In recent years, the e-coupons web-users love have made the transition to m-coupons that are readily available to smartphone users thanks to a broad choice of applications. This has made using them much simpler, because there is no longer any need to print out coupons and remember to take them with you; all you need to do is to show the coupon on your phone at the checkout. M-coupons also have much greater impact than traditional coupons or e-coupons, because today’s geolocation and big data technologies make it possible to send consumers discount promotions that are more relevant to them and are therefore better targeted than ever.

Naturally, the approach adopted by leading retailers focuses on their own products and services. Coupons are usually just one building block in their mobile application alongside other functions like payment, loyalty cards, etc. But many companies also offer dedicated applications that provide a one-stop-shop for all coupons likely to interest the consumer.

Nevertheless, there are still some technological obstacles that prevent retailers from making more extensive use of m-couponing. Since the majority of coupons take the form of a 2-D barcode displayed on a phone screen, it is a minimum requirement that all checkout systems can read these codes. But it is preferable that these systems also include an NFC reader, because this contactless technology makes the transaction even simpler. All the user has to do is hold his smartphone near the NFC reader for the discount to be applied. This implies not only that all checkout systems should be updated, but also that they should be connected to the databases of coupon issuers. These technological challenges are certainly expensive, but they can be overcome.

We have selected a few examples of relevant m-couponing strategies to create an overview of what this usage holds in store for us.

Starbucks: the pioneer

Starbucks is very much a pioneer in mobile payment and m-couponing. For the last three years, the US giant has offered what is certainly the most advanced customer experience in this area. Its smartphone application, which allows customers to pay in coffee shops or pay for an order anywhere, also acts as a loyalty card and a single point of access for the consumer’s money-off coupons. This application has been a huge hit in the USA for the last three years, and was recently launched in other countries.

Walmart: e-receipts

Walmart, which is nothing short of the world’s largest retailer, plans to actively explore all the opportunities offered by cross-channel technologies. The company is currently testing an e-receipt project. At the checkout, customers identify themselves by entering their phone number into the store payment terminal. They then receive an electronic receipt sent directly to the Walmart mobile application. The same system then allows the retailer to send targeted and relevant couponing messages to customers’ smartphones. Customers can also use the same application to apply the discounts directly to their shopping list.

Carrefour: using geolocated text messaging for m-couponing

The Carrefour Group, the world’s second-largest retailer, launched a full-scale test program in France at the end of last year. The Carrefour shopping center in Chambourcy made it possible for customers to use money-off coupons on their smartphones. In addition to the Carrefour store itself, 51 of the 67 other stores in the shopping mall also took part in the experiment. Consumers registered in the Promoslive database of mobile operator SFR and received a text message as soon as they came within a 500-meter range of the shopping center.

Mydala: the cornerstone of m-couponing for Indian mobile operators

In India, it’s not a retailer that has taken the lead in popularizing m-couponing, but a company called Mydala, which offers its service to all retailers. The company has set itself the target of 50 million downloads of its mobile marketing platform by 2016. It claims to have attracted more than 200 million consumers in two hundred Indian towns and cities already. Mydala has capitalized on its position as the only large-scale m-couponing platform in India to forge links with some of the country’s largest mobile operators including Vodafone India, Bharti Airtel, Tata Docomo and Aircel.

LevelUp: discounts included in payments

Available from App Store and Google Play, the LevelUp application certainly points the way to the future direction of m-couponing services. LevelUp applies the coupon discount directly as part of the payment. All consumers have to do is link their payment card to their application account. Then, if they have a money-off coupon for something they want to buy, that discount will automatically be applied as soon as the phone is used to make payment. LevelUp also includes a reward system to make the overall experience more entertaining and encourage users to try new partner sites offering the service.