Mobile innovation can sometimes transform a process while not disrupting things along the way.
A couple of years ago, a California startup named Endorse created what seemed to be a path of least consumer resistance for mobile coupons.
The well-funded startup challenged the age-old concept of coupons by creating an app that allowed consumers to take a photo of their grocery shopping receipt, upload it to Endorse and receive credit that could be redeemed for cash, which was sent by check or via PayPal.
The offers, from brands including Kraft, General Mills and PepsiCo, were refreshed one day each week and over a period of a few months I had accumulated $46 and grown quite fond of the system, as I wrote about here at the time (Coupon Redemption Comes Home).
In the middle of last year, the company abruptly closed and a short time later was acquired by Dropbox, as I also documented here (The Mobile Coupon App that Didn’t Make It).
Last week, a similar system in Canada called SnapSaves was acquired by Groupon, so we’ll be watching to see if the system becomes integrated there.
I recently came across a third such system called Checkout 51, also in Canada, which does essentially what Endorse did, but a bit better.
Like endorse, Checkout 51 partners with CPG companies and lists deals, which are refreshed each Thursday. To incite mobile shoppers to use the system, it also offers discounts on items without any brand requirements, such as 50 cents cash back on eggs and 25 cents on cucumbers or apples.
Shoppers take a photo of the receipt and upload it via simple directions and a short time later receive a notification if the receipt has been correctly processed.
The processing is handled by a combination of technology and some manual processing, according to company founder Noah Godfrey.
An issue I had with Endorse was that many of the coupons offered were totally irrelevant to me. Another was that there were only 10 weekly deals.
“We give different people different offers,” said Godfrey. “Some offers go to all, but some go only to certain people based on their past purchases.”
The app presents 15 to 40 coupons a week and attempts to target based on purchasing patterns rather than demographics.
“What you buy is a better predictor than demographics,” said Godfrey. “What you buy tells us what kind of a person you are.”
The company started in late 2012, shortly after Endorse and now has almost 2 million users in the U.S.
Godfrey said more than a third of those who download the app go through the shopping-receipt scanning process, noting that more than $6 million in coupon rebates have been credited to customers, who can cash out when their till hits $20.
The interesting aspect of these receipt-scanning services is that the entire coupon process is being quietly transformed.
The approach bypasses the retailer and the POS systems and connects products directly to relevant consumers.
Many shoppers will obviously still opt for in-store coupon redemption. The irony is that they can still do that manually and then go home, photograph the receipt and receive additional after-the-fact coupons.