Mobile coupons represent a small portion of digital promotions, but usage is growing at a fast pace. The popularity of mobile coupons extends the trend of searching for online coupons, which emerged as a widespread, money-saving activity during the recession.
“Even as the sputtering economy attempts its recovery, the popularity of couponing has continued, spurred in part by the burgeoning daily deals space,” said Noah Elkin, eMarketer principal analyst and author of the new report, “Mobile Coupons: Offers and Deals Light Up the Last Mile.” “Mobile coupons will play a central role in broadening the appeal and acceptance of digital coupons among shoppers.”
eMarketer estimates that nearly 20 million US adults will redeem a mobile coupon this year, including coupons or codes received via SMS, applications and mobile web browsers; quick response codes for redemption online or offline; and group buying coupons purchased via mobile. By 2013, the number using such coupons will nearly double, and 16.5% of all US adult mobile phone users will redeem a coupon that year.
Among smartphone users, penetration is significantly higher. This year, nearly one in five smartphone owners ages 18 and older will redeem a mobile coupon, representing growth of 117.6%. Triple-digit uptake rates will be short-lived, but by 2013 almost one-third of smartphone users will be redeeming discounts on the go.
Still, marketers and retailers will face challenges in encouraging this usage. The technology landscape is complex, and training sales associates in the intricacies of mobile coupon programs might be as big a change as getting consumers to use them in the first place.
“Consumers have started to use mobile devices more extensively at the top of the shopping funnel—to research products and pricing, for example,” said Elkin. “But usage has yet to migrate to the bottom of the funnel on a wide scale. Although awareness of mobile coupons is growing, it remains limited. And most consumers have yet to be convinced of the benefits of using their mobile devices as a payment mechanism, for either in-store or online purchases.”