Bits & Bytes
CLIPPING COUPONS IN CYBERSPACE
IF YOU CAN'T BE BOTHERED CLIPPING GROCERY-STORE coupons, a New York-based online-marketing company may have just the thing for you. Starting next January, when Interactive Database Marketing Co. plans to get its Coupons Online service up and running, you'll be able to "clip" supermarket coupons and collect other promotional materials via home computer. The company plans to offer the service over four commercial networks--America Online, Prodigy, CompuServe, Microsoft Network--and the Internet's World Wide Web (http://www.CouponsOnline.com).
Right now, Interactive is trying to sign up General Foods, Clorox, Procter & Gamble, and other consumer-goods makers. Its pitch: Electronic coupons, which consumers will copy from a network, print out, and redeem at stores the usual way. It will not only reduce fraud--a major problem in coupon promotions--but will also build customer loyalty economically, the company says. For one thing, each coupon will be coded by household, making it easier to trace fraudulent copies. Plus, the service will keep track of everyone who merely looks at a coupon, even if they don't actually use it.EDITED BY JOHN W. VERITY