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Mobile Coupons Offer Multiple Benefits

Gregg Stewart,

Mobile advertising’s promise of one-on-one dialogues with millions of consumers, and its ability to influence purchase decision-making at the point of purchase has generated a lot of interest from major brands. It just hasn’t generated a lot of advertising dollars yet.

And while mobile advertising’s “next big thing” status is sort of like the boy who cried wolf, we need to keep our focus and learn what works today for mobile advertising. Particularly while the opportunities are relatively cheap (thanks to the economic environment), and the ability to develop key learnings is high.

Weekly Reading & A Rant

The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) has published their first Mobile Buyers Guide. I was happy to see the IAB’s Mobile Advertising Committee was releasing a document to help “educate marketers and agencies on the strength of mobile advertising as a marketing vehicle.”

Interestingly, however, only one paragraph and four bullet points in the entire 23-page document were dedicated to the topic of paid search. Proof, once again, that display gets all of the ink and interest, and search gets no respect. But revenge is sweet; search delivers the sales and purchase behavior data.

Now Back to Our Originally Scheduled Topic

A perfect storm is forming to help enable mobile coupons to grow rapidly, providing marketers with two major benefits: the ability to influence purchasers in real time at point of purchase, and the opportunity to stitch together information from online/mobile usage to offline purchase.

Let’s look at the research statistics:

  • A recent PROMO magazine poll revealed that more than 25 percent of U.S. marketers were investing in SMS and digital coupons, but that still trailed far behind investing in other digital media like e-mail, blogs, display, and search (Source: PROMO magazine, “2009 Promo Interactive Marketing Survey” conducted by Penton Research, April 2009, provided to eMarketer, June 2009).
  • Twenty-four percent of U.S. mobile phone users who have participated in a mobile marketing campaign receive alerts for special sales or discounts for products and services, while 22 percent obtain mobile coupons that can be redeemed at stores or restaurants (Source: Mobile Marketing Association, “2008 Mobile Attitude & Usage Study” conducted by Synovate, provided to eMarketer, November 2008).
  • Fifty-seven percent of consumers said they would want to receive a coupon on their phone (Source: Deloitte).

Typically, early adopters of technology, including mobile phones, haven’t been the core demographic for sales promotion and couponing programs. However, one benefit from the worldwide economic downturn is a universal desire to save money and capture the best price across all demographic and psychographic groups. Benjamin Franklin’s parable “a penny saved is a penny earned” is finally gaining traction after the free-spending practices of the past few years.


A successful mobile couponing program should focus on understanding and leveraging a core marketing process.

It’s amazing how often agencies and advertisers will enter into a test program tactically without a defined strategy. So, start with the basics, and define a high-level plan of action designed to achieve a particular goal.

One sample goal for trial programs could be: “Quantify and better understand mobile marketing’s impact on driving purchase selection and purchase frequency.” The goal then helps define how the test is structured, and facilitates a plan with tactics employed to achieve the goal.


Offers in the couponing world can take many forms. Below are just a few ideas. For more information, see the guidelines developed by the Association of Coupon Professionals.

  • Buy one, get one free.
  • Cross-sell/up-sell where consumers are rewarded with a cost-saving offer for extending a purchase to additional products.
  • Trial, free, or highly discounted offers to incent first time or repeat purchase.

Delivery Method(s)

Search generated: Many consumers in the purchase research process will search phrases such as “Bose coupons” or “Bose offers”; the terms “coupon” and “coupons” alone generated over 36 million searches on Google in June.

Short code/number: Consumers input a short code/number and then receive an e-mail coupon or link to offer details.

Application: Device-specific applications that provide consumers with coupons and offers based on geography and product/service category.

E-mail: Coupons “pushed” to consumers based on user-determined opt-in category requests for offers.

Other media: Outdoor, print, and broadcast messages embedded with links or short code/numbers to receive coupon/offers.

Redemption and Clearing

There are a number of details associated with this aspect of a mobile coupon program. The Mobile Marketing Association has developed a best practices document, which is a terrific resource for understanding your options in this area.


As I’ve stated in previous articles, coupons are a good method for connecting online and mobile search behavior to offline and walk-in purchases. Redemption and clearing methods that rely on UPC (Uniform Code Council) codes are ideal for collecting success metrics. Other methods require merchants to log redemptions with individual serialized codes (to limit redemption fraud) off of the user’s mobile device.

As local search continues expanding how consumers shape purchase decisions online and via mobile devices, smart marketers will leverage tried and true marketing techniques to grow market share in an increasingly complex media environment. Mobile coupons are a good way to influence purchasers at point of purchase and enable marketers to bridge online/mobile search behavior usage to purchase.

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