Big interview: GSMA's Paul Crutchley on retail loyalty

Making couponing contextually relevant via mobile over the next five to ten years will bring electronic retail voucher redemption "much, much higher" than its current level, according to the strategic engagement director at global mobile operator network GSMA, Paul Crutchley.

While the prevalence of print couponing is not expected to change significantly in the next few years, Crutchley is predicting "a huge increase in targeted electronic coupons" through mobile devices during that time, as retailers, vendors and mobile operators set the wheels in motion for mobile-enabled loyalty programmes.

"Putting contextual couponing onto a mobile, which some people have in their hands on a near permanent basis, will actually change the way coupons are created, activated and redeemed," argued the GSMA director.

"But it's not about putting as many coupons as possible on to a mobile device – it's a case of giving the loyalty provider information about when and if that coupon has been activated and redeemed."

It is these ideas and more that are set to form the basis of discussions at a GSMA event on 26 November, which will bring together system integrators, till manufacturers and pin entry device manufacturers, as well those providing retail and loyalty solutions.

Dubbed 'Couponing and Loyalty Seminar: Embracing the technology challenge from adoption to scale', the half-day event will focus on the technology challenges specifically around couponing and loyalty, wallets and payment services. It also aims to shine a light on the work that the GSMA is doing with mobile network operators and key retail stakeholders to define and promote a common way of working, that it is hoped will better align the traditional bricks and mortar and the high tech worlds.

The GSMA event, which will take place at the organisation's headquarters in New Fetter Lane, London, will see the organisation communicate its current position and detail its future plans. Weve, the joint mCommerce venture between Vodafone UK, EE and Telefonica UK (O2), is scheduled to run a presentation on the engagement process between mobile operators and other stakeholders, while GS1, Aimia and Proxama will also be given a platform to speak on the subject of loyalty.

With a plethora of conflicting definitions, the topic of what loyalty in retail actually means is sure to be debated, with Crutchley saying: "Some say it's just advertising, some say it's just promotion, but actually we see it as long-term engagement to build a relationship with a consumer."

The GSMA has been working for some time on frameworks that will help mobile companies and retailers better work together, and it plans to publish a technical specification document for loyalty at the start of 2014. It is essentially a toolkit, so retailers can understand how couponing can work effectively in a mobile operator's wallet or an app, and how the systems connect.

With this learning, it is hoped that the retailer can then have an "educated conversation" with mobile operators to understand where loyalty and couponing can be positioned on mobile for the benefit of their consumers.

"The 26 November is about reaching out to vendors, getting them in a room and saying 'we are trying to understand the key enablers to allow this to happen'," explained Crutchley.

"We're trying to support all of their businesses as best as we can and we want to get their feedback, too, but then it's then down to the mobile operators to talk to the people in the room and take things on a step or two."

To put the subject into perspective, figures released last month by market research firm eMarketer indicate that, in 2013, more than half of US adult internet users, or 102.5 million people, will redeem a digital coupon via any device for either online or offline shopping.

According to the study, the number of people who redeem digital coupons is expected to increase 11% this year, with new mobile coupon users set to be the primary growth driver behind the burgeoning digital coupon audience. Over 28% of people who own a mobile device redeemed a coupon this year, the report added, which highlights the link between greater adoption of smartphone devices and the growth of digital loyalty schemes.

The half-day session on 26 November will investigate some of these themes further, and will culminate in a panel discussion, in association with Essential Retail and RBTE. Attendees will be able to pose questions to those who have presented during the day, enabling all parties to grasp what will be the next stage of the adoption process. Crutchley, who is confident that mobile-based loyalty is close to mass adoption, will be part of the panel.

He said: "I'm not going to sit here and say loyalty in its current form doesn't work as there are billions of coupons out there and many loyalty schemes that are successful, but we want to bring together vendors in one room and say we're trying to enable mass market adoption of couponing and loyalty.

"It is very fragmented out there right now. There are lots of loyalty applications, retail apps and different ways service providers are creating coupons, but we're trying to bring this together and provide the technical capability for a retailer to create a coupon that can then be passed via card emulation mode and mobile into the retail system."

Find out more about the GSMA loyalty and couponing event

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