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While deals are getting most of the attention right now, coupons remain a substantially larger player in the promotions business, says Steven Boal, CEO of, who was keynoting at BIA/Kelsey’s Deals 3D conference this week in San Francisco.

Boal notes that deals and coupons have very similar demographics. They’re both heavily used by women, for instance. But the industries are really very different in terms of sales, product segments, redemptions and user habits. “We tried to get into the ‘local commerce’ space ten years ago” but it didn’t work at all, he said – something that the CEO of ValPak warned him would happen.

It has all ended up fine, however. Electronic coupons are poised to go deeper than the deals space with established consumer brands than the deals space. They enjoy huge redemption rates, and are riding the backs of social media to even greater, viral success. Indeed, the potential for electronic coupons lead institutional investors to recently invest $200 million in

“Coupons were the first form of social media,” noted Boal. Historically, housewives “used to get together to clip coupons and socialize” Now, social capabilities might take coupons to the next level. “Social might be the next newspaper,” in terms of being an offer distribution point, he said. When brands like Oreos can attract 22 million fans on Facebook, they don’t need the Sunday paper anymore. itself has implemented its offers within Facebook; integrated offers with fan pages, and applied the same app credentials across its entire platform. Mobile remains another opportunity. Boal said that much more is to come as the company spends some of the $100 million it has slated for development on integration and acquisitions.

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