UK Internet searches for discount vouchers have increased by 47.5 percent over the past 12 months.

The increase in searches for a portfolio of 4,500+ voucher-related search terms between the weeks ending 02/08/2008 and 01/08/2009 clearly reflects British consumers' hunger for bargains and discounts during the recession, writes Hitwise Research Director Robin Goad.

Vouchers offering everything from discounts at high-end retailers to 2-for-1 pizzas have become immensely popular in UK, as British consumers look for the best deals to save money during the recession.

"We are seeing the emergence of what our colleagues the Future Foundation call the ‘maximising consumer'. These shoppers don't necessarily buy the cheapest products or services, but they do spend a lot of time researching online before selecting what to buy, and then a bit more time to find the best price or discounts before making a purchase," says Goad.

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The growth in voucher searches has come from people searching for ever more specific deals and discounts for particular products or retailers. During July 2008, UK Internet users searched for 8,300 distinct variations of search terms that contained either the word ‘voucher' or ‘vouchers'; by July 2009, this figure had more than quadrupled to 34,200.

Although the popular voucher websites remain significant players online, they no longer dominate the market. There are two reasons for this, writes Goad. "The first is that consumers have become wary of the more opportunistic voucher websites, which appear high up in the search engine results for voucher related terms but often contain out of date deals - or in some cases no relevant vouchers at all.

"The other change is that the retailers themselves - both online only and high street players - are trying harder to pick up traffic from voucher searches directly, rather than pay for a link from a voucher website. Online retailers only picked up 28.2 percent of all UK Internet traffic from voucher searches during July 2008, but by 2009 that figure had increased to 41.5 percent."

Top 10 voucher searches in the UK, 4 weeks ending 01/08/09:

  1. ‘voucher codes' (8.4% of voucher-related searches UK over the period)
  2. ‘pizza express voucher' (3.9%)
  3. ‘discount vouchers' (2.%)
  4. ‘vouchers' (2.2%)
  5. ‘my voucher codes' (2.0%)
  6. ‘restaurant vouchers' (1.9%)
  7. ‘tesco vouchers' (1.6%)
  8. ‘pizza hut vouchers' (1.4%)
  9. ‘dominos vouchers' (1.3%)
  10. ‘tesco voucher codes' (1.2%)

British restaurants, particularly the chains, have really taken advantage of discount vouchers to help them attract customers that might otherwise be cutting back their spending on eating out.

"Looking at the popularity of the searches for pizza restaurant vouchers in our data makes me wonder whether anyone has actually paid full price for a pizza in the UK this year!" wonders Goad.