Mobile shoppers and the new face of mobile couponing

What do a slumping economy and mobile phones have in common? If you guessed, “one stings and one rings,” you’re way off track, but nice try. The real answer is that recessionary periods increase couponing, and this time around, more than 85% of American consumers have mobile devices. What does this mean for consumer packaged goods (CPG) manufacturers and retailers?  An opportunity. They’ve been presented with the perfect opening to showcase the new face of mobile couponing to mobile shoppers.

First, let’s look at the culmination of this trend, the mobile shoppers being targeted, and a glance into the future of mobile CPG couponing.

Historically, during periods surrounding economic recessions, coupons become a mainstay of the American household. For example, due to the severe economic recession that began in 2008, 2009 saw couponing increase 27% to 3.3 billion redemptions. In 2010, according to the “NCH Coupon Facts Report,” marketers distributed 6.8% more CPG coupons than in 2009 (332 billion CPG coupons total for 2010). Digital coupon savings grew 41% in 2010, the largest increase across all coupon distribution categories.

Today, with mobile devices at the height of their popularity, CPG marketers have the ideal opportunity to tap into the mindset and mindshare of consumers. The mobile shopper is always on the move, demands instant accessibility to deals at a time and place of his or her choosing. But in order to target these shoppers, CPG marketers must understand what it is that consumers are looking for in the way of relevant deals and how to meet their demand for convenience in mobile couponing.

Mobile shoppers are looking for relevance in their couponing. Gone are the days of endless searching through the weekly circulars and Sunday newspapers for the products they buy. Ditto, going to the manufacturer’s, marketer’s or retailer’s website. Mobile shoppers are looking for a one-size-fits-all mobile platform that instantly pulls up their relevant coupons within a single keyword search. Manufacturers looking to become prime movers in the mobile shopper market will need to either create their own searchable couponing app or partner with digital couponing distributors to satisfy mobile shopper relevance.

Mobile shoppers are demanding timesaving conveniences. Mobile devices, especially smartphones, represent on-the-go organization. Marketers who can meld their couponing platforms into this organization will capture the largest piece of this shopper segment. Those looking to establish early mobile shopper share will find ways to eliminate “extra steps” in the couponing process. Printing digital coupons is past-generation; new technology and mobile shopper demand requires on-screen scanning, including 2-D barcodes, and other digital redemption techniques.

A key element to on-the-go organization is sorting and categorization. For example, if the CPG marketer is creating a couponing app, it will be beneficial to include a sorting feature that enables the mobile shopper to save coupons to a “virtual coupon wallet,” which will categorize coupons by aisle, type of goods, etc.

Now that we have a better picture of what it is that mobile shoppers are looking for with mobile coupons, let’s turn to the coupon itself. What is the face of the new mobile coupon? In order to answer that question, we need to look first at the previous generation of mobile coupons and specifically at early implementation shortfalls.

Typical early mobile couponing occurred by communications with the customer through SMS, WAP, EMS or MMS. While this usually occurred after an opt-in, customers became frustrated by retailers’ overuse of texting promotions, particularly irrelevant offers. Compounding this frustration was the lack of uniform standards associated with early mobile couponing: lackluster offers, vague descriptions, including limited character count in those early days, and, worst of all, failure to communicate pertinent details of the offer

But let’s not blame the companies offering the coupons entirely, as technology was limited in those early days. The effects, however, are still with us: mobile shoppers are skeptical of providing marketers with their mobile information. And while mobile shoppers are intimate with their “mobile space,” much more so than they are with their home telephone or email address, the new face of mobile coupons has to be an unobtrusive one.

To be unobtrusive, the mobile coupon must, first and foremost, be exclusive. Once mobile shoppers opt in to a marketer’s “online circular,” whether it be by app, Bluetooth, SMS, MMS or email, they are placing trust in that marketer to not betray their mobile space. This trust includes not being bombarded by superfluous offers that could be attained without the use of a mobile device. 

The primary path to unobtrusiveness is through “pull” tactics, or those that always require the mobile shopper to opt in to receive coupons. By opting in via a message code, accepting Bluetooth transmission, or by downloading an app, the mobile shopper performs a gateway action that allows the retailer to issue coupons. From this point, mobile shoppers have handed over their trust to receive timely, relevant, and exclusive offers from the marketer. From here, the mobile coupon must engage mobile shoppers.

New mobile technology allows the marketer to interact and engage with the mobile shopper. This can be a simple action such as prompting the mobile shopper to enter a search term – remember, these shoppers are looking for relevance – for the type of product coupon they are seeking.

Engagement can also include any sort of summary or categorization feature through a mobile app, such as a summary of: how much can be saved today based on coupon totals; recipe ideas based on a given day’s available coupons; recommended items based on relevant coupons

The list of ideas is practically endless, as today’s mobile technology gives marketers creative opportunities in which they can improve upon traditional coupon mechanics.

A sluggish economy, coupled with the rise of mobile devices has provided marketers with such a unique opportunity to create a new face for the future of mobile couponing. By focusing on the needs of the mobile shopper, and adhering to today’s mobile couponing trends, the successful marketer has the chance to capture and keep the new mobile shopper.

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