Do promotions, coupons and incentive programs have any value on mobile?

[Crossposted from the Taptu blog]

Sitting in my parents’ living room in Canada, I’ve seen just how much unrequested mail they receive, flyers from supermarkets and furniture shops to clothing and hardware stores. Junkmail and couponsEach one is filled with “50% off” claims and coupons. It’s a quaint tradition that is now being shoehorned into new technologies like mobile.

Mike writes about it saying that marketers tend to think of the mobile as a fantastic advertising medium, “always on, highly person, uniquely identifiable users”. That much is true, isn’t it?

“So I end up reading about things that the folks in the industry generally tend to term “The Starbucks Example”. It’s the example where a service could somehow figure out you’re near a Starbucks (whether it be location based services or some kind of near field communication system like Bluetooth) and push you a coupon (”RIGHT THEN!”) for 25 cents off your latte. […] How often do I really want 25 cents off my latte? Is it really worth all the other junk I get in return for it?”

While maybe I’m more of a sucker for Starbucks than Mike may be, in theory, I can quite comfortably see a Bluetoothed voucher for 25p off a latte cause me to detour towards the overpriced coffee store on the way to my destination. However, it’s an extremely slippery slope, and encouraging Bluetooth marketing exercises would probably result in a heavy influx of untargetted marketing messages to my phone, which I definitely would not welcome.

Coming from an email marketing background, I know quite how poorly some “marketers” can choose to understand data protection and user privacy, giving themselves artistic license over what “opt-in” means. Carlo also echo’ed my suspicion that too often, bluespamming is so untargetted that it gets a very poor conversion. So let’s scrap Bluetooth marketing!

An unprompted SMS is even more invasive than Bluetooth marketing, since it can disturb me during a much needed holiday nap, so that’s out too.

This leaves us with user-initiated promotion. This is like the mobile equivalent of double opt-in in email marketing – Far tougher to achieve user participation but cream of the crop conversion rates as a result, since you’re only reaching those who are actively showing interest. The best example I can think of for this is Orange Wednesdays, a promotion that’s been running successfully for over 3 years, launched by Orange and Flytxt in the UK. Orange customers get a 2 for 1 discount on movie tickets on Wednesday nights, feeling they’re getting a great deal at 50% the usual ticket price, while cinemas get a fresh influx of visitors in an age where the big screen is suffering from lower footfall every year. Brilliant deal!

Using a word which needs to be texted to a shortcode is a reasonably low-effort option for the mass market, while QR codes scanning is only a suitable solution if uber-nerds are the target market. Ask anyone else what that stamp-sized black and white garble means and you’ll get an uninterested shrug.

The bottom line is that it’s got to be simple and non-intrusive, something that not all marketers can achieve successfully!

What are some of the best mobile marketing campaigns you’ve seen? What’s the wildest ideas you’d like to see using mobiles? At what point is a discount, a promotion or an incentive good enough that it should be allowed to interrupt our life?

5 thoughts on “Do promotions, coupons and incentive programs have any value on mobile?

  1. Moosie

    I’m another Canadian living in the UK, married to a Brit, and who coincidentally also did a degree in Communications (from Simon Fraser University in BC) but who is significantly older than you (50!). I worked in telecoms/writing about the telecoms market for the first 15 of my so far 23 years in the UK – and even before bluetooth (maybe around 1994-5?) mobile operators talked about deals whereby retailers like Sainsburys could send you a text if your cell wandered within range of one of their stores – letting you know about special deals ‘just for you’ eg personalised (because you would also have registered your mobile number with them – along with your loyalty card etc).
    When this was raised at a mobile comms conference, my comment to the guy from Vodafone was “If Sainsburys wants to interrupt what I’m doing to make me stop in the street and read a text about 2p off tuna steaks, they THEY are more than welcome to give me (and pay for) a mobile phone that does precisely that.” He didn’t have a response to that. OK – so yes, I’ve bought tuna steaks from Sainsburys before, but apart from subsidising my use of a mobile phone, I’m not sure there is any incentive enough to interrupt my life (unless we’re talking mega-buck incentives). Anyway, am glad I discovered your blog! I envy you your tech knowledge!

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  3. Layla

    I really like the idea of saving money off of things I purchase frequently, but I’m not so sure I like the junk mail that comes with it.

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