Retail Customer Experience: Why Mobile Coupons Are Not the Answer
Commentary by Jeff Weidauer, Vice President of Marketing for Vestcom International
a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current
article from Retail Customer Experience, a daily news portal
devoted to helping retailers differentiate the shopping experience.
In a recent
article in Fast Company magazine, Steve Jobs quoted Henry
Ford: "If I’d have asked people what they wanted, they would’ve
said a faster horse." Mr. Jobs’ point was that the iPod, as well
as Apple’s other game-changing ideas, did not come out of focus groups
or quantitative research; they came from understanding human behavior, and finding
There is an apt analogy to the world of coupons.
What people really want,
but don’t know how to ask for, are ways to save
money that are relevant to them. They know about coupons, so they think in those
Coupon use has skyrocketed in
the past 24 months or so as shoppers looking for ways to save money returned
to their old habits and started clipping coupons. Coupon aggregator websites
have fed the trend. With nearly every adult (and many kids) carrying a mobile
phone, the transition from paper coupons to mobile began very quickly, for
good reason: distribution was, theoretically at least, quick and cheap.
displaying a coupon barcode on a mobile phone is a ham-fisted way to address
this need for value. Coupons have always been a poor way to drive sales, but
again, absent a viable alternative, they have hung in there for much longer
than their ability to drive incremental sales should have allowed. Putting
a coupon barcode on a mobile device does nothing to make the coupon more effective,
and only minimally more measurable or targeted.
Thanks to mobile devices, and
the smart phone in particular, reaching shoppers in real-time is easier, cheaper,
and more effective than ever. The opportunity to engage with shoppers in a
meaningful manner, all while driving profitable sales via measurable marketing
efforts, far exceeds the paltry returns of mobile coupons. Of course, this
is a tougher road to travel, with IT investment required to develop infrastructure
and back-end analytics.
Designing and building an affordable car for the masses
was, likewise, tougher than breeding a faster horse, but the results have quite
literally changed the world. The question of whether a few years from now we
will look back on today as a time of transition to more effective marketing
tools, or sticking with the old world because it was easier, has yet to be
Discussion Questions: Do you agree that mobile coupons are not the answer?
If so, what do you think is the answer?