Unilever Tries Mobile Coupons

Gail Chiasson, North American Editor

Unilever in the U.S. is running its first trial of product coupons being offered on mobile phones.

The four-week trial is limited to a ShopRite supermarket in Hillsborough, New Jersey, with coupons for Unilever brands Hellman, Dove Body Wash, Ragu and Lipton.

The packaged goods giant wants to see if consumers are willing to give the coupons a try. The trial is being powered by mobile marketing startup Samplesaint.com that lets consumers redeem coupons by having a supermarket cashier scan barcodes on their phones. The consumers – who are learning about the offer strictly through public relations efforts – including e-mails to existing known customers – register with Samplesaint.com to have the barcodes on their mobile phones.

Unilever management decided that it is a good time to try out the mobile coupons because consumers are more cost-conscious in the current economy, and they are increasingly more comfortable about using their phones for more than calls and picture taking.

But will customers find the process worthwhile or a hassle?

While the use of mobile coupons reportedly has a higher redemption rate than paper coupons, critics says that the system also has potential for entry errors, slowness at the cashier level if codes have to be manually entered, and lack of technical equipment in many stores for swiping the codes.

Unilever will look at trial results before deciding whether or not to proceed further.

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