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Coupons: The Next Big Trend in Mobile Marketing?
By: Chris Wood
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Let’s face it. Coupons are a lot of work. You have go hunting for them, sifting through pages and pages of newspapers or direct mail. You have to clip them, then file them away in some probably unreliable system--if at all. Then, if you actually get around to using them before they expire (which I almost never do), you have to remember to take them with you. And all that means that companies are spending lots of time, effort and money producing lots of coupons their customers never use--if they find them at all.

But all that might be changing with the advent of mobile coupons--coupons that are downloaded on mobile technology.

It’s happening more and more. Big national brands like Denny’s, Taco Bell, Walgreens, Office Depot and Quiznos are jumping on the mobile coupon bandwagon. And it’s easy to see why. The combination of GPS technology and smart platforms like the iPhone and Google’s Android-powered phones has given the one of the oldest marketing tools around new, exciting legs.

Unlike their low-tech paper counterparts, mobile coupons are everything their paper counterparts aren’t--incredibly convenient and uniquely spontaneous. Shoppers never have to worry about having them at the right time, because they always have their phones. They don’t have to remember the expiration dates, they don’t have to file them away, and best of all--no more clipping.

And with the emergence of slick, user-friendly apps like Coupious and mobiQpons, finding coupons no longer will require scouring through reams of paper. All it will take is a touch of a button, and a user will see at a glance all the businesses that are running mobile coupon offers on a GPS-generated map. This will not only make mobile coupons that much easier to use, it’s hard to see how it won’t increase impulse buys and drive sales for the businesses that offer them.

Think of the possibilities. Imagine you’re out running errands and you decide that you want to get your car washed. Or let’s say you realize that you need to get your oil changed. The days of, “Shoot, I had a coupon for that but it’s at home”--are over. Now, you can instantly download coupons from businesses that offer oil changes and car washes near your current location--all at the touch of a button. And now, no matter where you go, if there’s a coupon being offered, you’ve always got it on you--even at the movies. Sprint just announced that it will offer mobile coupons on movie snacks at over 500 theatres across the country.

Is there any downside to mobile coupons?

Well for one, many consumers may still not be completely comfortable with GPS-enabled tech, and may be wary of businesses “knowing” where they are at any given moment. They might be afraid of being bombarded by spam or text messages. And as convenient as finding mobile coupons are, because they’re not delivered by newspaper or direct mail, a good many of them may go unnoticed.

On the other hand, your mobile phone is the one thing that you carry all the time. Customers are now realizing all the capabilities they have right at their fingertips, and retailers are increasingly convinced that the technology will allow them to better reach customers and offer them greater benefits and better service.

And, with other location-based apps like Gowalla and Foursquare becoming increasingly popular, and people getting more accustomed to sharing their location data, it’s a pretty safe bet that mobile coupons are right on the cusp of making a big splash in mobile marketing.


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About the Author

Chris Wood is Vice President, Creative Director at SicolaMartin, part of Y&R Brands. He leads agency design efforts from branding to interactive development. Since joining SicolaMartin in 1999, Chris has put his passion for design to work for a variety of clients, including AMD, Blu-ray Disc, BMC Software, Citrix Systems, Hewlett-Packard, Novell, Quark, Samsung, St. David’s HealthCare, and VMware.

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