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JCPenney Tests Mobile Coupon Convenience



Dave Owen
Development Director for Emerging Digital Media
JCPenney

December 18, 2009

Dave Owen started in digital marketing in 2000 with jcp.com, working with site content, media placements, search, banner ads and partnership marketing. He spoke to eMarketer about the chain’s approach to digital media and marketing, and its mobile couponing test.

eMarketer: Can you explain how JCPenney views digital media and marketing?

Dave Owen: Digital media and marketing impact the entire enterprise. Our jcp.com channel is only one part of the total customer’s view of the JCPenney brand. Certainly a lot of our traffic to jcp.com is essentially pre-shopping—looking at products and doing research. So digital media might serve as a traffic-builder for the site. But it may just as easily assist a customer with shopping during a special sales event in our store.

Again, when we take an enterprise view of digital media, it reflects that we’ve got a number of marketing stories to pass along to our customers. We want to make sure digital isn’t only about driving e-commerce sales, but driving our customer to the JCPenney brand in the way that she intends to use the brand.

eMarketer: The mobile coupon program launched in 16 Houston-area stores in September. How does it work?

Mr. Owen: When you check out, the sales associate scans a coupon’s 2-D barcode right off your mobile phone or device. It’s really no different than a printed coupon. That’s the whole point.

The coupons require the use of an optical scanner. We decided to make the technology investment for a limited group of stores. We want to see if by offering the coupon in this market in a very visible way, we can get incremental value.

We wanted to make this available to all kinds of mobile phones and devices. When we looked at how to roll this out, we specifically looked for a partner that wouldn’t limit us to smartphones. We went with Cellfire. Essentially, a customer has to have access to a wireless data plan. If they can hit a WAP-enabled site, they can get a JCPenney coupon.

“The phone is becoming more of a life tool for our customer rather than simply a way to send text messages and make calls.”

I think there are some caveats, but the bottom line is we didn’t want it to be just an iPhone or BlackBerry application. I think all of us recognize that there’s a shift taking place where the phone is becoming more of a life tool for our customer rather than simply a way to send text messages and make calls.

eMarketer: What are your objectives with this trial?

Mr. Owen: We’re offering customers the convenience factor, and we hope to gain a better understanding of consumer behavior with respect to the use of wireless technology, coupons and offers. We know that our customers are pretty excited when coupons are available. We wanted to make sure that we are continually exploring how to get those coupons to our customers in the most convenient fashion.

We have added the ability to print a coupon tied into our e-mail and we certainly do a lot of direct mail. But this takes it to the next level and says to our customer, if she has a phone with her, why shouldn’t the coupon be right there on her phone? The question becomes, when does this reach critical mass and when does it become part of her expectation as opposed to a nice-to-have feature?

eMarketer: What kind of metrics are you looking for from this program?

Mr. Owen: We’ve created baseline metrics that we’ll look at throughout the trial. Each time we have a coupon in the market, we have a post-campaign report that will address the conversion rates: how the conversion rates compare with other methods of placing that coupon in the market, the average sale size and how the ticket size increases when you add the mobile coupon to the mix.

We’ll have all the traditional metrics that we would already be looking at with our other coupon vehicles. We’re simply adding mobile to that. We plan to take a longitudinal view to determine if we see any shift in behavior for customers who are using mobile coupons versus those who use coupons derived through the other methods.

“Is having that coupon accessible on a mobile phone going to change our customer’s in-store shopping behavior?”

We also want to understand if there’s incremental value in doing this. Is having that coupon accessible on a mobile phone going to change our customer’s in-store shopping behavior? Our hypothesis, of course, is we’d like to believe that may be the case because it’s more convenient—the coupon’s in her purse and she doesn’t have to say, “I left the coupon at home.”

eMarketer: How do you feel this mobile program ties in with the image the JCPenney brand is trying to convey?

“I think what this says is, if mobile is a big part of your life, JCPenney wants to be a big part of your life by incorporating mobile.”

Mr. Owen: The brand continues to stress its relevance to women ages 25 to 44. Mobile adoption in this age group is very strong. I think what this says is, if mobile is a big part of your life, JCPenney wants to be a big part of your life by incorporating mobile. It certainly enhances the brand by continuing to be relevant and useful. We are looking at what our customer thinks is relevant. What does she need? What’s going to drive convenience for her? If the cellphone has become a life tool, then, we need to make sure that we’re a welcome part of that.

The full version of this interview is available here, to eMarketer Total Access subscribers only. Every day they have access to new interviews with digital marketing leaders and trendsetting entrepreneurs.

Check out today’s other article, “What Is the Outlook for Paid Video Content?

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