Take Scissors to Your Smartphone: Mobile Coupons to Hit $43 Billion

Do you remember cutting coupons? I do.  When I was a teenager I cut them for Mom and pocketed the savings for a new bike (from Sears, a ten speed that weighted fifty pounds).  For most (and anyone reading this blog), paper coupons are ancient history. Who has time for that anymore?  

Turns out, anyone with a mobile phone has time now, because mobile coupons take no time at all.  Coupons are making a new-and-improved comeback via your mobile phone, and marketing analysts are "cutting up" a huge chuck of mobile spend to the once lowly coupon.

Kudos to new mobile technologies.  Mobile coupons are a big focus of mobile advertising using near field communication (NFC) technology as one of many ways to increase store traffic. As discussed in last week’s post, hyper-local marketing via mobile advertising is on everyone’s radar, and mobile coupons are expected to rise with the tide. Mobile coupon spending is expected to grow eight-fold from $5.4 billion to $43 billion by 2016 (Juniper Research).

Why Mobile Coupons? Living Social, Google, Coupons Inc., and Discover have all spoken to their current focus on mobile coupons via NFC. They want to make coupons faster and easier for us consumers to use. Isn’t technology grand?

Currently, coupons or vouchers can be redeemed 2 ways. First is the good ol’ fashioned printing or cutting out of the coupon for the cashier to scan, which triggers the discount. Second is pulling the coupon up on your smartphone, revealing a QR code or a barcode for the cashier to scan. Neither of these are that seamless, as they require the consumer and cashier to do multiple steps. And as we know, consumers don’t like multiple steps.

This is where NFC technology comes in. With a simple tap of your smartphone against an in-store station, your coupons are automatically redeemed - no barcodes required! Additionally, with the development of mobile payments such as Google Wallet, a single tap of your smartphone will both redeem coupons and run the transaction against your credit card. Tap and go. Talk about seamless!

Advantages of Mobile Coupons for Customers:

  • No scissors required. You can’t run with scissors, but you can run with your smartphone to redeem the coupon that just popped up!
  • Less waste. Mobile coupons are digital, meaning less paper waste.
  • Coupons will be fun. Before, coupons were reserved for household items, such as ketchup, cat food, and cleaning agents. Snooze. Now, coupons sent to you can have the variety of daily deal sites, with discounts on social outings and fun local events, all with seamless redemption.
  • They will be targeted to YOU. Mobile coupons, like mobile advertising, will be tailored to you. For example, you can sync your phone to your loyalty membership program (club card) at your grocery store. Your purchase history can then be used to offer mobile coupons on products you may like, introducing you to new products. This is like the “Netflix Recommends” feature of mobile coupons, which has always lead to good discoveries for me.

Advantages of Mobile Coupons for Merchants:

  • Secure. Mobile coupons can't be duplicated.
  • High redemption rates. Mobile coupons have redemption rates as high as 30%, vs paper coupon's 2%.
  • Excellent tracking. Instant access to who redeemed the coupons, where they were, and at what time.
  • Instant insight into ad campaigns. Instantly see how successful a coupon campaign is and who it's working with.
  • Low Cost. Digital coupons are less expensive to distribute than paper.
  • Enhanced data. Redemption data will be linked to purchase history and customer type, allowing for more precise research and future campaigns.

So, say goodbye to your scissors and coupon organizer. They are soon to be relics from the pre-smartphone age that future generations will never believe. I picture them picking up a coupon book, blowing dust off of it, and asking me, "What is this specimen?" Mobile coupons, I welcome your seamless money-saving discounts with open arms.