Saturday, May 30, 2009

Mobile: coupons to be tried by Unilever for its consumers

[moco] The notion of offering coupons via mobile phones has been bandied about since the earliest days of the wireless web, but now it looks like mainstream brands are increasingly convinced that consumers are willing to give them a try. On Sunday, FMCG giant Unilever will kick off a trial powered by mobile marketing startup that will let consumers redeem coupons by having a supermarket cashier scan their phones. The four-week long test will be conducted at a ShopRite supermarket in Hillsborough, N.J., and if successful, will be rolled out to more stores.

Why now? Unilever director of integrated marketing Marc Shaw acknowledged to the that mobile coupons were “a Holy Grail thing that people have been trying to figure out,” but said that he believed that they were “on target for where consumers’ heads are at right now.”

Still, there are a lot of hurdles standing in the way, even if consumers are more cost-conscious and increasingly more comfortable about using their phones for more than calls. First of all, consumers interested in the coupons must go to’s web site, find the coupons, and then transmit them onto their web-enabled phone. Some, like Andy Murray, head of in-store-marketing agency Saatchi & Saatchi X, believe this is just too big a hassle for consumers to be bothered with. Redeeming also has its issues. Murray told the, “Shoppers have a time budget, a money budget and a frustration budget.”

As for brands, many are still apparently worried about the potential for entry errors and other technological issues. Mobile coupons either require a cashier to manually enter a code shown on the phone, which can be a slow process, while not many stores have the equipment yet to easily scan the coupons by swiping the phone.

Still, if all goes well and a consumer clears all the hurdles and the redemption works fine, cellphone coupons are returning far higher redemption rates than paper ones. Cellfire, another mobile coupon company that works with supermarket chains Kroger’s and Safeway unit Randalls Food Markets, said their coupons had redemption rates in the mid-teens. Paper ones typically have rates of less than 1 percent.

Unilever To Trial Mobile Coupons

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