Mobile Couponing, SMS and QR Codes: What You Need to Know

Mobile Moxie on the Road, Part 6
Presented in Sydney, Australia; April 2011

So, you’re getting more widely versed in Mobile Marketing. Maybe you have optimized your site, your email campaigns, or even created an app. What do you do next? If you are targeting a mobile audience, consider integrating mobile couponing, SMS (text messaging), and/or QR codes into your mobile marketing mix. These tactics are an excellent way to drive brand engagement, improve the ROI of your existing marketing campaigns, build your opt-in lists and actively remind customers of special events, sales, and deadlines.

Mobile Coupons and SMS Marketing

If these sound like good outcomes to you, read on to find out how to accomplish your goals with these exciting new marketing tools. The way mobile couponing/SMS marketing works is through an on or off-line prompt which engages customers to text a message to a short code or shortened phone number set up specifically for SMS, also known as a short code. More and more you will see prompts in places like malls, sporting events or TV commercials asking customers to text a message to a short code with the expectation of some outcome (a discount, entrance into a contest, weather updates, the list goes on). The user will then receive an opt-in message to their phone, and once they have opted-in you can deliver marketing to their devices at any time!

You may be wondering what the differences between SMS and mobile couponing are. For the most part, mobile couponing is a subset of SMS marketing. Coupons are one thing that can be delivered through SMS, but there are many more items that can be conveyed through an SMS. Consider:

  • Invitations to events and event reminders
  • Links to mobile apps, games or websites
  • Links to maps
  • News alerts and tips, or helpful feeds such as traffic and weather
  • Payment notifications
  • Contests and polls
  • and much more!

Mobile coupons can also exist outside of SMS. They can be delivered to mobile devices through apps, in-store advertising, QR codes, BlueTooth or WiFi, or email marketing.

There are some basics to Mobile Couponing that you don’t want to forget:

Allow your mobile coupons to be redeemed both online and in-store.
If you are using a bar code, only some can be scanned from a mobile device. Make sure to include a promotional code as well so that a customer can enter it during online purchase, or a store attendant can use it if the bar code won’t read.
Segment your messaging and track different copy or calls-to-action by using separate bar codes and promo codes in each marketing channel.
Link to or include all your typical coupon items such as images, expiration dates, and terms and conditions.

Make sure you know the basics of SMS marketing before you embark. For one thing, you will need a short code. This is a 5 or 6 digit number used for texting. It is shorter than an average telephone number. There are a few different types of short codes that you can choose from, depending on your budget:

1. Shared short codes
2. Dedicated short codes
3. Premium short codes

Do some research to determine which is best for your needs. Also, make sure to familiarize yourself with the MMA guidelines for SMS marketing. Similar to CAN-SPAM, there are rules in place to regulate SMS marketing. Customers must double opt-in, there are special instructions for handling HELP and STOP text messages, and you must link users to your terms and conditions.

QR Codes and Bar Code Marketing for Mobile Phones

You may have already seen QR codes but you didn’t know what they were. They are popping up all over the place. QR codes are square boxes with geometric patterns that can be recognized by mobile phones with cameras and appropriate software. They can be found anywhere from a cereal box to a billboard or t-shirt. The codes are free to generate, and once a mobile phone snaps a picture of one, they can generate any number of outcomes. They could open a link to an article, a coupon, an app download page, a map, you name it! They are quickly gaining in popularity due to their ease of use and the fun perceived in getting a surprise or immediate gain from a piece of advertising.

Some rules to live by when using QR codes in marketing:

1. Always include an SMS prompt and a URL in case the QR code is not scanned properly.

2. Test the code on multiple phones. If the code only works with certain QR readers, include their logos near the code to clue in the users about which reader is needed to make it work.

3. Include visual instructions for how to use the QR code and what will happen.

4. If the code prompts a download, explain the cost and provide an opt-out opportunity.

5. Target people when they have extra time. Some good suggestions for placement are public transportation (where there is a good signal), in lines, in fitting rooms, in bathrooms, in eating establishments, or while reading newspapers or magazines.

If you choose to integrate QR codes into your marketing, make sure to be creative. This is an exciting new marketing channel and new ideas are popping up daily. If you use more than one QR code in a single advertisement, make each one do something different. Consider the options available. They can send vCards, prompt events on mobile calendars, open a text conversation, open a web page, and much more. Not only are they versatile in where they can direct your audience, they can also be placed virtually anywhere. Keep your creative juices flowing when deciding how to present your QR code. It can be the back of your business card, it can be blown up to great proportions on a billboard, worn on an article of clothing, and much more.

For many examples of SMS marketing and QR marketing campaigns, make sure to check out the entire slide deck for this presentation.