March 18, 2010, 12:00 AM

Consumers are still not sold on mobile coupons, study finds

While interactive marketers are showing increasing interest in offering mobile coupons, most consumers aren’t yet excited about receiving the high-tech equivalent of the paper coupon, Forrester Research says in a new report.

While interactive marketers are showing increasing interest in offering mobile coupons, most consumers aren’t excited about receiving the high-tech equivalent of the paper coupon, Forrester Research Inc. says in a new report released this week.

Of 4,029 mobile users surveyed in March 2009, only 30% said they would be open to receiving discount coupons via their cell phones, though the acceptance rate was higher, at 46%, among the 499 young adults in the study between the ages of 18 to 24.

Of the types of coupons mobile users said they would like to receive, discounts on restaurants ranked highest, followed by deals on drinks, household products, personal care products, music or DVDs, snacks, fashion and apparel, events, travel and air fare, and car maintenance and repairs.

The slow adoption rate of mobile couponing can be tied to several factors, including the fact that mobile coupons aren’t necessarily any easier to use than paper coupons, Forrester says. With many mobile coupons, a consumer may have to read a code to a cashier, print a coupon at a kiosk, or keep a mobile Internet session live so the cashier can read the code or scan the coupon with an optical reader. Part of the problem is that conventional laser bar code scanners can’t read coupons on mobile phone screens; Target Corp. recently announced it had deployed optical scanners that can read mobile coupons at its more than 1,700 stores.

Poor execution of mobile campaigns, including poor creatives and inappropriate frequency, and consumer unfamiliarity with how to find and use mobile coupons, also have contributed to slow adoption, Forrester says.

In addition, while advertisers talk a lot about mobile marketing tactics, few interactive marketers are rushing to implement them. Only 34% of 176 marketers surveyed in March 2009 said they planned to use mobile tactics, compared with 31% in 2008. Among the marketers who planned to market to consumers’ mobile devices, 36% said they would spend less than $250,000 annually on those efforts.

Nevertheless, mobile couponing has significant appeal to marketers, Forrester says. Of those that used mobile tactics last year, 44% tested coupons or promotions on cell phones. Marketers said they believe mobile coupons provide more convenience to consumers seeking promotions, lower the cost of processing coupons, offer more contextual targeting, strengthen the brand, facilitate learning and appeal to younger consumers.

Based on the survey results, Forrester analyst Julie A. Ask says marketers shouldn’t feel pressured to launch a mobile coupon campaign this year but should begin laying the groundwork for integrating such campaigns with existing loyalty programs.

Forrester released the report, “Mobile Coupons: Gold Rush or Fools Gold? An Overview of the State of Mobile Coupons in the U.S.,” earlier this week.

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