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In marketing, a coupon is a ticket or document that can be exchanged for a financial discount or rebate when purchasing a product. Customarily, coupons are issued by manufacturers of consumer packaged goods or by retailers, to be used in retail stores as a part of sales promotions. They are often widely distributed through mail, magazines, newspapers, the Internet, and mobile devices such as cell phones. Since only price conscious consumers are likely to spend the time to claim the savings, coupons function as a form of price discrimination, enabling retailers to offer a lower price only to those consumers who would otherwise go elsewhere. In addition, coupons can also be targeted selectively to regional markets in which price competition is great. In 1887, the Coca-Cola Company was incorporated with Asa Candler as one of the partners. He transformed Coca-Cola from an insignificant tonic into a profitable business by using innovative advertising techniques. The key to this growth was Candler’s ingenious marketing including having the company’s employees and sales representatives distribute complimentary coupons for Coca-Cola. Coupons were mailed to potential customers and placed in magazines. The company gave soda fountains free syrup to cover the costs of the free drinks. It is estimated that between 1894 and 1913 one in nine Americans had received a free Coca-Cola, for a total of 8,500,000 free drinks. By 1895 Candler announced to shareholders that Coca-Cola was served in every state in the United States.
Coupons first saw widespread use in the United States in 1909 when C. W. Post conceived the idea to help sell breakfast cereals and other products. Today, more than 2,800 consumer packaged goods companies offer coupons for discounts on products. In 2010, coupons for consumer packaged goods generated more than 3.5 billion dollars in transactions within the U.S. alone. There are many different types of online coupons such as discounts, free shipping, first-time customer coupons, and free giveaways.