There were a few interesting stories in the world of mobile this could use a closer look. While unrelated at first glance, these news items suggest how very much the mobile handset is changing the world. One involves retailing and another banking, while a third shows how important sponsorships are becoming for carriers.
This week, Target became the first national retailer to offer a scannable mobile coupon program. Users can redeem the coupons at the checkout by having the barcode scanned directly from the phone, making it unnecessary for a shopper to carry a flyer or other coupon. This is an interesting twist on the use of barcode readers – a topic I’ve covered in some detail.
In this case, the barcode appears on the handset’s screen. To get said coupon code, users can opt-in to a program via their PCs (www.target.com/mobile), and get the coupons directly from their handsets via the Target WAP site (m.target.com) or by texting COUPONS to 827438 (TARGET). This opt-in will provide a link to a Web page that lists current promotions and provide a single barcode to a user’s handset. This can be used whether a user purchases a single item or multiple items, and the barcode is good for a set period, just like a paper coupon.
While this type of coupon promotion doesn’t yet work in conjunction with barcode scanning apps – the ones that allow a user at a store to scan a product’s barcode to determine if other retailers have the product on sale for less – these technologies could work well together. I personally envision a possible world where you can use the phone to scan a product and are prompted to an opt-in that lists all the products for sale at that retail outlet. This is where Target’s program comes in quite well. You can find out about promotions while shopping without having to look through a flyer.
Likewise, with a barcode reader you could find out promotions offered by a retailer when scanning a particular product. Even if the item is a bit cheaper down the road the other on-sale promotion items might actually keep you in the store. And even if you decide to make the original purchase elsewhere, the coupon promotion could ensure that you don’t leave the first store empty handed. This will certainly be a trend worth watching, as it could very much change the way users do their shopping. The question will be how the smaller businesses can compete with the larger retailers, but here is where apps might just level the playing field a bit.
China Mobile Goes the Bank
The other notable game changer from the world mobile this week is with banking. This week, China Mobile spent $5.8 billion for 20 percent of the Shanghai Pudong Development Bank in a move to help the world’s largest mobile carrier control the nation’s mobile e-commerce market. Some analysts have said it is a move in the wrong direction for China Mobile as a bank is irrelevant and that partnerships could have been a better move.