Ah, remember those good 'ol days when we actually used those things called scissors and clipped our coupons when we wanted to save 50 cents from a bottle of Tide? Those activities have already been teetering on the brink of obsolescence since early last year, when Target introduced a program featuring mobile scannable coupons. Google Wallet and Walgreen's have furthered along the concept by offering them as well, and now Procter & Gamble are jumping on board. The company's teamed up with mobeam, a startup which has found a way to make mobile coupons readable using normal laser scanners, still the weapon of choice for many retailers. Next up, the two partners are hoping to work with OEMs to integrate the tech into new phones, push out an app to take advantage of it and begin field testing the process with shoppers and retailers sometime in 2012.

Once it kicks off, any company should be able to issue digital coupons; those who choose to partner with mobeam, however, will have access to opted-in consumer information that tracks which couponing websites the consumer visits, the location and time each coupon is redeemed and other items purchased using the app. Physical coupons will still be around for a while -- P&G asserts that there will still be plenty of coupon-clippers that hunt through newspaper inserts or print them out -- so the old-fashioned method isn't completely dead yet. We'd sure love to see mobile couponing grow to a point where more and more trees are getting saved, though.


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New mobile technology aims to increase shoppers' power by putting scanable coupons in their phones, saving time, effort and cost

SAN FRANCISCO – December 19, 2011 – In its continuous effort to improve life for consumers, the Procter & Gamble Company (P&G) is partnering with mobeam inc. to bring the first-ever fully mobile couponing system to market. The innovation, created by mobeam of California, makes electronic coupons presented on a phone or other mobile device scannable, so shoppers need only their phones/handhelds, not a stack of coupons, at check out.

Today, couponing represents a growing $3.7 billion segment of the consumer packaged goods (CPG) market in North America, with more than 300 billion coupons distributed every year and redemption on the increase as consumers strive for greater value and savings. And while smartphones are supporting users and simplifying life in a host of new ways, until now, phone couponing has not been an option because barcodes displayed on mobile phone screens are invisible to commonly used in-store laser scanners.

Smartphones support users and simplify life in a host of new ways, but phone couponing has not been an option until now because barcodes displayed on mobile phone screens are invisible to commonly used in-store laser scanners.

Mobeam technology converts – or mobeams – the barcode data into a beam of light that can be read by barcode scanners already found at store checkout counters. No additional point of sale (POS) equipment is needed.

"As impossible as it seems, even to technologists in the mobile industry, a vividly displayed barcode cannot be read by the typical barcode scanner," said Nick Holland, senior analyst with Yankee Group. "The inability for a red laser scanner to read information displayed on a smartphone is not a small problem. This limiting factor is stalling important innovation as the retail industry is stuck waiting for next generation mobile technology to go mainstream. The mobeam beaming solution eloquently fixes this problem, enabling current generation mobile devices to interface with legacy red laser barcode scanners."

P&G, one of the world's leading coupon distributors, developed a partnership with mobeam through P&G's open innovation Connect+Develop program, designed to bring leading innovation into P&G and share P&G innovation with others.

The P&G and mobeam partnership is aimed at exploring and testing a new, highly efficient method for consumers to redeem – and retailers to accept – coupons at the point of sale.

"Our vision with P&G is for the mobeam technology to be used and leveraged broadly by many leading CPG companies, with P&G and other key consumer goods partners as first adopters," said mobeam CEO Christopher Sellers.

The next step in the partnership is to work with the mobile communications industry to add the mobeam application into handheld phones and then to test the application and process with shoppers and selected retailers.

"We are excited about the potential for this new technology and our partnership with mobeam to make shopping simpler and faster for consumers. Couponing is a great way for shoppers to try new products or save on the trusted brands their families have come to love. If that can be easier, faster and less costly for shoppers and retailers, we want to help bring it to life," said Jeff Weedman, vice president of P&G Global Business Development.

Mobeam is working with handset manufacturers to engineer its light-based communications technology into new lines of handsets. P&G, mobeam and other partners expect to test the technology in market in 2012.

A mobeam-enabled couponing service would provide significant benefit to key stakeholders:

CONSUMERS:
Consumers would be able to collect and manage coupons received electronically and redeem them from their phones at the point of sale. Up to now, coupons received electronically either had to be printed to be redeemed, downloaded to a loyalty card or a checkout clerk would have to manually key in a coupon code. Not only will a shopper using the mobeam technology benefit, so will all the shoppers standing behind her in line.

RETAILERS:
The service aims to enable North American retailers to accelerate adoption of mobile coupons without hardware changes at POS. Because coupons will be submitted digitally, mobile coupons would increase efficiency and reduce costs.

CPG COMPANIES:
Digital coupons provide substantially deeper analytic capabilities, allowing better measurement of campaign effectiveness, as well as efficiencies in distribution, purchase validation and processing.

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Procter & Gamble partners with Mobeam to deliver coupons to your phone