By  on September 25, 2009

J.C. Penney Co. Inc. is testing a cell phone coupon program that uses breakthrough technology to allow consumers to download and carry coupons on their mobile phones. The coupons can be scanned directly from the phone’s display screen at the register. Penney’s is testing the program in the Houston metro area where new imaging scanners capable of reading the “2D” barcode coupons have been deployed at point-of-sale registers in 16 stores.

“These mobile coupons are the ultimate in customer convenience because there’s no need to clip or carry around a printed coupon, and they can be instantly scanned from a cell phone,” said Mike Boylson, executive vice president and chief marketing officer for Penney’s.

Penney’s will promote the initiative through Web and mobile advertising, and via e-mail and other messaging to members of the retailer’s JCP Rewards program in the Houston market. Customers who have downloaded Cellfire can have access to the same coupons on their cell phones they would receive from J.C. Penney by mail. Cellfire is a free service, although standard data or usage charges may apply depending on the carrier or data plan. Cellfire delivers money-saving coupons to consumers on their mobile phones and provides frequently updated discounts specific to their geographic area.

“There’s a lot of conversation about mobile couponing and a lot of excitement,” said Dave Owen, Penney’s emerging digital director. “This gives us a chance to try it out and find out where our customers are on the adoption curve. What we’re focused on is understanding whether this adds value and convenience for the customer. We’d like to know whether this would change the redemption rate, shopper frequency and add incremental value to the shopper’s basket.”

Coupons delivered and redeemed via mobile phones are forecast to be used by some 200 million mobile subscribers globally by 2013, according to Juniper Research. Most mobile coupon usage today is in the Far East. However, by 2013, Western Europe and North America will account for almost 20 percent of coupon redemption values, Juniper said.

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