In the beginning, there was the paper coupon. Coupons were first used in 1887 by Asa Chandler, the founder of Coca-Cola, who would give away a paper voucher for one free Coca-Cola. By1913, it was estimated that Coke had given away 8.5 million free drinks to promote their products. Another early pioneer was C.W. Post, who in 1909 promoted his grape nuts cereal with a one-cent coupon. These two iconic brands successfully launched both their products, and the coupon industry, with early experiments in paper coupons.
The History of Coupons ǀ Time
The use of coupons for discounts expanded rapidly during the 20th century, fueled by growth of the consumer economy and various innovations like S&H Green Stamps. By the 1960s more than half of all US consumers were using coupons and the industry expanded with distribution via newspaper inserts and direct mail, while third-party clearinghouses were founded to help retailers process and get paid for redeeming these popular discounts.
The emergence of barcode technology during the 70s and 80s corresponded with the deployment of electronic cash registers, helping retailers track sales and inventory. Barcodes also began to appear on coupons to allow them to be scanned, applying discounts directly to the total purchase. Trade groups, like the Association of Coupon Professionals (the ACP, now known as the Association of Coupons and Promotions) and the Joint Industry Coupon Council (JICC), were founded to support the industry and provide standards. Over time, the (AI) 8110, and its various revisions, became the industry standard. By the 1990s, early digital coupons were beginning to appear, primarily in conjunction with the development of the internet.
History of Coupons ǀ Medium
For the past 30 years, the 8110 has been the workhorse of the industry, with the technology well understood. Unfortunately, this familiarity with the operation of 8110 barcodes, combined with the proliferation of digital technologies, expanded opportunities for coupon counterfeiting and fraud. Coupon fraud is estimated to be between $300-$500M per year, and the stories are legion.
Virginia Beach Couple Sentenced for $31 Million Coupon Fraud Scheme ǀ US Attorney’s Office
87 Suspects Identified in Major Multi-State Counterfeit Coupon Ring ǀ Coupons in the News
A ‘Dark-Side Coupon Group’ Scammed Stores Out of Millions, Police Say ǀ Washington Post
Women Arrested for $40 Million Coupon Ring ǀ HUFFPOST
By 2016, the industry knew things had to change. The ACP and JICC, working with leading manufacturers like Proctor & Gamble, began to develop a new standard that would become the (AI) 8112. A new non-profit, The Coupon Bureau, was created to help develop the 8112 infrastructure. Every 8112 would be serialized, single-use, and virtually fraud-free. Additionally, the 8112 would become the platform to convert billions of paper coupons to digital, reducing processing costs and speeding payment to retailers. It was a win-win for all industry players. The first 8112s were piloted in 2021 and testing over the past two years has positioned the 8112 to scale into the new industry standard everyone envisioned.