The Perspective 
Tuesday, 28 August 2012
Recognizing that consumers have adopted the mobile phone as a prime shopping tool, it stands to reason that some of our clients are asking how to deliver a mobile coupon from an interactive kiosk or display.

The interest in mobile coupons in particular stems from the recognition that:
 1) At a time when retailers are focused on combating showrooming, the immediacy of mobile couponing combined with a product display or the content on a shopping kiosk creates a powerful incentive to purchase while still in-store.

 2) Couponing can also open a direct line of communication by serving as a gateway to ask customers to opt-in for an ongoing text messaging program.
I think when marketers ask us about delivering coupons, they’re hoping there is something magical out there that will work on a broad enough scale that is better than the usual tactics of text messaging and QR codes. The short answer is there will be. The long answer is not just yet.


Text messaging is still the practical work horse of mobile tactics because it has the greatest reach. Three-quarters of mobile phone users are doing it. Both smart phone and basic phone users can respond to an invitation and have a coupon bearing a unique identification code returned in text format. Marketers can also opt to deliver coupons targeted to smartphone owners via URL link or multi-media format, but reach is more limited.

QR Codes

QR codes have not yet delivered as marketers had hoped in the U.S., but they can be combined with a text messaging option to give the customer a choice of how to respond. Research by comScore indicates one in five smart phone users scanned a QR code at retail during 2011. We can hope that clear communication and better quality content will up this rate.


If text messaging and QR codes are in the practical category for coupon delivery, NFC belongs in the probable category. Much of the discussion about Near Field Communications (NFC) has centered on mobile payments, but a few years out technology holds the promise of allowing shoppers to wave at or tap a kiosk or display containing an NFC chip to transfer an offer to the phone. Research by Forrester concludes that by 2016, 25% of consumers will have NFC equipped phones. That’s about as much traction as QR codes have now.

Everything Else

This is where we go from the practical and the probable to the possible.

There are a number of entrepreneurial options being tested and piloted that use beacon devices to deliver signals to consumers who have the compatible application running on their phone or who respond to retail signage to turn on Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. The cost of these options seems to make them a better fit for delivering coupons and alerts by retailers or mall groups rather than individual brands.

 And then there’s some intriguing gesture based technology that is worth watching. What if you could summon the shopper to wave their phone at the screen to receive an offer? That’s an appealing prospect for customer engagement.

Time will tell if some of these “magical” tactics have the reach, the consumer adoption and the ROI to make them viable answers for delivering mobile offers at the point of purchase.

Even now it is possible using text messaging and QR codes to deliver mobile coupons from a kiosk or display that may garner a decent level of participation by shoppers. Mobility should be a part of the planning discussion.

Gail Tanner is the Director of Social Media and Mobile Marketing at DSA member company Frank Mayer & Associates, Inc.

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