Unilever is testing a new mobile phone coupon technology at a New Jersey ShopRite
The days of searching for, clipping, storing and remembering coupons for certain Unilever products are over at the ShopRite in Hillsborough, N.J., SN has learned.
Beginning today, coupons for Ragu pasta sauce, Dove body wash, Hellmann's mayonnaise, Lipton iced tea and Breyers ice cream can be redeemed simply by holding up a cell phone at checkout. No loyalty card is necessary.
It's all part of a first-of-its-kind test among ShopRite, Unilever and mobile marketing firm Samplesaint, Chicago.
Once a shopper registers for the free service by completing a member profile at samplesaint.com, they can browse and select coupons directly from their iPhone, Blackberry or other mobile phone that has text messaging and Internet capabilities.
After coupons are selected, users receive a text message with a link that takes them directly to their offers. They then redeem the coupons at checkout by having the cashier scan the barcode on the coupon image that appears on their phone's screen. The coupons are credited the same way as paper coupons.
“They literally hold up their cell phone and the cashier will scan the coupon barcode,” Marc Shaw, Unilever's director of integrated marketing, told SN.
To make it even easier to get the savings, ShopRite shoppers can get the coupons directly in-store by text messaging a number found on shelf talkers under each participating item. Once the text message is sent, the mobile phone user immediately gets a text in return with a link to Samplesaint's secure mobile site, where they can view and select offers. “There's no fuss, no mess, no downloads,” said Lawrence Griffith, Samplesaint's founder and chief executive officer.
Along with the five Unilever items, the test includes coupons for two ShopRite private-label products: fruit juice and frozen vegetables.
The Hillsborough store is promoting the new service via in-store point-of-sale materials, email notifications and in-store sign ups.
ShopRite declined to comment pending completion of the test.
The deal makes Unilever the first consumer packaged goods company to offer “scanable” coupons with rich product images and corresponding UPC barcodes on the screen of a mobile phone, according to Samplesaint. Samplesaint is also exploring other manufacturer and retailer partnerships.
A big plus for partnering CPG marketers is that the mobile site gives Samplesaint full control over how the coupons are used, said Griffith.
“We can prevent fraud because the coupons can't be forwarded or reused post-scan,” he said.
What's more, the technology is user-friendly for retailers because they don't have to change their point-of-sale systems or get additional software, Griffith said.
Shaw of Unilever described the test as a way to offer a convenient form of value, while meeting the needs of today's busy consumer.
“We want to be where consumers want us to be so that we can have a good conversation with them,” he said. “The days of us just ‘pushing’ to them are over.”
One of the best ways to do that is via cell phones, Shaw noted.
“The next big frontier is the mobile phone,” he said. “It's a big part of people's lifestyles.”
Shaw declined to reveal coupon face values, but said they compare to its print offers.
Unilever will evaluate the results of the one store test before deciding if it will roll out to additional ShopRite stores and other retailers, Shaw said.
The Hillsborough store was chosen because of its demographics which include young moms and professionals whose cell phones are likely to have Internet/texting capabilities, according to Samplesaint. Located about 13 miles from Princeton, the town has a population of 39,100. The median age is 37 with a household income of $116,908, according to “Money” magazine.
Hillsborough ranked 23 on Money Magazine's Top 100 list of the “Best Places to Live” in 2007.
The Samplesaint coupons are part of a strengthened effort at Unilever to connect with consumers in new ways. The manufacturer is also actively marketing via social media like Twitter and Facebook, and plans to integrate mobile coupons with those efforts.
Unilever is active in digital couponing in other ways. It is working with mobile coupon network Cellfire and has a partnership with printable coupons from Coupons, Inc., which has partnerships with Kroger, Safeway, H-E-B and other retailers.
What makes Samplesaint coupons unique is that they are scanned on the phone, said Shaw. This makes the technology user friendly for retailers, manufacturers and consumers.
“This is a type of game changer,” he said.
Cell phone coupons help reach a younger demographic that typically doesn't respond to traditional couponing methods.
“It gets us into communication with folks that we may not have been able to reach with other methods,” Shaw said.
Still, the company remains committed to standard couponing methods. The traditional freestanding insert, for instance, has its place because of its strong advertising value, Shaw said.
By getting involved in other types of coupon distribution methods, Unilever is meeting the needs of all types of consumers, said Shaw.
“Some people love the FSI…some people like loading coupons to their shopper cards…some want coupons on their cell phone,” he said. “We want to be where they want us to be, and have conversations where they want to have a conversation.”