Coupons You Don't Clip, Sent to Your Cellphone
By JENNA WORTHAM August 29, 2009
Hunter Gilmore was never big on clipping coupons. "You stick them on the fridge, meaning to use them, and it never happens," said Mr. Gilmore, a 29-year-old actor and advertising agency recruiter in Manhattan.
But thanks to his cellphone, Mr. Gilmore has lately been awash in discounts, regularly scoring reduced prices and special offers that he would never cut out of a newspaper circular.
Mobile coupons - usually text messages with discount codes sent to a cellphone - are becoming the blue-light specials for the digital age, promoting last-minute clothing sales, two-for-one entrees and cheap tickets to the theater.
While some mobile coupons are sent directly from a retailer to a customer who has signed up for mobile updates, the other way for bargain-seekers to get up-to-the-minute deals is to subscribe to a mobile-coupon aggregator. At Web sites like 8coupons, Cellfire, Yowza and Zavers, users can sign up for different retailers' promotions in one place. The opt-in model means subscribers get only offers they want to receive, making each one worth reading.
Snipping out coupons from the weekend paper is still the most common way households in the United States get their coupons, but the popularity of coupons delivered via e-mail and text messages is growing. In the first half of 2009, nearly 10 million digital coupons were redeemed, a 25 percent increase over the amount redeemed during the same period in 2008, according to Inmar, a coupon-processing company.
The convenience of digital coupons is appealing to a new crop of shoppers, many of whom would not dream of carrying around a crumpled pile of paper coupons just to get 30 cents off a box of spaghetti. About a third of the users who signed up for Cellfire say they have never used paper coupons, according to Cellfire's chief executive, Brent Dusing.
The growing popularity of feature-rich mobile phones does not hurt, either. "It's not like you have to get a new phone to do this," said J. Gerry Purdy, an analyst for Frost & Sullivan, a market research firm. "It's just a slight behavioral change to what people already do."
The widespread adoption of text messaging and sleeker, richer phone interfaces also makes mobile transactions easier. Some shoppers are turning to mobile applications that collect coupons, like Coupon Sherpa, an iPhone application that handles coupons for retailers like Kmart, Toys "R" Us and Zales. Since its release in April, Coupon Sherpa has been downloaded more than 65,000 times.
Taking the concept of mobile coupons a step further, aggregators8Coupons and Mobiqpons recently introduced location-based features. Using the services, users can receive discount offers from merchants who are only a few blocks away.