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The Mobile Coupon Guide


Photo: joepemberton

When Asa Candler and the Coca Cola Company (KO) introduced the first printed coupon in 1887, how could they have imagined that couponing would become an art form and their invention would someday be sent electronically to portable devices around the world?

In 2009, U.S. consumers redeemed 3.3 billion coupons for consumer packaged goods, according to Inmar,  which processes returned or recalled products, promotional transactions and pharmacy claims for pharmacies and retailers. Manufacturers issued 367 billion coupons, at an average face value of $1.44, indicating that despite a tough economic climate, they understand the appeal of savings to consumers.

No matter what the state of the economy, shoppers turn to coupons to unburden their budgets — and that has been particularly the case in the past couple of years.

Here, we give you a round-up of a relatively new coupon phenomenon: one that doesn’t require any clipping, weekly circular browsing or even a subscription to your local Sunday paper: mobile coupons.

What are mobile coupons?

Mobile coupons are the digital version of sales circulars found in your local newspaper. Digital coupons help shoppers save money without needing a pair of scissors and an afternoon to work their way through the Sunday paper. And unlike web based coupons, the mobile variety requires no paper or printer ink, making them a truly innovative green technology.

How do they work?

Mobile coupons are sent to a user’s cell phone via text message or downloaded using a Smartphone application. Coupon barcodes are then scanned directly from your cell phone or a short code is inputted into the cash register by the cashier.

One needn’t be tech savvy to take advantage of the latest ad savings campaigns. Karen Oliver, a Target shopper in Madison, Wis., used a scannable coupon for the first time recently with ease. “I clip coupons and they always end up in the bottom of my purse or left behind in a drawer. This was easy to hang on to because I carry my cell phone with me everywhere.”

Where can you find mobile coupons?

Mobile coupons are available to consumers in three forms:
• By text message sent directly from the business
• Smartphone applications
• Social networking sites

The simplest means of taking advantage of the mobile couponing trend is to visit your favorite retailer’s website and sign up to receive text message savings. Target (TGT) launched their first scannable mobile coupon in the spring of 2010, and offers free sign up directly on their website.

Smartphone applications take Internet surfing out of the picture, presenting a simple search interface that locates deals in your area. Apps like Qponomics and Valpak’s Local Coupon work across multiple platforms and deliver paperless savings to your phone in real time.

Photo: jamescridland

Social networking websites like FourSquare, GoWalla and Yelp are helping mobile coupons go mainstream in a big way by pushing targeted coupons to users. Mike Peterson, a FourSquare user from San Francisco, Calif., was walking by a Chili’s restaurant in Madison, Wisc., when his phone alerted him through FourSquare that he could get half-priced appetizers at a location less than 100 feet from where he was standing. “One minute I was looking for a place to eat and the next I was sitting down at Chili’s for half price,” he says. “The coupon found me.”

Photo: dpstyles

While mobile coupons have been around for the better part of a decade, they were not widely available or used until recently. Last year, Juniper Research released a study predicting that mobile coupon usage would triple by 2014, with more than 300 million people expected to adopt the technology.

Will you make the switch to virtual discounts?

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