At Penn Station in New York yesterday I watched a man battle a self-serve ticket kiosk with his cell phone. Trying to get the machine’s scanner to recognize the e-ticket code on his smartphone was a comedy in itself. He twisted it. He turned it. He even seemed to jerk it in front of the red light of the scanner as if trying to attract the lasers’ attention.
The road to mobile coupon redemption could be rocky, I thought. But it is worth traversing, according to Juniper Research. The U.K. market researcher projects that the total redemption value of mobile coupons globally will reach $43 billion by 2016. Mobile delivery of discount and promotional coupons will skyrocket from a current redemption value that the company already pegs at $5.4 billion.
Juniper argues that “m-coupons” are valuable because they occupy the intersection of mobile ads, payments and customer loyalty programs. The app-based coupon has emerged as a critical component in almost all of the mobile wallet models that have emerged, such as Google Wallet and the ISIS consortium of carriers and credit card companies. Marry these promotional capabilities with location awareness and you have a recipe for cooking up coupons that reach a person at the final point of purchase decision-making.
Juniper says that in addition to gaining a new sense of place, app-based mobile couponing will be informed by purchase history, a user’s lifestyle and work patterns and other real-time activity that will enhance the targetability of offers in unprecedented ways. The technologies are in place even for small and local retailers to leverage m-coupons as a way to drive store traffic, says analyst David Snow in the report. “To ignore the potential of mobile coupons would be to ignore the future of mobile commerce,” he argues.
Well, yes, probably so. But almost everyone who has ever tried to use a mobile coupon at retail know the experience of dealing with easily befuddled store clerks who haven’t gotten the directive from headquarters on how to handle a smart phone shoved in their faces sporting an unfamiliar bar code or redemption instruction. Just scanning a code from the endlessly variable LCD screens out there is a challenge even at checkouts that are supposed to recognize them.
I sure hope that guy in Penn Station caught his train.