Posted 05/31/2021 in Couponing

4 Categories of Savings Apps Explained


4 Categories of Savings Apps Explained

Savings programs often have apps, which can be split into 4 main categories: loyalty programs, coupon apps, rebate apps,  and pay-for-data apps.  Understanding the differences in these different savings apps can help shoppers stack deals to save more money.


What is a Savings App or a Rebate App? 

First, an app is broadly defined as any computer program designed to run on a mobile device.  A savings app is any app with the intent to save consumers money.  Savings programs can be entirely offline, entirely on an app, available on an app and Web site, or some mix making use of online and offline programs.  Savings apps are further divided into at least four categories: loyalty apps (often “loyalty programs”), coupon apps, rebate apps, and data apps.   

 

What are Loyalty Apps?

Loyalty programs can be store-based (also called “merchant-based”), like Club Publix or your local coffee shop’s punchcard to track your coffee purchases and “the 10th cup of coffee is free," and they can be brand-based, like P&G Good Everyday, Tasty Rewards (PepsiCo), and Coca-Cola Rewards.  

Most retailers have a loyalty program—just ask.  Some still use paper punchcards, others text offers, but most link the customer’s phone number with a rewards system. A decade ago, the customer's phone number was likely tied to a loyalty card which could be scanned at each purchase to track what the customer bought.  In exchange, the store gave a percentage back or discounts on certain items or even "10th cup of coffee free."  

Now customers can register for the same loyalty program without receiving a plastic card; instead they install the app on their phone, which is a modern-day wallet.  To encourage interaction with customers and a feeling of saving money, many retailers maintain lists of coupons which customers can "clip to card" and provide recipes and online communities.  

Even though people refer to the loyalty program as an "app," customers can also monitor their accounts on regular Web pages (outside of the app) and paper receipts.  In fact, customers can often make use of the loyalty program without actually installing the app on their phones, unless it requires scanning barcodes or receiptsand even then some Web programs can circumvent needing the app.  

 

What are Coupon Apps?

Coupon apps provide coupons consumers can use at checkout, so they save money on the purchase and spend less while shopping. Honey, Coupons.com, and CouponFindr.com are all coupon apps.  Coupon apps usually bring together savings offers from many different sources, representing many different brands.  The coupons are used during the checkout process, pre-purchase, to bring down the total money spent.


What are Rebate Apps?

Rebate apps provide rebates, or money back, after the consumer proves a purchase was made of specific items in a specific store. Some of the most well-known rebate apps are Ibotta, Checkout 51, and Rakuten.  Customers used to mail in copies of receipts and rebate forms to earn rebates; now apps allow customers to scan receipts or even share their online shopping experience with the app so it automatically registers when a rebate-linked product has been purchased.  Rebate apps can focus on specific products, specific stores, or a mix of both.  The main defining variable is the money is sent to the shopper post-purchase, after a proven transaction for specified products.

 

What are Data-Collection or Pay-for-Data Apps?  

The fourth category of savings apps is data-collection apps, and like the name implies, they are strictly about data collection without favoring (strongly) a specific brand or merchant.  Good examples of data collection apps and programs include ReceiptPal, Fetch Rewards, and the Nielsen computer and mobile app. ReceiptPal and Fetch want customers to share all of their receipts, regardless of where they are shopping; Nielsen pays users to allow Nielsen to track their computer and phone use, similar to how Nielsen has tracked television use.  To some, it sounds strange to be paid to allow a company to track a person’s spending or computer use.  However, it’s widespread, and it does not only apply to data-collection or pay-for-data apps.  All types of savings apps collect customers’ data—but this group of apps does not seem to serve any other purpose than data collection.  

Pay-for-data apps are not just focused on consumer's buying habits.  Companies pay for other data, too.  A pay-for-data app might ask users to take a survey that helps answer companies' questions.  Or it may pay users to scan barcodes of specific products in specific store locationswithout asking the user to purchase the itemjust to collect data showing items are in-stock, on shelves.  Some apps collect similar data without rewarding their users for the additional information.


What About Other Savings Apps?

There are plenty of other savings apps, and not all are easily sorted into these four savings app categories.  For example, some apps require the user to select a few favorite stores and then share the affiliate fee the apps collect for "attracting" the customer to shop thereshould it be called an "affiliate-fee-splitting-app" or is it a loyalty app created by a third party (not the retailer or the brand manufacturer)?  

Also, some apps cross categories.  The app might have started as a data-collection app but later acquired access to brand-specific coupons for users to save money at checkout.  As savvy savers expand their interests in different ways to save, companies expand to accommodate the new expectations or combine forces through partnership or acquisition in order to keep their app prominent in shoppers' minds.

A third way savings apps defy categorization is by adding somewhat unrelated features.  Some apps pay users for completing surveyswhich can be a form of data collection, of courseand others reward users for proving that they entered a specific shopalso a form of data collection though the helpfulness is not as clear.  But some apps pay users to play games.  Why?  One hypothesis is users who associate their savings apps with fun will be more likely to continue using the apps.  Occasionally an app asks its users to rate it.  High payouts and ease of use are huge considerations, but entertainment can improve a user's experience and even compensate for lower payouts or a slower interface.  


What is the Best Type of Savings App?

While a checkout might only allow one coupon or promotional code to be used, savvy shoppers can usually find savings apps from other categories to make the purchase a better deal.  

For example, even if a grocery chain only accepts one manufacturer's coupon per item (found on a coupon app or a loyalty app), the shopper can still:

  1. Enter her phone number to register the purchase on the store's loyalty app, which earns the shopper points and might contain a different, also allowed coupon; 

  2. Then the shopper can scan and upload the receipt to collect a rebate on the product from a few rebate apps; 

  3. Do the same to collect points at a few data-collection apps, and 

  4. Maybe even do a few data-collection errands while in the store such as scanning that they have entered the store or scanning specified products on the shelves (without buying them).  

Obviously, some transactions will not be eligible for some apps, so finding apps that work with the stores most often visited and products most likely purchased is important.  

However, there really is not one "best" type of savings app.  Combining apps saves more.  The best type of savings appnot yet inventedwould be one that automatically connected to all of the major apps, as a gateway to push shoppers' info to the various apps and to combine their payouts in one easy-to-manage spot.



Read Next: 

Read more about Rebate Apps:
Read more about other Coupon Apps:

Where Does Ibotta Rebate App Work?

The Largest Coupon Book is Now an App

Where Does the Fetch Rewards App Work?


  

Where Does the Fetch Rewards App Work?



                              



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