NEW YORK: Seven months after announcing its electronic couponing scheme to an enthralled nation, AOL today (Thursday) finally launched a paperless web-based service that dangles money-off offers under the noses of US consumers.

Incentive coupons, hitherto the preserve of scissor-wielding Moms wreaking instant origami on their daily newspaper, at last enter the 21st century with AOL's all-electronic scheme which offers an online choice of coupons from various manufacturers.

Ho hum, been done, you say?

Not quite. Unlike earlier forms of cyber-couponing, the AOL  system doesn't require shoppers to select and then print-out a coupon for subsequent presentation  at a supermarket checkout.

Instead, they simply choose the offers they like and add them to an account linked to a retailer's loyalty program. The coupons are redeemed when a shopper presents his/her loyalty card at the checkout.

Neither retailers nor consumers pay for the service, branded Shortcuts, and AOL charges manufacturers on the basis of the number of coupons selected and redeemed.

The scheme's initial participants are the Kroger grocery store chain and one food manufacturer, General Mills. Two more marketers – Kimberly-Clark and Kraft Foods will join the scheme later this month.

Data sourced from Business Week (online) and Associated Press; additional content by WARC staff