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Whole Foods Market plays up mobile coupons, charity donations with iPhone app

The Make Change, Not Waste iPhone app

Whole Foods Market is rewarding shoppers who practice an ecofriendly lifestyle with mobile coupons as part of a campaign to increase awareness of poverty.

Whole Foods Market shoppers can earn the mobile coupons from companies including Organic Valley, Stonyfield and Nature’s Path by completing tasks in an iPhone application. The app is being run by Whole Foods Market-owned nonprofit Whole Planet Foundation with the goal of ending world poverty through microcredits.

“Mobile shopping apps are certainly an element of digital strategy that retailers should be exploring in order to drive consumers to increase store visitation,” said Seth Elliott, CEO of Engagement Media Technologies, Miami, FL.

“However, for the most part, an app needs to offer more than simply shopping capabilities or couponing,” he said.

“Strong mobile offerings provide utility that users find valuable and create activation via integrated call-to-action components.”

Mr. Elliott is not associated with Whole Foods Market. He commented based on his expertise on the subject.

Whole Foods Market did not respond to press enquiries.

Give back on mobile
The Make Change, Not Waste iPhone app is available for free download from Apple’s App Store.

The app includes a virtual check list with more than 40 ecofriendly tips including composting, recycling and carpooling. Consumers can sort through the list and learn more about the impact that each activity has on the environment.

For every ten items that a user checks-in to, they receive a coupon on in-store product from the app’s sponsors. Users can then choose to either use it or donate a portion of the coupon’s value to Whole Planet Foundation.

To redeem a coupon, the offer is emailed to the user, which can be printed out and used in-store.

Users can also view an interactive map to see case studies of how the nonprofit is working to end global poverty. Whole Planet Foundation claims to have given more than $15.5 million to microfinance partners in more than 50 countries.

Pay it forward
Whole Foods Market also has apps for its grocery stores available on iPhone and Android devices as well as a mobile site.

However, up until now the majority of the company’s mobile initiatives have been used for branding. By putting the focus on its nonprofit work, the company is proving that it can think outside the box with its mobile initiatives.

Additionally, by letting consumers choose to either use a mobile coupon or donate to an organization, Whole Foods is able to keep the focus on the app’s mission to educate consumers about a specific issue.

Giving real-world rewards for interacting with an app’s content is a great way for a company to get consumers to come back to an app on a regular basis.

“Many consumers and users have developed app fatigue leading to an erosion of app usage after download,” Mr. Elliott said.

“In some cases this reaches an extreme where users have a host of what we at Engagement Media Technologies call zombie apps – applications that are resident on a consumers device but see no active usage,” he said.

“Rewards can be used to create engagement with users and foster a desire to open and utilize the application – it remains to be seen whether coupons are substantive enough to encourage consumers in this regard.”

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York