Using your mobile phone to receive, store and redeem coupons is fast becoming standard practice. The power of mobile couponing is pretty easy to impress on a lot of businesses – it’s a fast way to increase customer loyalty, by providing them with money value through their phone which, unlike paper coupons, they are extremely unlikely to forget. But since there are so many ways to send coupons over mobile, the market has immediately become very fragmented and muddled. And so the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) has today published “Guidelines and Best Practices in Mobile Price Promotions” for North America.
What’s the deal here?
The MMA is the largest mobile marketing trade association in the world – with over 700 companies involved, including heavy hitters from both telecoms and other industries, it’s an influential organisation all around the world. One of its roles is to collect information from all of the companies it works with, and compile that expertise into best practices and standards documents. Having created a specific task force (comprising Cellfire, Inmar, Mobile Dreams Factory, Infinian and Verizon Wireless) to deal with Mobile Couponing, the MMA has now published it’s findings and advice for those who wish to create and launch mobile coupon campaigns.
What’s in the report?
You can see the full thing here: http://mmaglobal.com/mobilecouponguidelines.pdf. It’s only 10 pages long, so it’s well worth having a read through. It deals with two topics in particular: offering coupons and rebates over mobile. After going through what the inherent differences are between coupons and rebates, the report walks through the different stages in what the MMA has called Mobile Price Promotions: “electronic coupons or rebates that traverse the full redemption process without the requirement for conversion into a paper or other hard-copy format.” The number of ways you can get a coupon/rebate to someone over their phone is pretty daunting, and includies SMS, apps, web, bluetooth, barcodes and NFC.
The rest of the report deals with a general category that I call the “Try not to Misbehave” section. It advises on the actual ethics of a Price Promotion: don’t advertise misleadingly; don’t try to cheat your customers; do treat your customers fairly; do comply with local laws and regulations, etc. It also advises on what kinds of words and phrases you should avoid using in certain categories. For example “safe”, “harmless” and “without risk” are all tagged as words or phrases you should avoid in an offer for pharmaceutical products, dietary supplements and vitamins.
Greg Stuart, CEO of MMA says “our research shows that consumer interest in mobile coupons continues to grow, giving brands, merchants and marketers a powerful new opportunity to establish and maintain relationships with consumers. The MMA created ‘Guidelines and Best Practices in Mobile Price Promotions’ to give the ecosystem an industry-standard framework for capitalizing on that opportunity while protecting the consumer experience.”
What we think?
There is a problem at the very core of mobile couponing: it’s a push technology. It will almost involve a customer specifically asking for a coupon to be sent to them, but at a certain point along the process a company will push one of their coupons out to a mobile device. And any time a new channel opens that allows merchants to push deal and offers out to people, you will get unscrupulous people who fill that channel with junk and spam. So it’s good that the MMA has published these guidelines. Mobile Price Promotions have to be handled with the utmost care and respect, or customers will quickly learn to distrust the entire concept… but it’s important to remember that the document is only for the North American region. There’s already a strong tradition there of not spamming consumers – so the 50% of this document that deals with ethical issues makes for pretty standard reading. It essentially says “don’t be a dick”. I would LOVE to see a similar document for the Indian market.