Not too long ago, many frugal shoppers spent their Sunday afternoons combing over stacks of newspapers for juicy coupons. Alex Papaconstantinou was once one of them. Armed with scissors, paper, and pen, he would carefully plan out his shopping routine based on the best coupons he found each week. Now, as a 40-plus internet entrepreneur, he's replaced all of that with an entirely web-based system. "I don't get the local paper anymore," he says. "You can get voucher codes for most UK retailers online."

Will digital coupons replace paper vouchers?

Despite the availability of digital codes, paper vouchers still exist in the wild today. Most print publications are crammed full of voucher offers, whether you're reading the national paper or a local rag. While this might seem like a colossal waste of paper, the reason is simple. Paper coupons deliver terrific results. Even millennials are more likely to use a paper voucher over an online coupon code. Papaconstantinou thinks this is because digital coupons are too complicated. "People in the UK are still not used to online shopping," he says. He thinks that's beginning to change. As long as businesses can draw in more customers by printing paper coupons, however, they'll continue to do so.

Why digital couponing provides a worse experience

As an outsider, it certainly seems easier to do a search on your iPhone than it is to pour over hundreds of paper coupons. Nevertheless, coupon enthusiasts claim that paper still wins because of three factors:

Lack of centralization. You might not find every relevant print coupon for a single purchase in a single publication, but at least you know where to look. Web coupons are scattered on hundreds of different websites and social media pages. You might find a hot deal on a blog post, on a retailer's website, or offered directly by the manufacturer's twitter account. There's no good way to keep abreast of all of these sources. Worse, there's no standard for how web coupons are used. Some require you to print them out. Others are to be scanned from your phone.

Ease of combination. Coupon codes are often difficult to combine at the virtual checkout, whereas paper vouchers almost always work in combination at the till. For example, using the O2 Priority App you get a 2-for-1 deal at Pizza Express restaurants. When combined with the store's Tuesday deal for 50% off of all 12-inch pizzas, savvy customers save 75% off the cost. Apparently, paper coupons still offer the consumers a lot of pleasant surprises.

Misaligned goals. Online coupons are issued by different merchants for different purposes. Some Merchants use very generous discount codes to sell old stock fast. Some other merchants use coupon codes for the purpose of tracking the effectiveness of marketing campaigns. While it's nice for the marketing people to easily track who buys what with what code, it may be difficult for consumers in that case to get the best deal.

There's a lot of fragmentation in regards to what manufacturers, retailers, and other parties want out of their coupons. This leads to an incredibly uneven consumer experience. For every killer digital discount code you find, you'll have to wade through a sea of duds.

Bringing in a new era: Moving from paper vouchers to digital coupons

Papaconstantinou wants this to change. He's the founder of, a UK coupon site that seeks to become a hub for online vouchers in the UK. His ultimate goal is to replace paper promotions entirely. He's set his team an aggressive goal: he wants paper coupons to be obsolete by 2022. "In the 21st century, you shouldn't need to clip coupons in your wallet," he says. "Besides, it's embarrassing to get coupons... I look much cooler if I get out my Android and use a barcode instead."

Published by john paret