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Couponing makes a comeback

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While the retail and technology worlds wait with baited breath for the inevitable deluge of high profile mobile payment roll-outs in the run up to Christmas, many have spent the summer getting hot and bothered – some even down and dirty – with mobile coupons.

Coupons – and loyalty – are the bedfellows of payments in the mobile world and have long been tipped as three offerings that would all sit together and would jointly make m-payments relevant. The old argument is that cash and card are about as convenient as it gets.

To work, mobile payments has to offer either even more ease of use (difficult) or make life a lot easier. The latter, so the argument goes, will be achieved by combining payments, loyalty schemes and offers all in one place.

But while this excellent theory has been wafting around, in practice attention has been fragmented to look assess these three things in isolation. And it seems that coupons are now getting the mobile treatment they deserve.

As our top four stories this week attest, the couponing business is booming and mobile is driving it. But the interesting thing is that this boom has happened thanks to retails taking back the initiative from coupon aggregators such as Groupon and Wowcher et al and have been looking into how they work themselves.

This is on the face of it surprising. The internet age is an age of aggregation, with money to made in aggregation of low value high volume offerings – and to date retailers have shunned getting involved in the nuts and bolts of running instant mobile offers.

But if the research by Juniper is to be believed – and I think it should, because it is starting to be backed up in the real world by actual brands – retailers are seeing suddenly the benefit of coupons as an add on to their loyalty schemes and, one hopes, something that can help smooth the way for the roll out of mobile payments in the coming months.

But there are some other very interesting factors at play here. NFC has failed to take off so far, but Low Energy Bluetooth (BLE) beacons are starting to get some traction. In tandem to this, we are seeing the rise of secure element services through Host Card Emulation (HCE). If rumours that Apple is to extend its secure element finger print recognition into a wallet product due out in September and suddenly you get the perfect storm of the tech, the reach and drive to bring about integrated payments, loyalty, coupons and wallets – all on mobile devices.

Digitally doing these things is cheaper and more effective. There are much higher redemption rates, conversion is higher and combining all three things allows a unique insight into what consumers are doing. This finally seems to have produced a ground swell amongst retailers. Roll on autumn. Wonder if I’ll get a digital coupon for money off a new iPhone 6?

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