Mobile coupons capture the essence of today's shopper: Busy, on the go, and tech-friendly. They embody their grandmothers' penny-pinching sensibilities with the bravado of the Priceline spokesman played by William ("If saving money is wrong, I don't want to be right") Shatner. As a result, today's coupons meet the mobile challenge by providing a fast, accessible means of discounting. Except when they don't.
Earlier this week, Target apparently offered a $10-off coupon, usable when the customer spent $40. The potential shopper is instructed to text "SPRINGCLEAN" to Target to receive the coupon. The trouble is, the coupon is not guaranteed to be immediately available. Target's reply to the SPRINGCLEAN text is:
Thank you for your interest in Target’s Spring Cleaning campaign. Your $10 off coupon will be available within 24 hours. Msg&data rates may apply.
Target is certainly not alone is coming up short with mobile coupons. But such a setup does little for the on-the-go consumer that mobile coupons are trying to attract. The customer might as well have just printed out the coupon at home. At least that way, the coupon would be in-hand. However, that requires some planning, and does not capture the spontaneous nature of mobile shoppers.
Despite such lackluster deployments, a recent study on digital coupons by eMarketer found that the number of this type of couponer will increase from 12.3 million in 2010 to a whopping 46 million this year, and will continue to grow:
eMarketer estimates that 92.5 million people in the US redeemed a digital coupon in 2012. By 2014, US adult digital coupon users will surpass 100 million. Growth will come in at 4.6% this year and will remain slow but steady through 2014. eMarketer has revised its 2012 projection for smartphone coupon users upward to 29.5 million from its previous forecast of 28 million.
Further, a study by RadiumOne found that nearly half of women ages 35 to 54 would like to receive mobile coupons via SMS. Overall, it represents a huge opportunity for solution providers to help retailers create and deploy couponing systems. Smartphones let users access deals anywhere and at anytime, and solution providers can help retailers serve coupons that are highly relevant based on location, behavior, and timeliness.
Mobile couponers have an growing number of ways they can receive mobile coupons, including SMS promotions, retail and manufacturer apps, coupon-specific apps, email offers, and mobile barcodes. Part of the challenge when implementing these solutions is to keep them easy to use. According to RadiumOne:
The number of friction points in the redemption process greatly reduces the practical use of mobile based offers.
Waiting several hours for a coupon would be a rather large "friction point," in my estimation.