JC Penney has begun testing a new system at Houston area stores that lets customers scan mobile coupons directly from their phones at checkout.
The program, launched Thursday at 16 JC Penney locations, is enabled through new imaging scanners installed at registers that can read the "2D" barcode coupons and save sales clerks from having to manually enter promotional codes for coupons.
"These mobile coupons are the ultimate in customer convenience because there's no need to clip or carry around a printed coupon, and they can be instantly scanned from a cell phone. It's another way we're innovating to enhance the customer's shopping experience," said Mike Boylson, executive vice president and chief marketing officer for JC Penney, in a statement.
Partnering with the retailer on the project is Cellfire, which offers discounts from multiple retailers through a free, downloadable mobile application. Customers can register for the service via PC or the mobile Web at cellfire.com/jcpenney or by texting "JCP" to 28888 on their phones.
JC Penney said it will promote several offers to Houston area customers via mobile coupons through the holiday season, starting with $10 discounts on purchases totaling $50, and $20 off for those worth $100 or more. The retailer will also promote the mobile coupon program locally through Internet and mobile advertising as well as e-mail marketing and other methods.
Depending on the results of the mobile trial in Houston, the company will decide whether to expand the effort to stores more widely. JC Penney operates roughly 1,100 department stores nationwide.
The recession has sparked a broader coupon resurgence as consumers look for more ways to save money. A story in today's New York Times focuses on the trend, citing data from coupon-processing company Inmar showing that coupon redemption increased 23% in the first half of the year.
Digital coupons, online and on cell phones, have also picked up. Ten million digital coupons were redeemed in the first six months of 2009 -- up 25% from a year ago. But they still account for less than a half a percent of all coupons distributed, according to Inmar.
Over the summer, Yahoo announced an alliance with Coupons Inc. to create a program via its Yahoo Mobile service for large brand advertisers to distribute mobile coupons nationwide.
While mobile coupons are still far from mainstream, Jordan Rohan of digital media advisory firm Clearmeadow Partners cited the coupon business as one of the few promising channels for mobile marketing in remarks at the OMMA Global conference earlier this week.