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7 different approaches to mobile couponing

March 18, 2011

Gary Lombardo manages mobile commerce marketing for Demandware

By Gary Lombardo

Mobile couponing is one of the hot areas in mobile commerce today.

Indeed, mobile couponing is “the fastest growing and most obvious mobile marketing application,” according to Borrell Associates, with mobile coupon spending expected to grow at a rapid cumulative average growth rate of nearly 78 percent. 

A recent study by Gartner also showed that mobile couponing was one of the top activities of consumers who use mobile devices for shopping planned on doing.

Mobile couponing is not right for every retailer, and is most logical for retailers with bricks-and-mortar stores, particularly those who have seen success with paper-based couponing. 

What will separate retailers who are successful with mobile couponing from those who are not will be the approach they take to mobile coupons. 

Specifically, retailers who will succeed with mobile couponing are those who approach it differently. Some ways to approach mobile couponing differently could be to:

Make mobile coupons available on your mobile Web site
OK, this does not seem all that radical and it is not, but many retailers who have a mobile strategy and offer mobile coupons only do so as part of their native application and not part of their mobile Web site. 

The reason why you will want to do so is that you will reach a wider audience with the mobile Web, particularly as a richer experience evolves on smartphones.  

Also, many retailers today already offer coupons through their traditional Web site, so extending coupons to the mobile Web is a no-brainer.

Create mobile coupons that are store specific
As mobile Web sites and native apps are able to use the mobile device’s GPS, being able to deliver location- or store-specific coupons to the mobile consumer will become a reality. 

The benefits are enormous. Not only will shoppers be able to understand what deals they can find in that particular store, but retailers will be able to promote and sell excess inventory in a particular store, increasing effective inventory management.

Personalize mobile coupons
Making coupons relevant to the preferences, time and location will help not only personalize coupons, but make them more likely to convert customers. 

For instance, target coupons based on past purchasing behavior or selected preferences for when consumers sign up for coupon alerts. 

A consumer who likes men’s clothing would rather only receive coupons for those products, as opposed to women’s clothing that would not interested him.

Allow for consumer opt-in alerts other than SMS
Most mobile coupons are currently issued via SMS. Provide alternative mechanisms for notifications, such as email or RSS.

Let consumers opt-in for notifications that work best for them. 

Integrate coupons into the core mobile shopping experience
Make mobile coupons and offers an integral part of the consumer mobile experience.

Allowing consumers to browse which coupons are available are a great place to start, but tying them to part of the overall mobile shopping experience will maximize effectiveness. 

For example, when a consumer scans a bar code on a product in-store, searches a product, browses to a product page or undertakes another activity on the mobile storefront, serve up relevant coupons tied to the product for which she is looking.

Provide coupons through location-based services
Location-based services offer a huge opportunity for retailers, particularly when mobile coupons and offers are tied to the experience. 

While consumer adoption of LBS is still low – about 4 percent, according to a November 2010 study by the Pew Internet & American Life project – the consumers who are bothering to check into your location are invested consumers. In other words, they really want to do business with you, otherwise, why bother checking in? 

Gap has done a great job tapping this opportunity by tying offers to Foursquare check-ins, and Starbucks has done the same for mayorships. 

As LBS evolves beyond check-ins and mayorship rewards, and allows for quality of experience to highlight best places to shop, additional opportunities will arise for coupons and offers through LBS.

Offer coupons through other channels
One of the major challenges for consumer use of coupons is actually finding coupons.

Making them available through your mobile Web site or native app is a great place to start, but should not limited there. 

Distribute them through social media such as Twitter, Facebook and via blogging efforts, but also through coupon aggregators such as Yowza, 8Coupons, Zavers, Coupon Sherpa and Cellfire. Find the one that makes sense for your brand and increase the reach.  

Gary Lombardo manages mobile commerce marketing for Demandware, Burlington, MA. Reach him at

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