Five future trends in mobile coupons

Couponing exploded the first half of 2010, driven in part by Groupon’s big VC investment. reported almost double the revenues from the first half of 2010 over previous year. published a forecast on mobile applications and couponing (click twice on graphic to enlarge) that predicts consumer spending on mobile coupon will grow from $90 million in 2009 to $6.5 billion in 2014.


Couponing drives mobile applications by delivering tangible consumer financial benefit together with ease of use  (coupons are storable data that reside on the device, no need to have scissors handy).

Here is where mobile couponing is headed:

1. Grey market coupon marketplaces:

A secondary “Stubhub” market for Groupon coupons is developing with DealsGoRound and CoupRecoup. Since coupons are storable data, not eBay products, coupons can conceivably be delivered from seller to buyer instantly with Paypal approval. In a future scenario, consumers will be able to find a destination restaurant and search through the grey markets for a coupon while waiting for the waiter.

2. Real time coupon advertising systems:

Coupon advertising can be developed for real time distribution, similar in concept to the Japanese build to order manufacturing process. Ski resorts facing lean crowds due to poor skiing conditions will be able to instantly distribute 1/2 price ski lift tickets on the evening of a snowfall to entice impulse skiers onto empty chairlifts. Restaurants with few dinner bookings will be able to distribute coupons throughout the afternoon usable instantly.

The best real time coupon advertising engine will be built as a marketplace like eBay with functionality that allows local businesses to post their deals quickly and monitor them in real time.

3. “Minority Report” Ad Billboards

The movie Minority Report demonstrated customized audio ads targeted directly to passing pedestrians, and in the movie, personalized to the identified person. In June, a company erected 27 digital billboards in Tokyo train stations that can digitally identify the sex and age of the onlooker and serve ads based on the profile.

The 2002-released movie made one Slate reviewer cringe at advertisement bombardment and the implied lack of privacy at the time, but shift to 2010, and societal adoption of personal transparency on the social media starts to make Minority Report ads enticing, particularly if consumers can save money. It’s like finding a $20 bill on the sidewalk.

The future delivery method for pedestrians can be txt, alert via a mobile app, as well as audio or personalized billboard presentation. The startup that can aggregate geolocated coupons and develop effective non-intrusive delivery methods (I don’t want to hear 10 beeps per block) will win.

4. Consumer demand systems

The big problem with search engines is simply their inability to efficiently find the product or service one wants to buy at the best price, particularly on a local level. Try googling “tennis racquet sale in San Francisco“; you’ll see that it’s impossible to find a local sports store with a sale going on. The startup that creates a data system that can access and catalog local business inventory from major chains (or even scrape chains’ online circulars) could deliver instant consumer solutions to shopping needs. For example, a query for a “Prince tour diablo tennis racquet” would return sales data (or coupons) from participating sporting goods chains and make it easier to find the best deal.

5. Real time inventory management on time-sensitive goods

This is the enterprise variation of 2.) Real time coupon ad systems. Time-sensitive, or perishable goods include airplane seats, hotel rooms, ski chair lifts, and concert seats that optimally are filled to 100% capacity. Mobile couponing systems can provide real time inventory management that gradually discounts based on time to expiration. For example, concert tickets would be discounted after the concert starts for impulse buyers. These systems would essentially reward last minute buyers with discounted rates, instead of socking them with highest possible fees. It allows consumers to drive into a city at 10:00pm and find the best hotel room deal.

Why might this work? People now schedule in real time and time flexibility is valuable. If the business systems can cater to consumer real time needs, it will not only foster good will, but it will also efficiently increase occupancy rates. Think about this… wouldn’t you love an application that really offered great last minute deals?

Related articles:

The New DIY Advertising

How Groupon forces Mainstream Media to Adopt the Couponing Ad Model

Local Coupon Aggregation

Brand Advertising doesn’t Fulfill Real Time Consumer Needs

About Pat Kitano

Patrick Kitano works with brands in developing hyperlocal engagement solutions and is administrator of the Breaking News Network, a national hyperlocal network devoted to community service. He is the author of The Local Network on Street Fight, and is reachable via Twitter @pkitano and email

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