Valpak Goes Mobile, Social

In an under-reported story, Valpak has begun to experiment with mobile distribution of its signature coupons. So far this has included an iPhone optimized Web site and next up could be a native iPhone app.

This could come at the right time, when the mobile Web continues to grow via smartphone penetration, falling device costs and better software standards. Online coupons haven’t gotten off the ground to the degree we all thought they would, but mobile comes without some adoption barriers (i.e., searching and printing before you leave the house).

Since the phone goes with you to the point of purchase, accessibility to a searchable database of geographically relevant coupons makes more sense. The immediacy of mobile search could also drive more qualified searches than what we see with online or print coupons (more of a push). In coupon language, this could translate to higher redemption rates.

Macroeconomic factors have meanwhile led to a boost in coupon demand. Online searches for coupons have increased and Scarborough Research estimates 11 percent of U.S. households use online coupons (compared with 35 percent mailed). This is up 83 percent since 2005, and Valpak overall saw roughly 10 percent growth in its coupon usage last year.

Valpak has also started to experiment with reaching users on social networks or popular online communications tools like Twitter. Twitter is beginning to show some promise as a way to target users interested in geotargeted commercial information. Others in the coupon world, such as Coupons.com, have also begun to use it.

With both mobile and social, the idea is to reach new users and give them more access points to the content. In both cases, it doesn’t scale as well as Valpak’s flagship direct mail coupons, but can equate to incremental distribution that is more targeted.

The results so far have been promising; with limited marketing, users have accessed about 140,000 Valpak mobile coupons in the past 30 days. Its direct mail operation meanwhile sends out 45 million geotargeted coupon envelopes per month.

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Update: Here is a video news clip on Valpak mobile.

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