Why brand promotions should move to M-coupons

When you start a mobile coupon (M-Coupon) campaign, there are many interesting things that can be done, and it is also important to ensure that legal and technical issues are covered for a smooth connection with consumers.

“Bring the attached coupon and get one burger free with every combo meal”

“Sample the new ABC cream with this coupon redeemable at stores below!”

“Buy one and get another at 50% off by redeeming this voucher”

We are all familiar with newspaper inserts and ads where coupons are offered by brands to lure us to buy their products or services. We all may have tried these coupons at least once, if not more. The print media coupons are no more a big deal in this era of digital media and also the pandemic-caused shift. Yet, we still are flooded with print coupons and inserts. How many brands have shifted to sampling coupons on mobile platform? Why are they slow to shift to M-Coupons?

When you start a mobile coupon (M-Coupon) campaign, there are many interesting things that can be done, and it is also important to ensure that legal and technical issues are covered for a smooth connection with consumers. It is so easy to print coupons in a newspaper or magazine. Those old ways are no good with e-paper and capsule news in mobile devices. Research indicates that more than 68% people in India hate to carry a coupon cut from a paper but will redeem a mobile coupon readily.

The entire promotions industry with coupons started off in the West as always and it peaked in early 1990s at about 8 billion redemptions in the USA alone. However, things have diluted now and it is merely about a third of this number last year. On the other hand, mobile couponing is growing. Essentially companies in India will increase the budget for mobile marketing from this year for sure given the shift in consumer behaviour. Shoppers Sop, Westside and Lifestyle chains are already into it. Besides, we copy and paste what worked and innovated abroad. Based on overall reach of mobile phones in India, where there are more mobile phones than there are toothbrushes, this growth can be exponential in the coming years. While overall mobile marketing budgets will shoot up, how much of it will be utilised specifically for mobile coupons is hard to say.

If you have not started off mobile marketing and couponing yet, remember, you cannot just hop on this bus without doing your homework. If you end up doing something not approved by TRAI or cellular service provider, or if your technology is not the right one, your campaign will either not get to the audience or you will end up offending some stakeholders. It can even result in blacklisting of your company from future mobile marketing. Spamming has to be avoided and so you need to ensure that your recipients have opted in for the campaign. Technical issues are far more complex and so you need to evaluate pros and cons of all the redemption technologies. The laws are ever evolving in this space since it is still a new thing. Companies should indeed be seeking a new age legal expert for advice. The most critical one in India today is something most marketers seem to ignore: It is permission-based marketing.

Subscribers to mobile coupons should indeed be opted in, as there could be charges involved with SMS redemption, etc. If a consumer opts out, you need to make sure that his number is taken off the list pronto. Service providers can shut your marketing campaign if complaints pile up but then in India many of the service providers themselves seem to violate the Do Not Disturb rule. The cellular phone companies are not very strict with data mainly because Indian customers are not complaining enough. If every customer calls Airtel or Idea whenever they get a spam, this problem will stop since each call costs these companies money in terms of outsourced services.

Many marketers who have large email database try to migrate them into mobile but without proper permissions they should not be sending mobile messages or making calls to them. Buying and selling mobile database is a definite no-no. Most marketers who would
want to go mobile couponing normally should opt for digital coupons via the Internet, a smartphone application, or SMS. It all depends on the audience and your goals. If you want to reach out to a large audience, SMS is the best way. If you want to reach a certain demographic, you can design an attractive mobile device application.

It is one thing to get the mobile coupons to consumers; it is an altogether different thing to decide on the way for coupon redemption. Can this be a code to be punched into an SMS? Or linked to loyalty cards for instant redemption? Or make retailers scan the coupon on mobile? The decision should be based on finding a solution that can be put into production with a minimal amount of technical energy on the retailers’ part.

The biggest incentive for marketers to embrace the new technology is increased sales. Early adapters will have some advantage as it proliferates. Whatever format or technology you choose, keep in mind the six Cs for consumer satisfaction:
• Choice: Consumers must opt in to a programme and be given clear directions to unsubscribe.
• Control: Consumers should determine when and how they receive mobile messages.
• Customisation: Tailor your marketing based on consumer-supplied data.
• Consideration: Ensure to deliver clear value to your consumers.
• Constraint: Limit messaging to a reasonable number of campaigns.
• Confidentiality: Don’t share information with non-affiliated third parties.

Article by M Muneer. He is the Managing Director of CustomerLab Solutions, an innovative consulting firm delivering measurable results to clients.

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