Don’t overlook mobile coupons

Just as data is increasingly going mobile – so are coupons.

More and more, marketers are waking up to the idea of pushing coupons out to mobile phone users. Research outfit Juniper predicts that mobile phone coupons will attract 300 million users redeeming $6 billion in value by 2014.

On the face of it, mobile coupons offer some quite compelling advantages over paper and even Internet and email based coupons. For a start they’re much more secure as they can’t be photocopied, scanned and printed out or faked in some other way – at least for the moment.

While mobile coupons do require some investment in IT to enable hassle free issuing and redemption of the coupons; they’re low cost to push out. Redemption rates are incredibly high compared to more traditional coupons; sometimes over 50 percent compared to 0.2 – 2 percent for paper-based.

Quite simply, this is because we almost always have our phones with us. Because of this consumers are more likely to have a mobile coupon on them so they’re more likely to make that all-important impulse purchase.

From a CRM perspective mobile coupons offer a host of advantages. It’s a closed loop, you can tell who redeemed a coupon, where and at what time and there’s always the possibility that a sufficiently compelling offer will go viral as people forward the coupons to their friends.

Mobile coupons also indicate whether your campaign is working or not in a very quantifiable way. You’re also automatically capturing a wealth of data on each customer that’s very specific – while we may use multiple computers most people have only one personal mobile phone.

That detailed information can then be used to build a detailed profile which can lead to very specifically tailored future marketing and promotional campaigns. For example, you may send high-value offers only to those that have or have not redeemed from prior campaigns. Future campaigns may interface with location based social networking sites such as Foursquare which will enable even tighter targeting of offers.

Nevertheless, like any new technology, mobile coupons aren’t a silver bullet. While they’re still new enough to get people in through the novelty value, that will only last so long. You still need to have a compelling offering and preferably it should be one that’s unique to the mobile channel.

Another potential pitfall is timing. Because we have our mobiles on us most of the time, the timing of the offer is critical. For example, an ice cream company ran a mobile coupon campaign and received an underwhelming response because it sent the coupon out in the morning. When it switched to pushing the coupon out of an afternoon and evening, i.e. when people were travelling home from work or after dinner at a restaurant, take-up skyrocketed.

When everything comes together, however, a strategically deployed, targeted mobile coupon campaign is extremely effective and can fundamentally change consumers’ buying habits. For example, one of the most successful and longest running mobile coupon campaigns is mobile phone carrier Oranges UK’s ‘Orange Wednesdays’ campaign – a two-for-one cinema ticket offer on Wednesday nights launched in 2004.

The data captured gives Orange a unique database of people’s movie viewing habits which it then uses to personalise communications by recommending new films based on preferences extrapolated from the data which further drives uptake.

Such has been the success of the mobile coupon campaign that what was originally supposed to be a three-year campaign is now in its seventh year. Wednesday is now the most popular day in the UK to go to the cinema and over one million coupons are now redeemed each month.

While it just so happens that 2ergo has been working with Orange on this campaign since its inception, I didn’t choose to mention it as a plug for my business, it was more to highlight the all important return on investment as well as the range of benefits mobile coupons can deliver for consumers, brands and businesses alike.

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