Overcoming Mobile Coupon Challenges

Josh GordonIn the last two weeks stories have begun to trickle into the mobile marketing trade media that call into question the viability of mobile couponing. The first piece was penned by ReadWriteWeb writer Sarah Perez. The second was written by Chris Brassington, CEO of Starfish Consultants. Two articles lay out several different reasons for why mobile couponing is not catching on in the United States with the same level of enthusiasm demonstrated in other countries and geographic regions.
First, consider that mobile coupon adoption grows in direct proportion to the U.S. consumer’s level of comfort. As more sophisticated smartphones slowly dominate the mobile device marketplace, coupon adoption will grow. In the meantime, mobile marketers and mobile software vendors need to roll up their respective sleeves and begin resolving some underlying challenges before adoption starts to mask – not address – real issues.

Brassington notes two issues, the first of which is a lack of sophisticated backend infrastructure. I firmly believe this is already getting resolved by vendors, thanks to “The Cloud.” The second issue is more fundamental, as Brassington cites an Aberdeen statistic decrying the scant 24 percent of retailers that currently leverage cross-channel loyalty platforms. There is no doubt that retailers are working to leverage the mobile channel as a means to better focus on the customer regardless of channel. There are mobile marketing vendors, and even some specific programs, that are excellent examples of this. (More details on this in a later post here.)

The point is that it has become clear to marketers that mobile is the glue between the online and offline shopping worlds. Vendors and marketers alike are working to this end, and progress is slow but steady.

Perez contributes more specifics regarding mobile couponing’s adoption lag. The first challenge she cites is the “noise” in the market regarding coupon apps. This is 100 percent true, and retailers should work to take greater control over their own couponing despite the temptation of social coupons through apps.

The disconnect some users experience when trying to use a mobile coupon at retail can easily be addressed with a well-trained staff and a straightforward couponing message out of the gate. Some retailers, like Crocs, have had a great deal of success in going to market with a simple call to action, in-store signage, and effort put into training the staff on how to help customers redeem the coupon. In a few weeks time Crocs saw 94,000 coupons fly through the stores.

The final hurdle Perez mentions is the improvements necessary to geo-targeting. This is the one area where privacy law and skeptical consumers will slow adoption. Geo-targeting must be eased into the marketplace as consumers become more comfortable with other mobile couponing options. It will happen, and some great geo-targeting programs are in market and effective right now, but the overall spread will be slow.

Do you use mobile coupons? If so, what challenges have you encountered, and how have you overcome them?


  1. Marcus D.
    Posted July 26, 2010 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

    Print coupons = Something old ladies sit around and clip.

    Mobile coupons = wow, cool, wonderful. Everyone should use.

    It’s a coupon. By delivering through mobile, it’s still just a coupon (and, I wouldn’t be caught dead with any in my pockets).

    UNLESS – mobile offers something different?

    Deliver me a personalized and contextually relevant mCoupon when and where I ask for it. I’ll even share some information about myself, if I get value in return.

    Regrettably, businesses (and mobile marketers) are not working hard enough to make sure that mCoupons are more valuable to Customers than print coupons.

    mCoupons could be downright entertaining (and, that’s valuable in it’s own right), instead, it’s blast the same thing to everyone within earshot.

    • Posted July 27, 2010 at 10:27 am | Permalink

      Content is kind, you’re exactly right. Mobile coupons are victim to the same set of rule that govern all effective marketing – is this content valuable to my subscribers? If so, it’s a winning marketing concept. If not, back to the drawing board.

      • Dale
        Posted July 27, 2010 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

        I think the issue here is:

        Can mobile coupons be BETTER than print coupons?

        How do we do that? What are the new technologies that come to bear on it?

        Other than the obsession over location-based Apps and coupons (um, just have a stack of coupons on the counter and save the trouble, please), how can mobile coupons be better for both the Customer and the Brand?

        If it’s porting over a print model to this space, then, I think people will tire of it quickly.

      • Posted July 30, 2010 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

        I definitely think mobile coupons are better than print. The key to great coupons is great redemption. Breaking down barriers to access and usability, like mobile coupons do when compared to print, just encourages growth and adoption.

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