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Mobile Marketing Coupons

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Tucked inside newspapers across the country this Sunday, SmartSource, the coupon insert, will tell readers in 68 million households how they can send a text message to get coupons sent to their mobile phones.

Brooklyn Center-based Caribou Coffee used a mobile marketing couponing company called Cellfire to send coupons this year for its new Acacia Organic Blend and Northern Lite Latte.

“We looked at mobile marketing as a way for us to drive store traffic and gain trial for a new product launch,” marketing manager Jake Miller said. “If we can get trial, we know there is a good chance that guest will come back again.” He declined to give details on the results but said Caribou would use mobile marketing coupons again.

MixMobi, a Plymouth mobile marketing startup, is launching a technology platform that lets retailers build coupons that can be “tweeted” on the social media site Twitter, which appears on cell phones as well as computers.

MixMobi co-founder Lisa Foote is letting small marketing agencies experiment with the technology to work out the bugs before the launch. Sprout.mn in Minneapolis designed a coupon for the Seward Co-op advertising 50 cents off at the deli this weekend.

“I think the consumer definitely wants mobile couponing,” she said. “I think people are really hungry for deals, and more than 90 percent of Americans carry cell phones.”

To be sure, technologists have heralded mobile marketing coupons for several years with little effect.

But a sudden surge of interest by big- name retailers and packaged-goods companies, coupled with better technology, is creating buzz for the mobile marketing coupon this year.

Only 3 percent of consumers used a mobile marketing coupon in 2008, but more than half of them knew about them, Forrester Research, a technology consultancy, reported this year.

The recession has advanced coupon usage in all its forms, including online. Digital coupons were the fastest growing Web site category last November, with visitors to coupon sites up 32 percent over October 2008, said comScore Inc., another technology research company.

Put it all together, and advertisers see cell phones as 277 million tiny electronic billboards in every pocket or purse.

“It’s a big area of interest these days. I’ve been getting tons of calls about this,” said Evan Neufeld, a senior analyst for mobile communications for comScore Inc.

Mobile marketing coupons have become a buzzword inside the big packaged-goods companies, Neufeld said. “They all say they want a mobile strategy,” he said. These companies will insure consumers see more ads, he said.

The popularity of smart phones, with their larger, made-for-the-Web screens, is driving the trend, too. Coupons look better on bigger screens, marketers say.

Although smart phones like the Apple iPhone and RIM’s BlackBerry make up only 17 percent of all cell phones, handset makers are introducing a new breed of cheaper smart phones this year.

Cellfire Inc. in San Jose, Calif., which did the coupons for Caribou Coffee, said the cell phone has become the new shopping list. It does work for grocery chains like Krogers and Safeway.

“The phone is really starting to emerge as more of a lifestyle device instead of just a communications device,” said Dan Kihanya, vice president of consumer marketing.

SmartSource, published by News America Marketing, might be the largest test of the mobile marketing coupon yet.

SmartSource will instruct people to text the word “coupon” to a number. Once they agree to give up their e-mail address, they can select up to 13 coupons for brand names such as Huggies, Trident and Tyson on their phone browser. Those selections are sent to their e-mail and must be printed out, which is an additional step.

–Source:  Twin Cities Pioneer Press

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