Mobile Coupons

I’ve been talking to some friends in the CPG and beauty verticals recently about coupons and the adoption of mobile as a viable distribution channel for them.  The short story is that we’re nowhere near  replacing traditional coupons with digital ones, but it’s going to happen very quickly when someone solves a few problems that dont seem particularly complicated to me.  I think the opportunity is going to be exploited by a strong, simple application that’s available on multiple mobile platforms, and a website site that will drive a critical adoption rate from  the right consumer base.  The business model, in my opinion, hasn’t been clearly defined yet.

I found these statistics on gorumors.com , which project future growth of mobile coupon spending.  While I think some of these statistics won’t scale (like redemption rates),  it paints a pretty clear picture of what could potentially happen to the mobile coupon business. Here’s some info from gorumors:

According to a recent study by Borrel Associates, Mobile coupons have a much higher redemption rates than those from newspapers or mail – as much as 10x times.  Here is the projected total spending from mobile coupons as studied by Borrell Associates:

2006 : $3.3 million
2007 : $7.2 million
2008 : $7.15 million
2009 : $86.4 million
2010 : $373.7 million
2011 : $1055.3 million
2012 : $2242.4 million
2013 : $4101.6 million
2014 : $6598.5 million

The biggest hurdle that this industry faces is the adoption of smartphones by the core coupon-using crowd.  Right now in the United States, there are about 50 million smartphone users.  My guess is that the number of smartphone users who download applications is significantly smaller, because Blackberry users don’t really download apps and they control over 40% of the smartphone market.  So let’s put the market at 25 million U.S. users; that’s about 9% of the country’s population. When this number gets closer to 25%-30%, I think you’ll start to see major traction.

In terms of a coupon application design,  it needs to stay incredibly simple so that the normal, everyday user can find what they need and easily redeem the coupon.   Another consideration is the branded app versus general consumer app solution.  I believe that publishers should try to get a piece of this market and there’s room for a technology to help them do it.

Regardless,the growth is there and the demand would be there for the right experience.  Someone just needs to figure it out and wait.

Driving to Transactions

I’ve been working in marketing for several years now.  As a media strategist,  I’ve worked with every type of client, from startups to major brands in all verticals: luxury fashion, CPG, entertainment, health, pharma, food & beverage, etc. Every one of these brands has a message that it needs to get out.  Over the past few years I’ve started to see a trend, especially with the growth of social media, that the goal ends with the message.  Lately, a lot of budgets are being spent on brand media without much of a transactional component.

I understand the need to raise awareness, but what I do not understand are marketing campaigns that do not have clearly established key-performance-indicators (KPIs),  or that do not ask for some type of deeper action beyond “hear this message”.   I understand the need for some campaigns to focus on product value.  Your product may be brand new, use only organic ingredients, be the cheapest, offer great service, etc.  Marketers struggle to get that message out there and I understand that as well as anyone.

But where I think a lot of campaigns fall short is when they use brand marketing as an “excuse” to not measure the results of what’s happening.  If you can’t measure your media in some way, you probably shouldn’t be doing it.  I say this as someone who has worked in social media strategy for several years.  Everyone’s heard the ROI debate on social, where I believe the metric becomes community growth because communities extend lifetime value, have residual viral value and can be counted upon to leverage for transactions when promotions come around.

Analyzing Facebook and social communities,  one  starts to see a level of expectation on both sides of the table.  The marketers look for a few things:

  • Transactions
  • Word-of-mouth marketing
  • Product feedback and qualitative insights

For community members, the value is a little different:

  • Recognition
  • Insider access
  • A platform for being heard

The interactions between brands and their communities can foster growth, and the results of efforts spent in social media can, in fact, be measured.  Link shorteners and promotional codes can help measure transactions.   There are applications that can be used for acquiring email adresses, signups for other initiatives, or even coupon downloads.

The point is,  at least TRY to create a transactional component to your campaigns, even social.  If you dont, why spend the money?

Meebo Share

If you’ve been to allthingsd.com or usmagazine.com recently, you may have noticed a new social share tool that’s been integrated: the Meebo Bar.  I’ve known about Meebo for the past few years, they were part of our client roster at YouCast and the company always stood out as having great people and a solid product that consistently interested our other clients.

The new Meebo Bar is a  great addition to the company’s product suite and I would recommend checking it out if you have a content-rich site and you’d like to optimize social sharing.  The technology basically breaks up content on your site and makes it unbelievably easy for a visitor to drag-and-drop images into their social graph to share with their network of friends or followers.   In an online world where publishers are surviving on their ability to get their reading community to share content, the Meebo Bar is probably one of the best tools a site can employ to increase organic traffic back to their site.  For example, unlike Facebook’s Open Graph, which triggers an activity feed:

sharing through the Meebo toolbar triggers a Facebook Share, putting an image in the content and gives it more real estate in a user’s profile:

Nice work, Meebo.

Twitter Endorsements

I just finished this ReadWriteWeb article on  new pending “shout out” feature from Twitter.  It looks like this new feature will be offered by the platform to allow peers to verify, or endorse, other accounts as being relevant or meaningful in one category or another.   I believe this is a step in the right direction from Twitter and will make the platform more social than it currently is.  A quote from the RWW article by Marshall Kirkpatrick states:

A “shout out” or endorsement would make a good compliment to friends, followers and lists on Twitter.  Endorsements offered in 140 characters or less could become a meaningful form of social capital online.

One of the issues I have using Twitter is that I’m unable to use it for much beyond search.  I most likely follow too many people, or companies, but every time I read my Twitter stream I just feel like I get a lot of noise from a few people in my community, and not much else that’s particularly relevant.

I believe that if there were an easier way to connect me with the content and influencers that I wanted to follow, I might have a better experience.  One way would be to use my friends as a recommendation channel.  If friends of mine endorse others whom they follow, I believe I would be included to follow them as well.   My current follow process is very haphazard, but  I believe being able to search for verified accounts,  or find accounts that have been endorsed by my friends, would be a great addition that I would use often.

Another great point that this article brings  up is the uselessness of the “followers” number.  This number is easily gamed and does not translate to additional influence in the channel.  I have yet to see an “influence” rating application that I thought was useful, so maybe endorsements from friends is the way to go.

We Lost Our Gold


And now for something completely different. A few friends have discovered and pointed out a new social media campaign that I think is really well done . We Lost Our Gold features Muppets, New York City, and $10,000 cash.  I’ll be very interested to see the video view metrics on this campaign, as well as  trending topics, buzz, and other performance indicators when this closes out.  In the meantime, I’m really enjoying the creative execution.  Like most simple campaigns, this is simple, the content does the talking and, of course, there’s some type of  incentive for the viewer.  Enjoy.