Thursday, March 12, 2009

Mobile Marketing in a Recession

For those of you who've just recently returned from the "Lost" island, we are in a global economic cool-down. An interesting shift in consumer behavior has started and analysis of this change is starting to make its rounds in the press. According to a recent article in USA Today, online searches that include value words such as "coupons" rose 161% in December versus 2007. Google says that ad spending on value-related words such as coupons rose 30% in the fourth quarter over the same period a year earlier.

Comscore (cited in the USA Today article) also notes that online coupon sites are the number two most important online sites (next to search engines, of course) to consumers when shopping in the past 3 months. Slightly over 50% of consumers say they are using coupons more often due to the hardened economic times.

Maybe it's because of the way I was raised, maybe it's because it's in my DNA, or maybe it's both: I use coupons. I have no problems using coupons for items that I would normally buy. I also have been known to buy because of a coupon. To me, not using a coupon is like leaving money on the table. A dollar off a roll of toilet paper not meaningful to you? Let's put it a different way. Suppose you saw a dollar bill laying on the floor of the toilet paper aisle in the store. Would you leave it there or would you nonchalantly pick it up? The only problem with coupons is that they are required at the point of redemption. So if I forget to bring my coupon along, no joy.

Just as digital cameras and cell phones formed an alliance that changed the world, it appears that coupons and cell phones are forming an alliance that will have similar behavior-changing effects. For example, Domino's Pizza recently announced that they have selected Air2Web to be their sole provider for their new mobile coupon campaigns. This partnership totally makes sense to me. According to the Food Marketing Institute, paper coupon usage has declined 40% in the last few years due to lack of immediacy and the manual effort of clipping. But due to the benefits of mobile devices that we all know about, coupons have a brand new life.

The advantage of mobile couponing is multi-fold. First, mobile devices are highly personal so this means highly personalized and highly relevant coupons. Second, we all take our mobile devices with us wherever we go - so you're never without your coupons. And third, both SMS and mobile-friendly email present a highly interactive medium from which marketers can analyze the performance of their discount campaigns.

So...are you a Coupon Clipper like me? Come forth, Brother! Come on down, Sister and testify. Give me your feedback. I'd like to hear from you.

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