Tech Conference Tackles Future of Couponing

TUCSON, Ariz. — The future of couponing will be electronic offers targeted to an individual, not a paper coupon specifically promoting a particular product.

“Manufacturers will not just throw a coupon in a newspaper and hope for a good redemption rate,” said Patrick Lewis, CEO of convenience store chain Oasis Stop N Go LLC and an owner of loyalty program provider Kickback Rewards Systems. Oasis Stop N Go operates 13 c-stores in southern Idaho.  

“Paper couponing may have some place, but its importance will be nowhere near the same level it has been [in the past],” he continued.

Lewis led a three-hour breakout strategy session on digital couponing and loyalty during the second day of the 2014 PCATS Annual Conference, hosted by the Petroleum Convenience Alliance for Technology Standards (PCATS) and taking place at Tucson’s Loews Ventana Canyon Resort. (Later that evening, PCATS announced it was changing its name to Conexxus effective immediately and the conference would now be known as the Conexxus Annual Conference.)

Lewis has served as chairman of the PCATS Loyalty Working Group for the past seven years, where his role is to recommend standards for the loyalty and digital coupon segments of the PCATS organization.

During yesterday’s strategy session, he noted that targeted mobile offers will now be based on prior purchases made by a consumer. Thanks to the fact that paper coupons have not proved popular at convenience stores, the channel is at the forefront of the mobile couponing movement.

“Everything is going mobile,” Lewis said. “Interest in e-coupons has risen dramatically in the past couple of years.”

He did acknowledge that some roadblocks stand in the way of mobile e-couponing, but they can be overcome. The first roadblock is what he referred to as “multiple token acceptance.”

“For example, if a consumer presents two separate 5-cent fuel rollback offers, will the [point-of-sale system at the pump] stack the deal and allow for a 10-cent discount?” Lewis asked. “Or will it reject one of the offers? That’s something that needs to be worked on.”

The tax implications of mobile couponing is another issue that must be clarified, the executive added. “Should coupons be taxed?” Lewis questioned. “We’re going to need to figure that out. Tax laws vary greatly from state to state, so that’s going to be complicated.”

The 2014 Conexxus Annual Conference continues through Thursday, May 1.

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