Couponing in the Age of Autonomous Vehicles

By Sanjay Khunger, SVP Technology M&A, Harland Clarke Holdings
Published Thursday, Jan 5, 2017

Couponing in the Age of Autonomous Vehicles

In my previous post, I discussed the technology behind couponing. Let me turn my attention now to the burgeoning technologies of autonomous vehicles and their impact on couponing and advertising.

I broadly classify autonomous vehicles as both ground and aerial autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles that include assisted-driving and self-driving cars as well as drones and self-flying planes. For the current discussion, though, I will limit my perspective to self-driving cars.

There are many technical, societal and economic pitfalls to overcome before these technologies become widely available and accepted. But, if we fast forward a decade or two, there is little doubt that we will find ourselves in the age of self-driving cars. The technological underpinnings of these vehicles, primarily ubiquitous connectivity, sensors, cameras, and smart systems, are here now. What remains is the hurdle of extensive testing to make the technology reliable, scalable, robust and cost-effective in order to achieve wide-spread public acceptance.

You have likely seen the continuous barrage of media coverage espousing the many benefits of self-driving cars. Some of the more dramatic impacts, both positive and negative, include:


Now that we’ve identified some high-level impacts these vehicles might have, let’s turn our attention to the potential effect they may have on the advertising, coupons and deals side of the fence.

When we talk about couponing, we touch upon the “3 Cs” – content, context and channel. The car of today is a rich source of context providing information like location, route, time and weather among other things. The car of tomorrow has the potential to be a marketing channel for deals and messaging, but we cannot yet utilize it that way due to driver distraction concerns. But that concern is diminished when reliable self-driving cars enter the picture, enabling the vehicle to become an effective channel for personalized messaging. 

Driverless cars have the potential to free-up about 24.3 minutes per day during an average commute in the U.S., with time savings as high as 2-3 hours per day in some highly congested cities.1 Based on this, I expect that drivers will spend a fair share of their newly found time on the worthwhile activity of e-browsing, deal-hunting and shopping, providing marketers with a captive audience to reach, engage and activate.

Just imagine – you’re in your car, tired and hungry after a long day of work. Suddenly you receive an offer to save money on dinner at your favorite restaurant along your route home. You’re also informed that two of your best friends will be in the area at the same time… sounds like an offer you can’t refuse!

And I would wager a bet that marketers won’t be able to pass up the opportunity either.