P&G, mobeam team up to simplify mobile couponing

Procter & Gamble Co. and mobeam Inc. have  teamed up to make it easier for consumers to redeem mobile coupons using retailers’ existing point-of-sale technology.

Using light-based communications technology developed by mobeam, P&G will be able to send coupons to consumers’ mobile phones that can easily be redeemed at many retail locations. Mobeam is working with leading device manufacturers to bring mobeam enabled mobile phones to market in 2012 and P&G is preparing its mobile couponing service to run on these phones.

“As data from this past Black Friday demonstrates, mobile commerce is reaching its tipping point, with record numbers of consumers around the world using mobile phones for product research, best deal discovery and purchases,” said Chris Sellers, CEO of mobeam, San Francisco. “However, due to the inability for coupons to work on mobile phones, there is a substantial gap in the mobile commerce, making it impossible for CPG companies to translate their paper-based incentive programs to the burgeoning digital commerce age.

“Mobeam not only enables CPG companies to pay for redemption, which is a significant step forward from the pay for distribution model in use today, by mobilizing what has up to now been largely a paper-based industry, but mobeam is also adding significant analytical value,” he said.

“Mobile coupons will have far superior targeting and tracking capabilities, significantly enhancing the ability to use coupons to introduce new products, convince consumers to try products, engender repeat purchases and attract new customers to existing product lines.”

Scanner friendly technology
P&G is one of the first adopters of the technology that mobeam hopes to bring to other consumer packaged goods companies.

App development and testing on the new service is already underway. Market trials are expected to begin in the first quarter of 2012 once mobeam enabled phones are available to consumers.

The solution addresses limitations in current mobile couponing as most point of sale technology cannot scan a bar code directly from the screen of a mobile device. This is because the reflective shiny glass, backlit displays and polarizing filters on mobile phone screens make the bar codes invisible to laser scanners.

As a result, in order to redeem coupons received electronically, consumers either have to print them, download them to a loyalty card or present them to a checkout clerk on a mobile phone, with the checkout clerk having to manually input the coupon code.

However, mobeam’s light-based communications technology makes electronic coupons presented on a phone or other mobile device scanable by POS systems. Mobeam uses an onboard light source designed into a mobile phone to beam bar code data directly into the sensor on existing POS laser scanners.

“The goal of the P&G and mobeam partnership is to bring to market the first true mobile coupon solution that will work at retailers all over the globe without requiring any new point of sale technology,” Mr. Sellers said.

“This new, highly efficient method for consumers to redeem and retailers to accept mobile coupons will also give – for the first time ever – CPG producers the ability to apply analytics and tracking on coupons, something that has never been possible with paper coupons,” he said.

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York