While the global recession has shown some signs of hitting bottom, with some experts believing we’re through the worst of it, there could still be a long hard road to rebuilding consumer confidence. One company that is looking into helping ease consumer worries is SmartReply, a provider of loyalty and mobile solutions for many of the country’s top retailers.
I had a chance to discuss SmartReply’s strategy with Eric Holmen, the company’s president, and he offered his take on how the company is working to help retailers increase revenues and connect with customers through mobile marketing campaigns.
AllBusiness.com: Mobile coupons seem to be really taking off, but why now? Has the technology finally reached a point where this makes sense?
Eric Holmen: Mobile couponing is indeed on the rise, but the growth of the practice we’re currently witnessing is less a sudden explosion than the result of a snowball effect in the retail industry, and a wider acceptance and adoption of mobile marketing as a bona fide medium. Mobile coupons have been around for a long time, but like every “new” technology or platform, it has been in the shadows as an emerging medium. Now, as retailers have been forced to rethink their marketing strategies and look for more cost-effective ways of reaching their customers, more have gotten onboard with the practice, their competitors followed them in, and so on and so on.
While I don’t think we’ve seen a critical mass of mcoupons just yet, what we’re seeing now is a sizable portion of retailers embracing the practice. This time next year, mobile coupons will be norm, and cut-out coupons waning. Of course, technology has something to do with it – smartphones have propelled the mobile Web (and mobile marketing), which facilitates mobile coupons, and the saturation of mobile devices in this country and around the world is nearly complete. That said, the growth of mobile couponing is mostly attributable to wide-scale retailer adoption.
AB: How does this affect those who don’t rely on mobile phones, such as the elderly?
EH: When online and e-mail coupons came into their own, there was some speculation that they would signal the death of the print coupon Grandma religiously clipped from her Sunday paper. This hasn’t been the case so far, and I don’t think it will be the case with mobile coupons. On a longer timeline, print coupons may indeed become obsolete, but on that same timeline mobile usage will increase among all demographics, the elderly included.
AB: Is this something that will become more readily available on smartphones, or will those with feature phones and even lower end and pre-paid handsets be able to take advantage of this technology?
EH: The technology currently exists to facilitate mobile couponing on almost every mobile device. The most basic mobile coupons are simple numeric codes, which can be transmitted easily to any SMS-enabled device. The more advanced coupons, which feature scanable barcodes or incorporate a location-aware aspect are better served by smartphones, and the proliferation of these devices is helping promote the practice of mobile couponing.