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Kroger Teams With Packaged Goods Companies to Test Mobile E-Coupons

Screencap of the Cellfire website
Screencap of the Cellfire website

With the mobile phone stepping in as a new advertising medium, 25 to 34-year-olds are the demographic for what AdAge is calling the biggest test of wireless coupons to date. Proctor & Gamble, Clorox, Del Monte, General Mills, and Kimberly-Clark are teaming up with Kroger and mobile coupon company Cellfire to provide coupons for items like toilet paper, bleach, and diapers. The target audience likely has growing families, but may not read newspapers or clip coupons.

The Cellfire application can be accessed by over 180 million consumers nationwide, working on 800 different mobile devices and available to all US carrier networks. Cellfire has worked with Hollywood Video, Hardee’s, and Taco Bueno to offer mobile coupons. In the three years since its inception, Cellfire has issued more than five million coupons and delivered more than $25 million in savings.

“Kroger is a visionary company that is pushing forward in the right direction. Downloading and storing coupons on the cell phone is a great first step in unleashing the power of convergence,” says Liz Crawford, VP Consumer Strategist for Iconoculture.

The system for redeeming the electronic coupons is a bit different from traditional clip-and-save paper coupons—and, marketers hope, simpler. Customers will have to download Cellfire to their cell phone to access the coupons and search for discounts.

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To participate in the paperless coupon test, the consumer must be a member of Kroger’s loyalty-card program, which tracks purchases and provides information to Kroger and the retailers partners about the individual consumer’s needs and preferences. Typically, these loyalty-card programs identify shoppers through numbers only, guaranteeing a degree of anonymity. The number is also a login for Kroger’s Web site, where members can create online shopping lists.

Kroger is also piloting a text-and-pay cell phone program in Columbus. Crawford says linking the two programs could help Kroger even more. “They are climbing up the learning curve on convergence and will be poised to grab shopping trips and missions as the future unfolds,” she says.

“Cell phones are not just phones anymore. They are for messaging (adverting, and opt-in alerts), promotions (coupons, discounts, loyalty programs), and social networking tools (raves/reviews and recommendations by friends),” says Crawford. “One day, we’ll have cell phone wave-and- pay like the Japanese. That puts messaging, promotion, C2C and payment all in the palm of your hand. That is retail convergence and Kroger is out in front.”

A recent study of mobile commerce from Juniper Research predicted that 208 million mobile users will make 2.6 billion ticket transactions, worth $87 billion by 2011, indicating a growing affinity for mobile commerce.

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