My colleague Julie Ask just published a piece on the reality of mobile coupons in response to questions like “do consumers use mobile coupons?” “should we be developing a mobile coupon offering?” and “what technologies should I adopt to support mobile couponing efforts?” – questions that she and I get asked with some frequency.
I was involved in some of the initial structuring of this report and then also involved in the editing phase. And I would love to recommend it to interactive marketers. Here are the most important takeaways:
Consumers like the promise of mobile coupons, but there is not yet mass adoption. Mobile coupons promise to be a convenient way to aggregate customized discounts all in a single place (your mobile phone) that is much easier for storage than say an envelope of clipped paper coupons.
Mobile coupons appeal to advertisers too, but technology hurdles prevent mass utilization. Advertisers love the idea of being able to offer targeted promotions that are cheaper to deliver and redeem than traditional coupons. But the reality is that scaling redemption technologies and processes at check out is pricey for the limited coupon-using audience today.
Advertisers should start small mobile coupon trials now. Mobile coupons don’t need to be your top marketing priority for 2010 (that honor goes to paid search, display ad, advanced email and social media) but we do recommend now as a good time to start a trial. Vendors like cellfire can outsource the management and distribution of mobile coupons and offer flexible terms in an effort to sign up new advertisers.
This is probably one of the top 10 inquiries I get from clients. Should I have a mobile coupon offering? If so, what form of mobile technology should I use? Our new report, "Mobile Coupons: Gold Rush or Fool's Gold?" addresses this question in more detail. This question was especially important in 2009 with the poor economy as consumers sought savings and deals.
Do consumers use mobile coupons today? A few do. Our surveys show that a few percent have at least trialed mobile coupons. There have been some usability issues - how to opt in to programs, download a coupon application, breadth of offers available - as well as demand. Heavy users of mobile coupons are not necessarily heavy users of mobile data services. My grandmother cuts more coupons than anyone else I know. She has a prepaid 100 minute per month voice plan. Will she ever use mobile coupons? Probably not. She turns 90 this summer. A lot could change in 10 years, but until her arthritis is so bad that she can use scissors, I think she'll still be clipping coupons from the newspaper. I see more opportunities in luring young mobile-savvy cell phone users into opting in for programs.
That said, I'm optimistic. The main reason ... every grocery store and many retailers that I know are using mobile coupons. Target launched a few weeks ago. Target takes providing an amazing guest experience very seriously. When you ask, "are mobile coupons ready for primetime?" Target adopting and rolling them out is a clear "yes" for a leading US brand. Safeway. Best Buy. Krogers. JC Penney. These are just a handful of the companies rolling out mobile coupons. With their marketing power and ability to drive awareness and motivate adoption, I expect we'll see a significant jump in adoption and usage this year.