Target's Mobile Coupon Move Interesting For What It Did <i>Not</i> Offer

Coming on the heels of last month's support of mobile gift cards, Target's announcement on Wednesday (March 10) that it was embracing a mobile coupon program does not seem that surprising. And it isn't. But Target's decision to have all offers delivered to all customers—and updated only once a month—is.

The power of a mobile coupon program is not just in the convenience of the always-with-you device format. It's in the customizable nature of it and the related upsell and CRM implications. Why wouldn't Target offer consumers the ability to pick and choose—from their desktop machine—from a huge selection of offers? Those choices would provide valuable targeting information on an individual shopper basis.And if Target's decision is indeed to offer one blanket list of mobile opportunities, why not use existing CRM data to target certain offers to specific customer segments? Plus, why update those offers only once a month?

The counter argument is, "But those consumers will make their preferences known, at the only place where it's meaningful: at the POS. At that juncture, it's not a whim or a vague preference. It's a rock-solid purchase, backed up with greenbacks or the plastic equivalent. That tells me what the customer really wants."

The counter to that counter? Not necessarily. A discount offered but not redeemed may not necessarily mean that the customer isn't interested. The item might be out-of-stock. Maybe it's a food choice, like yogurt, and the in-stock flavors weren't to that customer's liking. Maybe that customer is simply low on cash this week or is too busy to make it to the store by the coupon's expiration date. Either way, the conclusion that that customer won't be moved to buy a particular brand of yogurt by mobile coupon is flawed.

No, I'd argue that a lengthy list of discount options, where the customer can click on any and all desired choices, is the best way to better understand that consumer's wants and needs. That approach also gives you the option of comparing the two data points: what they have consistently checked vs. what they have never actually redeemed.

Maybe you'll learn that the customer is very interested but that your competitor is offering 25 percent off while you only offered a 10 percent discount. Not giving the customer the option to choose beforehand is throwing away valuable data.

Still, Target's program is one of the most aggressive mobile coupon programs from any of the major chains. Starting slow is one approach. It’s not typically Target's style, but it is still one approach. The initial access can be made via a desktop (at or via consumer mobile device directly, by texting COUPONS to 827438 (TARGET).