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In-context delivery is key for holiday mobile coupons

Coupons need to be part of the mobile strategy during the holidays when consumers are spending more and looking for a deal.

According to Experian, consumers are open to mobile ads that push some sort of sale or promotion, making mobile coupons a great way to target cost-conscious consumers during the holidays.

“Coupons are very well suited for the mobile channel because the mobile phone provides a personal, always-with-you device to provide relevant offers wherever you are,” said Robert Drescher, CEO of Cellfire, San Francisco. “In addition, the mobile phone also allows consumers to directly redeem offers at retailers and grocers without going through the intermediate and wasteful step of printing offers.”

Coupons can push holiday-themed items driving purchases because of the discount and also just acting as a means of letting the consumer know that this particular retailer offers a specific item.

While still nascent, mobile couponing is becoming an increasingly effective way to bring people into the store and increase sales, according to InsightExpress (see story).

Brands and retailers can turn to limited-time-offer mobile coupons that are good from, say, 6 to 8, to drive consumers into stores during the holidays.

Consumers are looking for a deal, especially during the holidays with so many gifts to purchase.

InsightExpress found that 10 percent of consumers have been driven in-store via a mobile coupon.

“Mobile coupons are more cost-effective than printed coupons and environmentally friendly, as there is no paper waste,” said Shira Simmonds, president of Ping Mobile, Englewood Cliffs, NJ. “Since mobile coupons are on the consumers’ phone, the coupons are always with them, which means there is no chance of forgetting them at home. 

“In this economy consumers are looking for new ways to save, and retailers are looking for new channels to communicate with their audience,” she said. “A mobile coupon is a perfect solution.”

Why the need?
The mobile phone is a personal, always-with-you device.  It gives consumers the ability to opt-in to offers delivered via push notification. 

“This combination makes the delivery of offers feel personal and focused on you, the consumer,” Cellfire’s Mr. Drescher said. “And who doesn’t like to feel like they have special access to exclusive offers?”

Cellfire has seen a doubling every quarter in total coupon activity over the last year and expects that trend to continue as the proliferation of smartphones continues.

Additionally, mobile couponing will increase as more applications support and provide such offers, additional redemption locations are supported and consumer behavior increasingly accepts mobile coupons.  

Consumers are looking for ways to save money during the tough economy we are currently in, per Ping Mobile’s Ms. Simmonds.  

Receiving offers via their mobile phones is quick and simple without the need to print. 

The coupons are always with them as long as they have their phones handy. They can receive a multitude of coupons from all their favorite brands right onto one device all stored in one location. 

Consumers will respond positively to mobile coupons, especially when there is significant value behind the offers. 

“Mobile campaigns centering around brand awareness that do not offer value to the consumer will be regarded as intrusive and bothersome,” Ms. Simmonds said.

“These types of campaigns may turn away consumers from a brand where as a mobile coupon might grab new consumers who are interested in savings and develop a positive brand image,” she said.

Common pitfalls
One of the most common pitfalls with mobile coupons is not having a well- though-out redemption strategy, per Mr. Drescher.

Make sure that the consumer has a very good experience from discovery to redemption.

Ensure that retail personnel are trained and systems are in place to accept the mobile offer.

“Always make consumers aware of cellular service availability, on a carrier-by-carrier basis,” Ms. Simmonds said. “It’s important to prominently display the expiration date of the coupon and a coupon code or tracking code.

“Always follow the MMA and carrier guidelines that stipulate certain content must be present both on the ad and in the text message, such as standard rates apply, help and opt-out options,” she said.

Brands need to make sure that offers are delivered in context, Mr. Drescher said.

For example, provide a specific offer when a consumer is searching for a particular category or using a specific mobile application. 

Consumers are more receptive to offers delivered in this way than as a collection of offers on a particular retailer’s Web site.

Coupon creative best practices
“We have found that one of the most important creative best practices is to ensure that the offer and the presentation of the offer represent the brand well and support the underlying brand objectives,” Mr. Drescher said.

Realize that mobile coupons are not just digital versions of Sunday’s free-standing insert coupon.

Amount of offer inventory, targeting and offer details can all be controlled dynamically, in real-time across the network. 

This allows brands to respond in real-time to changes in the market and to the performance of the offer in-channel. Creative can also be changed.

“Focus on the entire coupon process, from delivery of the offer in context all the way through the in-store purchase and redemption,” Mr. Drescher said. “At every step in the process, continually measure and improve the process.”

According to Ms. Simmonds, for mobile coupons to be effective and drive foot traffic to the point of sale, a clear call to action needs to be present along with a deep discount.

Offering $0.05 off a product will not entice consumers to text in and will not drive redemptions.

Many retailers have no mechanism set up for mobile coupon redemption, which should be addressed prior to the launch of a mobile coupon strategy.

Multichannel mobile coupons
A mobile coupon by itself is not a campaign, according to Mr. Drescher.

Instead, it is a mechanism to bridge the gap between the digital online space and offline world of in-store purchases.  

Various mobile channels can be utilized in support of the underlying branding or merchandising campaign. 

“We have seen very strong response to combining multiple channels in support of brand objective such as combining social media through Twitter and Facebook, with the delivery of offers that drive in-store purchases,” Mr. Drescher said.