomberg Radio, and The Los Angeles Times have cited him as an expert journalist.
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