Speaking at the first annual CardLinX Forum, hosted by The CardLinX Association in Las Vegas, Bob Hedges, managing director at the global business-advisory firm AlixPartners, shared key insights on trends in mobile shopping and couponing from the latest AlixPartners Mobile Financial Services Tracking Study. “We appear to be on the verge of a significant expansion of the role of mobile and digital coupons in the consumer shopping experience,” said Hedges.
With growth in smartphone and tablet ownership, and strong increases in the use of those devices for activities beyond making and receiving phone calls, there seems to be clear signs of acceleration in digital consumer behavior. According to the study, the percentage of consumers using their mobile device to access the Internet increased from 14 percent to 37 percent over the past four years. “Consumers’ engagement in digital coupons should be seen as just an extension of their increasingly digital behavior in shopping and commerce, with parallel rapid growth expected ahead,” said Hedges.
The study showed that consumer participation in mobile money-related transactions showed significant growth in the second half of 2013, reaching 41 percent among smartphone/tablet owners, up from 32 percent in the first half of 2013. Mobile money-related transactions include mobile browser or app activities such as making a purchase through a website, paying a recurring bill, making a purchase at a physical location with a mobile device, paying for a service, gifting money or reimbursing a friend or relative. “We are seeing mobile payments become more common, and the consumer awareness and adoption increasingly widespread,” said Hedges.
The Mobile Consumer Wants More than Just Mobile Payments
While mobile payment activities are rapidly growing, they are only one part of the retail shopping experience for consumers. Consumers can chose from a wide range of mobile and digital solutions available today to support virtually all of their shopping and payments activities. They have access to tools like for discovering products, comparing prices, making mobile purchases and making mobile payments. Tools are also available to review products, manage rewards programs and create shopping lists that integrate and optimize the value of coupons.
The AlixPartners study notes that there has been acceleration in mobile-shopping behaviors across age cohorts; 74 percent of smartphone/tablet owners in the most recent survey said they use mobile shopping-related features, up from 65 percent at the end of 2012. Our research shows that coupons and discounts have emerged as an important element of mobile shopping. Among consumers surveyed between the ages of 18 and 54, more than 40 percent are using digital coupons, with the coupon usage rate increasing to 81 percent for ages 26 to 34. According to the survey, digital and mobile coupons have become an important shopping tool for consumers and appear to have a significant impact on what consumers choose to buy and at what price, across all age groups:
- 61 percent of smartphone/tablet owners report regularly receiving mobile or digital coupons,
- 26 percent purchased an item they did not plan to buy because they received a coupon and
- 23 percent purchased an item they were interested in from an alternative physical retailer who offered a lower price.
While coupons are a powerful purchase driver for consumers, market awareness of banks’ or credit-card providers’ targeted coupon programs is still low, according to the survey, with only 33 percent of consumers reporting they are aware of bank-sponsored mobile or digital coupon programs. However, while awareness is low, among consumers who identified themselves as “aware” of bank-sponsored mobile or digital coupon programs, the adoption rate for couponing programs was 39 percent in the latest survey. The survey also finds that consumers who participate in bank-sponsored targeted mobile or digital coupon programs tend to be satisfied with their banks’ coupon programs, with 90 percent saying they were “satisfied” or ”very satisfied”.
“When consumers are aware and informed, adoption of digital couponing appears to be very strong. The value to consumers is real and measureable in their resulting retail purchase decisions,” said Hedges.
Banks Have a “Trust” Advantage over Digital Retailers
While bank-sponsored mobile and digital-couponing programs may be relatively new, banks hold an important “trust” advantage over retailers and digital brands in how consumers perceive coupon programs, according to the study. On the critical question of whether or not consumers surveyed trust alternative providers with their purchase-transaction data, “your primary bank” scored a 36 percent rating (top-2 box score minus bottom-2 box scores on a 5-box trust scale) versus telecom providers at 16 percent, major retailers at 5 percent, and leading digital and technology brands at the bottom of the rankings. According to the study, the “trust” advantage that banks have in using purchase transaction information in their customers’ best interest seems significant.
“We are entering a dynamic period when consumers will likely be assessing who they are willing to trust in this complex world of digital/mobile shopping, payments and couponing. Banks seem to start with a significant trust advantage. However, banks must either actively exercise their advantages or risk being made irrelevant in couponing as new digital entrants seek to play the dominant role,” concluded Hedges.
About the Study
The data shared at the CardLinX Forum conference comes from the AlixPartners Mobile Financial Services Tracking Study. The most recent consumer survey fielding was in the fourth quarter of 2013, and is the latest edition in AlixPartners' semi-annual Franchise Health Survey, which has been conducted in the second and fourth quarters annually since 2008 and includes an online panel of nationally representative samples of U.S. consumers of at least 18 years of age.