Mobile coupons in demand; Businesses slow to react

By Rob Brough, ksl.com Contributor | Posted - Nov 28th, 2012 @ 12:30pm



SALT LAKE CITY — I rarely carry coupons, but I almost always have my mobile phone handy. So I'm far more attracted to deals that are redeemable by cell phone - whether via a smart phone app, email or text message - than offers that require clipping coupons (or worse, hoping there's ink in the home printer) and then keeping track of those elusive scraps of paper. Apparently I'm not alone.

An increasing amount of commerce is being done with mobile coupons, a trend that is only expected to grow. A November report by Juniper Research estimates that more than 500 million consumers will receive mobile coupons in 2013, a 30 percent increase from 2012. And eMarketer projects that nearly one in three, or 31 percent, of smart phone users ages 18 and older will redeem a mobile coupon next year.

Mobile coupons work like this: consumers subscribe to offers from specific retailers or third-party services via a smart phone app, social networking site or text message. Coupons may also be delivered through personalized or localized advertisements by way of mobile apps like Foursquare and Facebook. To redeem a deal, you simply show your phone to the cashier who may then scan a bar code or key in a coupon code that appears on the screen.

A consumer checks out a coupon offer from J.C. Penney on his cell phone. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

By some measures, businesses have been slow to incorporate mobile coupons into their marketing strategies even as consumers have become increasingly reliant on cell phones. A study by international business consulting firm Cognizant showed that despite tremendous opportunity in the mobile market, retailers still fall short in meeting customer expectations with their mobile offerings. Technological hurdles and varying mobile operating platforms have and still do deter some companies from taking the leap.

But with the integration of couponing platforms into leading social networks and the rise of mobile wallets like Apple's Passbook, more businesses are expanding their marketing to the mobile frontier where they can reach a whole new segment of consumers - people who would never carry paper coupons or go out of their way to chase down discounts, but who are enticed by deals at their fingertips wherever they happen to be shopping or dining at the moment.

Unlike their paper counterparts, mobile coupons have the distinct advantage of location-based customization. When I'm out shopping or dining, I can call up a GPS-enabled app - for me, not surprisingly, that's the Zions Cash Rewards mobile app - and up pops a list of all the nearby merchants that are offering cash-back deals or mobile coupons to Zions Bank Visa credit and debit cardholders. Or if I'm having car trouble in Logan and need to find a repair shop, I can see, for example, that Firestone Complete Auto Care offers a 10 percent cash-back reward. It's one of hundreds of deals from retail shops, restaurants, hotels, automotive service providers, golf courses and hundreds of other merchants. When I want to redeem a coupon, I simply show my phone to the cashier.

For many businesses, mobile offers are as much about building customer relationships as they are about boosting sales. The Juniper Research report from November noted a shift in the way companies use mobile coupons, from a straightforward means of driving retail foot traffic to a method of developing longer-term relationships with consumers. Mobile offers provide limitless opportunities to interact and engage with the customer through accompanying links to company information, product details, and videos. Mobile coupon use also provides businesses with a wealth of data, allowing marketers to see how devices interact with coupons to make them more relevant in the future.


Consumers spent more than $20.7 billion shopping using mobile devices, especially tablets in 2011.

–Javelin Strategy & Research


A study by Javelin Strategy & Research found that consumers spent more than $20.7 billion shopping using mobile devices, especially tablets, last year. Moreover, mobile discounts were cited by consumers as the benefit most likely to sway them to use a smart phone-based payment system.

Offering mobile deals to potential customers is just one of the many ways your business can harness the ever-increasing power of the mobile marketplace. Here are a few more ideas for maximizing your mobile marketing:

  • Optimize your website for mobile use.
  • Maintain customer loyalty by offering innovative, easy-to-use apps that have value.
  • Opt for clear and concise messaging in mobile marketing campaigns.
  • Avoid frustrated customers by thorough testing of mobile services before they are launched.
  • Add a social media component to your mobile campaign.
  • Place ads that are relevant to user content.
  • Create ads that maximize mobile screen space and capture users' attention with rich media, video or animation.

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Rob Brough

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