The State of Mobile Couponing Is…

Bryce MarshallRecently, a couple of stories popped up in the media concerning the long-awaited emergence of mobile couponing solutions that allow consumers to search newspapers and circulars for savings - as we are accustomed to doing - then use our mobile devices to "clip" those coupons virtually (no real scissors involved) and redeem in-store with a stored bar code.
Ad Age's take on the emergence of mobile bar code solutions (2-D bar code technology) was breathlessly hailed as "Marketers Say Hello To Long-Awaited Mobile Technology."

Marketing Shangri-La, right? Response rates through the roof, right?

But wait. There are just a couple problems with these bold proclamations of a brave new world for coupon clipping.

  • The universe isn’t waiting for new technology, the right technology exists now.
  • The virtues of the next generation solution aren’t that virtuous.

Here’s the thing – the 2-D barcode technology explained in Ad Age’s overview only works if the hardware – your phone – has the required reader installed. And while this is ubiquitous in Japan, phone manufacturers won’t be supporting the technology on these shores for some time. Plus (it gets worse) there is a small phalanx of startups jockeying for position as the source for the on-phone reader and in-store scanner, each spending investment dollars to gin up consumer demand while simultaneously convincing the market their proprietary technology is best.

Say hello to more confusion.

The truth is, the consumer isn’t clamoring for a new way to clip coupons virtually. Maybe it’s just a lot of digital marketing pundits that are looking for a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist.

Do you want consumers to use their mobile device to “clip” a coupon in the newspaper? Texting a keyword to a shortcode is still, far and away, the strongest call to action. American consumers know and understand this process (thank you American Idol for raising a generation – young and old – of ‘thumb warriors’). They are comfortable with it. If you provide value, they will opt-in to your subscriptions and receive more offers and more savings. Asking the consumer to go online to download and install a reader is still a bit much.

Whether you provide a simple numerical coupon code or a link to a rendered barcode on a mobile friendly web page, the scenario is simple, well understood, and far from daunting. Before we go looking for a grander solution we need to make sure the consumer actually wants it.

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  1. […] on a couple downfalls to “QR” or 2D code technology in a recent debate on SMS vs. QR in a Lunch Pail post a few months ago. To […]

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