Social Couponing Explodes in NYC

It wasn't long ago that clipping coupons was something you'd picture your parents or grandparents doing, maybe sitting in a rocking chair, looking for deals at the local grocery store. But times have changed, and in New York City, the coupon market has a completely new feel — it's going social, and the Big Apple’s nearly unmatched density of businesses has made it a prime target for the trend as New Yorkers indulge on deals at restaurants, salons and activities.

Services like Groupon, LivingSocial and Scoutmob have led the social couponing charge, with some leveraging group-buying power for huge daily discounts at local businesses. Their reach has ballooned over the past seven or eight months — even amNewYork launched its own Daily Deals earlier this year — making many wonder: Are our days of coupon clipping on their way out?

"At least with certain demographics, like younger buyers, absolutely," said Michael Stanat, a global marketing executive with SIS International Market Research. "These new social platforms engage users in ways coupon clipping never could … and they give consumers a way into New York experiences they'd otherwise never have," he said. Last month Google and Facebook jumped into the ring with their own services, though spokespeople declined to say when they'd launch here. Still, businesses citywide have been jumping on the social trend for years.

"For restaurants in this city, print [marketing] is done," said Mark Kelly, owner of Tree Bistro in the East Village. "Social has completely changed how the restaurant industry works in New York." Groupon reportedly had $103 million in revenue in February.

Amanda Kludt, editor of, said the deals can be a boon for struggling or new restaurants. "A lot of restaurants that participate with Groupon say they don't really make money off it, but it's good marketing," she said, though adding that it "almost creates a caste system" among places who need the exposure and the higher-end ones who sidestep it altogether. Still, many New Yorkers are buying in.

"All of my friends are on it, and it just makes it easier to find deals and be social," said Chris Ess, 24, of the Lower East Side. Oscar Martinez, 34, of Williamsburg, agreed. "I don't pay retail price ever, so this is a way to discover new trends and brands and services for cheap," he said.

By the numbers:
10% of U.S. adults have bought a social coupon in 2011.
45% of purchased coupons go unused.
2,203% growth of Groupon revenue between 2009 and 2010.
-As seen in AM NY