Mobile coupons: High-tech savings

FRESNO, Calif. Budget-minded shoppers know: clipping coupons saves money but it's time consuming. Now shoppers on the go can dial into the same savings on their phones.

Busy Clovis mom Paige Ball was never much for clipping coupons.

"I'll forget to use them. And I don't like them all over the house, which is why they'll end up, I'll find them in the bottom of my purse, or my car," Ball said.

But what if all those coupons were available in one place, her cell phone. No more printing, clipping or organizing.

"Everyone likes to save money, and if they were sent directly to me, I'd be more likely to use them."

"How does $10 off any purchase of $30 dollars or more sound?"

And as we showed Paige, you don't have to be super tech savvy to use them.

"That's all you have to show at the register" "Wow. That's handy."

Here's how it works: go to a favorite retailer's website or a mobile coupon website like cell-fire. Which has multiple retailers all in one place. Subscribers enter their cell number and choose only offers you want to receive.

Those offers then arrive via text message on your cell phone and are ready to go, whenever you need them. Just show them to the cashier to redeem.

If you have a Smartphone like an iPhone or blackberry, it's even easier with free downloadable applications like coupon Sherpa that provide hundreds of mobile coupons at your fingertips.

Coupon giant Valpak has a mobile coupon application for Smartphone's too.

Earlier this year, major retailers like J.C. Penney and target started offering mobile coupons for use in their stores.

In the first half of 2009 the coupon processing company Inmar says nearly 10 million digital coupons were redeemed, up 25 percent over the same period the year before.

"Here now you can see the actual discount and it gives you full instructions."

That kind of growth is what Fresno-based "pay-shrink-dot-com" is seizing on.

"They love the idea they don't have to clip a coupon anymore and store them or categorize them in a little booklet. Now it's just on your phone. It's natural," Adrian Rodriguez said.

Adrian Rodriguez, Frank Sanchez and Stephen Gamboa started the free website that provides subscribers mobile coupons from local businesses.

"Take this into this restaurant, and you'll get this discount. Expires at the end of today and there's a four-digit code there."

From the businesses' perspective, Rodriguez points out mobile coupons have a higher rate of redemption, 5 to 20-percent compared to just 1-percent for printed coupons. And business owners have the added ability to track usage.

They'll know from our security features that those really great deals aren't going to be abused just because it's a virtual discount.

Deli Delicious , a Fresno-based sandwich shop has already signed on. "It's actually more convenient, it's faster, uses less paper, which is always good, good for environment, and people are all about their cell phones these days," Meagan Villegas said.

Villegas says while most customers coming in with mobile coupons are young it's so easy, anyone can do it.

"I can see my grandma walking up to the counter and using it, and she would."

Armed with her iPhone, Paige says she's ready to start saving without ever having to clip a coupon again.


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