Remember when you used to go grocery shopping with your mom and she would pull out a stack of coupons that she clipped out of the Sunday paper?  I’m not sure how she felt about that, but I would personally find it annoying to A) cut out all of the coupons and B) carry all of those paper clippings with you to the store.

Well, those were the olden days.  A time when print was still seeing growth and papers were being read by 20 somethings out of college.  Today, not so much.  Every day we take another step towards a more mobile society.  And, over the next couple of years the paper coupon will become extinct and our handheld mobile devices will take their place.

It will take a time before the vast majority are actively and comfortably using coupons on their phones, but, nonetheless, it will happen and the major driving forces behind this shift will be the growth of the  smartphone market – expected to eclipse 50% share next year –  and NFC (near-field communication), which Android and Apple have been experimenting with recently.

Yesterday, Eric Schmidt said that because of NFC – likely to be in the Nexus One successor – Android phones will soon be credit cards.  There have also been rumors about Apple testing NFC for the next generation iPhone.  They claim to be focusing on using the technology for importing and exporting data (i.e. pictures, videos) from your phone to your Mac, but I’m sure turning the iPhone in to a wallet is top of mind for them as well, especially if it’s top of mind for Google/Android.

So, Google and Apple are about to turn our phones in to credit cards, but what companies are going to use that technology to reinvent the way we save when we shop?

I read an article yesterday about how SCVNGR wants to kill the coupon.  First off, I don’t think anyone is killing anything.  I don’t think the iPad is killing print. I don’t think Google TV, Boxee or Hulu is killing TV. I think all of these companies are reviving and reinventing these mediums.  And, I think what they are doing is awesome.  But, I digress.

I think Seth Priebatsch (Chief Ninja at SCVNGR) is a forward thinker and I agree with him. I think the coupon, as we know it, in good time, will go away.  And, I think SCVNGR and other location-based services are capable of filling that void.

Here’s the thing though; this needs to be simple.  SCVNGR is in great position to replace paper clippings or online coupons with rewards for compnaies like GameStop (which they are already partnering with) because the people that shop at GameStop, like to play games.  However, I do not see the average grocery shopper wanting to participate in challenges to earn rewards or discounts.  Why?  It’s because it’s a different consumer who is in a different mindset.

People that go grocery shopping want to get in and get out as quickly and as effortlessly as possible.   And, for that reason, I think ShopKick is the better service for that audience.  How convenient would it be if ShopKick partnered with Stop & Shop and when you entered the store they gave you all of the coupons available at that location – sort by brands or category – and allowed you to cherry pick the offers that you wanted?  By tapping in to the NFC technology you could add all of your coupons to your list and simply wave your phone at the register before you pay and you’d be done.  That would be pretty awesome, right?  Goodbye paper clippings, hello conveniently saving with an LBS.

Location-based services have a major opportunity once NFC arrives on the majority of mobile phones, but let’s not forget about social commerce sites like Swipely, Blippy and Social Currency (American Express).  All of these companies are already linked to users credit cards.  The idea of linking your card to a social-commerce site is scary to most, but if these companies focused more on turning a users credit card in to a rewards card for all of their purchases and less on the social aspect, they could broaden their audience  - people don’t want to tie their credit card to a social network, but I’d bet that they’d be willing to link up to a service that gave them discounts and deals for simply using their cards at their favorite stores.   Let’s use the Stop & Shop example:  Using the NFC technology, if theses companies were to partner with Stop & Shop they could setup it up to recognize the products that a shopper purchased and match them up with the coupons/deals being offered at that location and automatically take it off the bill.  Super convenient? Yes.

There is major potential for all of these companies, but they need to know their audience, and, more imporatnly, recognize and respect the mindset/environment that their users are in while shopping.  SCVNGR needs to go after people that like to have fun and are willing to go the extra mile to earn exclusive deals and ShopKick/Swipely/Social Currency need to make redeeming and getting relevant coupons as convenient as possible.

The technology is pushing us forward, but we need these forward thinking services to carry us through. Cheers to the new age of coupons/deals/rewards, and to the companies that will make it awesome for everyone.

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