Friday, October 05, 2012

Is mobile couponing finally hitting the mainstream?

zagmeIt seems like a lifetime ago since I had my first exposure to mobile couponing back in 2000 at ZagMe. Yes, it’s some twelve years ago since I helped invent location based sms couponing with fellow mobilist, Russell Buckley. I’ve seen many coupon projects come and go and I’ve seen many location based services come and go, but finally, we appear to be at the point where this thing is hitting the mainstream. And yet again, we have Apple to thank for it.

May of you will know that I do not worship at the altar of Apple but there’s no denying that they have changed our mobile world forever. And may well be changing the world of mobile couponing forever too with the introduction of Passbook. This is an app that helps you keep track of your mobile coupons, tickets and gift cards. With the added bonus of being location-aware (optional), it can nudge you when you’re near an outlet where you can use said coupons if that company’s app has that feature included. I don’t have a working iPhone so I haven’t tested this myself, but from the description here, it still sounds a bit clunky. But I have no doubt that the clunks will be evened out pretty quickly as there’s more take-up and developers work out how to get the best from the service.

This is first to market in the US, but the UK is catching up. We’re not as coupon obsessed in the UK as the US (where they have a TV show dedicated to the topic), but we do still like a bargain – Groupon and its ilk have been a success here and SalesGossip is also gaining traction. Meanwhile, Harvester has teamed up with Eagle Eye and Millennial Media to be the first UK company to use Passbook for their couponing.

Helen Worrall, Marketing Manager, Harvester said: “We are excited to be amongst the first in line to use this new way to distribute mobile vouchers to Apple Passbook users, offering our customers a better and more convenient experience. Not only does it provide us with a new way of engaging the iOS 6 iPhone users, but the benefit having one central point to digitally distribute and redeem vouchers in real-time means we have more control and visibility over our marketing campaign performance.”

I’m interested to see how this one plays out (you can try out the campaign for yourself if you go to from your iPhone) and I will be watching to see how the campaign fares as well as keeping an eye out as to how other retailers take on the challenge of digital couponing beyond the iPhone.

Dare I say it? Is this the year of mobile couponing?

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