Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Social couponing

With the increasing popularity of mobiles, turning from phones into computing devices, plus the concept of app stores, we see a digitization of services and concepts, one of them being mobile couponing. Originally, you found a coupon in a newspaper, magazine or flyer and cut it out, then presenting it at the next opportunity along with a purchase to which it was applicable. The advantage of this is that from a customer perspective it is totally technology-free, but of course seeing it in a broader perspective, being closely related to purchases, coupon lifecycles must be seen in relation to producers & retailers.

Enter internet-based coupons, being offered through a variety of portals, either referenced via codes or distributing them in PDF format. One disadvantage of paper coupons is that you need to collect them & carry them around. Thus, it would be nice to be able to digitally pick them up with your mobile device and redeem them in the point of sale. But then, you depend on your mobile being capable of handling coupons, which is a limiting factor.

Another option would be for a loyalty program to participate in couponing. Then, coupons could be associated to your own loyalty card, either by picking them up via a loyalty portal after login, or at the point of sale (for coupons that are related to a purchase or to a specific store). An option would be to choose between loyalty points and coupons, depending on your needs. You still would need a kind of digital coupon manager that handles the coupons you get in digital form, depending on their validity period and other constraints, whether they are of continued interest to you (perhaps you may want to get rid of coupons you no longer need), and whether they are already redeemed or not. This could be linked to a community of coupon users so you may be able to give coupons to others or exchange them.

This may well change the current nature of coupons, being a resource between end customers and retailers. Any further ideas related to social couponing would thus be of great interest to me.

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