The digital shift will not have paper coupons. It remains to be seen if the pandemic and its hypervigilance about potential germs will wash what’s left of them away, but digital coupons are growing right along with the crisis-driven move to eCommerce.

Inmar Intelligence, one of the leaders in digital couponing, reported last week that enrollment in digital coupon programs among the top 30 percent of national grocery chains has grown 93 percent year over year since March 1. Digital coupon redemption in March increased 56.5 percent industry-wide year over year. According to eMarketer, more than six in 10 U.S. adults will be digital coupon users this year.

“Reduced store visits and larger order quantities have led to supply shortages that have increased consumers’ willingness to try new brands and new categories,” said Charlie Gage, director of business intelligence at Inmar Intelligence. “Now is not the time for CPGs and food retailers to back away from promotional activity. In fact, there is an even greater need to provide savings options for consumers to have them keep coming back for their essential items. It is important for retailers and CPGs to engage with shoppers and meet their demands for savings and digital solutions.”

According to market leader Quotient Technology, some retailers, as a result of COVID-19, have stopped accepting paper coupons altogether and have directed shoppers to their digital paperless coupon programs. Many grocery delivery services, it says, have also stopped accepting paper coupons.

“We believe these measures will further accelerate the adoption of digital paperless coupons,” said Quotient CEO Steven Boal on the firm’s May 5 earnings call. “It’s also important to note that a recessionary period has historically experienced higher coupon usage, another tailwind for digital paperless coupons growth. We’ve built our business around a large secular shift to digital. The current environment is accelerating this shift faster than ever as consumers change their shopping behaviors and retailers and CPGs rise to meet the challenges of today.”

According to the company, digital couponing will also benefit from canceled sponsorships for the NBA, MLB, Olympics and other sporting events. At least some of those dollars, it says, will be shifted to other promotional activities. There is evidence over the past few weeks that this prediction has some merit. Last week Target-backed delivery service Shipt announced it has formed a partnership with Quotient to provide digital coupons for groceries and household staples to customers via Shipt’s website and app. Quotient will enable Shipt to offer national manufacturers’ coupons from such brands as Bayer, Kimberly-Clark, Colgate-Palmolive, and Johnson & Johnson and in the process spur eCommerce growth by integrating digital coupons into their online experience.

“As consumers continue to navigate these challenging financial times, digital marketers have an opportunity to deploy innovative online campaigns promoting savings offers,” says Digital Media Solutions. “Including coupons in marketing strategies for the remainder of 2020 could help digital marketers foster relationships with new customers and further develop brand loyalty with their current customers. The brands that will come out ahead of the economic downturn will likely be the ones who help their consumers by making everyday life more affordable. Savings incentives combined with flexible payment options and frictionless omni-channel shopping experiences could be defining factors that shape consumer ecommerce expectations and build brand loyalty for years to come.”