A brief history of mobile couponing companies
1888 – First coupon. Asa Candler, the founder of the Coca-Cola Company (Dr. John Pemberton invented the Coca-Cola formula and eventually sold the exclusive rights to the product to Asa Candler), created paper tickets for free glasses of Coke that were mailed to consumers or placed in magazines. Consumers redeemed their coupons, valued at a nickel, at their soda fountain shop. This effectively made Coke one of the first mobile couponing companies if you loosely define “mobile” as something that is easily portable.
Candler even supplied his customer stores with free syrup to cover the cost of the drink. Between 1894 and 1913, an estimated one-in-nine Americans had received a free Coca-Cola, for a total of 8.5 million free drinks. By 1895, Candler claimed that Coca-Cola was being served in every state (44 at the time).
Mid 1990’s – First Printable Coupon. Consumers realize huge savings with downloadable printable coupons. Before smartphones appeared in every pocket, mobile coupon companies began using the Internet to distribute coupons to consumers giving their customers the option to print the coupons directly from desktop computers. The consumer then brought the coupon to the store to redeem. Printing from the desktop is still popular, given how travelers are well used to printing their boarding passes at home.
2010 – First Mobile Coupon. Target becomes the first national chain to put mobile coupons on customers’ mobile devices. They deserve some credit for being an early trend setter among mobile couponing companies.
According to Target’s website, “Target is the first national retailer to offer a scannable mobile coupon program that allows guests to receive exclusive offers directly on their mobile phones. Coupons are redeemed by scanning a barcode on the phone at checkout. Target is the first major retailer with the ability to scan mobile barcodes in all of its stores. A leader in mobile retail, Target continues to offer innovative mobile solutions for guests.” Today, Target coupons are available via SMS and their mobile coupon wallet.
2011 – First Mobile Coupon Available from a Retailer’s Mobile App. Walgreens was the first retailer to deliver mobile coupons to consumers from their mobile app. The program was launched just before Black Friday in 2011. The coupons were delivered to consumers one at a time every two to three days. In addition, Walgreens was the first retailer to create a mobile coupon wallet – a special section within the mobile application – where consumers could view all of their Walgreen’s offers. Coupons were redeemable at any of the 7,700+ stores by scanning the barcode embedded in the coupon.
January 2012 – First Retailer to Deliver True Omni-channel Coupons. Consumers who sign-up for the Bed Bath & Beyond mobile coupons program receive a 20% off one item coupon every six weeks. The coupon can be redeemed from the consumer’s mobile device or desktop computer. To redeem a mobile coupon in-store, the consumer presents the coupon on their mobile device and the store associate scans the mobile barcode. To redeem a mobile offer during an online purchase, the consumer has the option to apply the coupon code as part of the check-out process. Once the coupon is redeemed, it cannot be presented for use a second time regardless of the channel the consumer chose to redeem the coupon.
September 2012 – First Non-retailer Mobile Coupon Wallet. Apple Wallet (previously known as Passbook) is the first non-retailer-specific mobile coupon wallet that allows consumers to store coupons, boarding passes, event tickets, store cards and, starting with iOS 8.1, credit cards, loyalty cards, and debit cards via Apple Pay. The technology is designed by Apple.
We hope you enjoyed this brief history of mobile couponing companies. What’s your story?