Posted November 2, 2010 3:51 pm by with 2 comments

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The latest eMarketer graphic shows that 85% of mobile phone users have never used a mobile coupon. That’s not where we thought we’d be by now. With the wide spread of Smartphones and the rise in mobile marketing, cell phone coupons should be a given but something has stalled the concept at the gate.

Even Cellfire, who’s main purpose was to promote the use of mobile coupons now leans heavily on their club card coupon technology with no sign of a cell phone on their front page.

So what happened?

One problem is the technology. As smart as we, and our phones, are, downloading mobile coupons isn’t as seamless as it should be. My one attempt at using a mobile coupon was for a discount at my local car care center. The coupon showed up on my phone a week after the work was done.

Another issue is the lack of organization. Who has time to sift through a hundred text messages in order to find that coupon code that you’re pretty sure you sent to your phone three days ago. And at the grocery store? I use an average of 25 coupons a week. Finding and showing each coupon to the clerk would be a nightmare.

I think the biggest thing stopping people from using mobile coupons is the unwieldiness of showing the coupon to a clerk. There you are at Starbucks, wallet in hand, hot coffee ready to go and you’ve got to pull up the coupon code then show it to the clerk and hold it steady while they read or scan a barcode.  I saw a woman in line at the grocery store doing this yesterday and it looked so awkward.

Mobile coupons are a good idea. They’re an easy way to get $5.00 off your lunch order at that fast food place you visit every week. But as much as we love our deals, mobile coupon technology has to become more uniform and more accessible if it’s going to be the marketing medium of the future.

Have you ever used a mobile coupon? If not, why not?

  • Hi Cynthia,

    I read your article with great interest. You bring up some great points regarding mobile coupons and the issues related to using mobile coupons for groceries or where scanning is needed. The other problem you mentioned about SMS based marketing is very relevant as well. I believe that SMS based marketing is not scalable as it will fill up your sms inbox with all those promotions. Also, as a cell phone user, I do not want to give my cell phone number to Mobile SMS marketers. As such I get so much junk mail in my email, but I will be quite upset to get junk SMS.

    I welcome you to look at GeoQpons application which brings solution for shoppers to use discounts and offers from Brand retailers as well as local businesses. Unlike grocery stores, most brand retailers use coupons codes which can be easily entered into cash registers to apply discounts. For local businesses, there is no backend integration and these businesses are well aware of their offers that they have published. Therefore, generally they will honor the coupons when shown on a cell phone.

    With GeoQpons, all the offers are at one place so you do not need to keep on looking through the SMS inbox to find the store or the offer that was sent to you. In addition, you can now find offers and coupons for several stores and you never need to sign up with these stores. The coupons are presented with the coupon code as well as the expiry date. Upon expiry, those coupons disappear from the app. The users can also save their favorite stores and coupons with easy access to them at any time.

    The mobile coupon acceptance is not 100% but it is increasing rapidly as the stores and the employees are getting more familiar with mobile offers. I think it is matter of time where the paper coupons will all be replaced by electronic coupons and mostly redeemed via cell phones.

    GeoQpons is available on iPhone and Android. In couple of weeks it will be available for Blackberry as well. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or any comments after you have downloaded the app and used it. Happy Savings !!

  • We’ve been in the process of collecting focus group data that would validate what you have stated Cynthia- the technology needs to be more graceful and we know people don’t always respond well to SMS notificaton. I agree too that the momentum everyone was looking has been a bit lackluster.
    From a slightly different angle, our business model places the emphasis on the “giveaway” instant sweepstakes component and hosts the discount and coupon offerings secondarily. We’ve received fantastic reviews for our platform and feel we are in just the right niche. People will eventually catch on to the convenience and immediacy factor to the stand alone discount and coupon model but we think giveaways are the more enticing choice as a business model when considering “actionable” responses from consumers.

    Mobile Marketing Made Fun!