Cellfire Releases Mobile Coupon Redemption Data

It's a great idea "on paper" -- so to speak -- mobile coupons, that is. They've arrived in principle but not really in practice. Internet-based coupons have yet to take off, although they're poised to do so. But mobile coupons, despite being available today, are even farther off as a mainstream marketing phenomenon. (That is, perhaps, unless they morph into SMS-based ads.)

The idea of being able to search for coupons when you're on the go is appealing to virtually everyone, however the challenge is coverage and user adoption. Eventually coupons (or some equivalent) will make their way into the mobile marketing mix but it will be a little while. Even Cellfire, the leader in mobile couponing right now, has very limited coverage in terms of the consumer offers available.

Last week, the company put out data on mobile coupon redemption for the six months ending June 30:

Top 10 Markets for Mobile Coupon Usage per Capita:

  1. Miami/Fort Lauderdale
  2. Sacramento/Stockton/Modesto, CA
  3. Chico/Redding, CA
  4. Dallas/Fort Worth, TX
  5. Waco/Temple-Bryan, TX
  6. El Paso (Las Cruces), TX (NM)
  7. San Francisco/Oakland/San Jose, CA
  8. Jonesboro, AR
  9. West Palm Beach/Fort Pierce, FL
  10. Atlanta, GA

According to Cellfire:

Not surprisingly, 68 percent of coupons redeemed were from mobile savvy shoppers between the ages of 18-34, followed by shoppers aged 35-44 with 18 percent. Food and entertainment topped the list of categories for which coupons were most frequently redeemed.

The fact that Sacramento and Chico, CA beat out the San Francisco Bay Area, shows how small the user base is right now. The model is right: opt-in offers from local merchants and national advertisers with local stores. In the near term it will mostly be about big boxes and chains. But eventually SMBs may play in the space if enabled by sites such as Zixxo and others. But for right now there's the familiar and fundamental "chicken and egg problem." In order to gain consumer adoption, the coupon/offer coverage must be there and to entice advertisers to pay attention there must be an audience. The advantage that coupons have is that they can be translated into other formats (including mobile) if the infrastructure exists to support them and prevent fraud.

As I suggested above mobile "coupons" may give way to offer-based SMS marketing in the near term not unlike the way MoVoxx (started by the founders of Infreeda) went from being a mobile coupon provider to an SMS ad agency/network.