Commentary

Well, Of Course Mobile Is Driving Digital Couponing ... Massively

What do you expect? Digital coupons always suffered the one-step-too-many syndrome. You had to print them. Sure, for the items and stores you were already devoted to, printing a coupon is no big deal. I pretty much always used to have the latest Border's Books or Barnes & Noble email coupon in my wallet at all times, simply because I knew the odds were good I would find myself in one of those stores before the expiration date. But a bookaholic is like that -- always looking for the discounted read.

But for the everyday coupon-clipper, digital was always waiting for a more convenient delivery mechanism. Print more than a few coupons and you have yourself a ream of pages to cart around just to have with you the right UPC code. Digital couponing was made for mobile. And so as eMarketer reports this week, the rise of the smartphone is a boon to couponing. The research aggregator and analyst predicts that the number of people redeeming coupons this year will go up 11%, which is a much revised upward forecast from the 4.5% they previously estimated.

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More than half of U.S. adults -- or 102.5 million of us -- will redeems a digital coupon, online or off, but print or device. That figure will rise to 57.5% of adults by 2015.

And of course this is about mobile. Device-based coupon use will grow 40.9% this year, as 42.1 million Americans use their phones to redeem an offer. A third of smartphone users will use a mobile coupon. This growth comes after a 60.6% spike in mobile couponing last year and will continue to drive the field until 2015, when we hit 74.1 million mobile users redeeming a coupon.

In addition to the devices themselves, the growth of more local deals and the increased sharing of coupons through social networks will help the platform proliferate. Tablets are also expanding the base as these larger screens penetrate more homes and people start using them for pre-shopping chores. eMarketer sees 47.1 million tablet users, or 45% of the base, using coupons this year.

All of which is to underscore the need for greater cross-screen functionality among couponing apps. Users should be able to throw any coupon they find to a phone, whether they encounter it in a circular, online or via a tablet. You want me to use your coupon? Make it easy for me to use it on the device I have with me all the time. Encode the coupon for Apple Passbook. Let me save the coupon as an image in my camera roll. Don't make me have to keep a mobile site page on hand at all times to make the damned discount work. Make it easy for cashiers to type in the code if the scanning technique doesn't work.

It is amazing to me that so many of us are using mobile coupons even though the infrastructure itself is still lurching towards a more seamless experience. 

1 comment about "Well, Of Course Mobile Is Driving Digital Couponing ... Massively".
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  1. Bill Hewson from Hewson Group, October 22, 2013 at 1:57 p.m.

    Digital coupons are indeed the future of price promotion, especially for CPG products. The battle is between the manufacturers and the retailers, both fighting for primacy of delivery method and consumer loyalty data. Until there is an industry standard adopted for the propagation and redemption of coupons across brands and across retailers, ala paper today, we will continue to see fragmentation due to myriad technology standards and retailer acceptance practices. Who loses in the mean time? The consumer, as you so rightly point out.

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