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Ok, so the headline may be a little harsh. But a new study says one of the newest types of coupons faces some serious hurdles when it comes to being widely used and accepted. And the best way to overcome our resistance to these discount offers is to appeal to our instincts – we want to feel good about ourselves, we want to save money, and we don’t want to have to work for it.

Consumers’ attitude and adoption of location-based coupons” appears in the latest edition of the Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services. Its authors examine the benefits and drawbacks of mobile coupons that are tied to your physical location. Walk by a store, for example, and your cell phone may buzz with a discount offer that you can use if you go inside. Walk down a specific aisle of the grocery store, and you may get an alert about a digital coupon for a product that’s on the shelf right in front of you.

It’s convenient enough – but what are you giving up in order to get these offers? Your privacy? Your data? Your free will to seek out coupons on your own terms?

The study finds that many of us have reservations about location-based mobile coupons. But the benefits may ultimately outweigh the drawbacks. Our desire to save may outweigh our desire to keep to ourselves.

The researchers begin by focusing on the similarities and differences between location-based advertising, and location-based coupons. Both may feel a little Intrusive, but while many of us are more suspicious of ads, we’re more accepting of coupons.

And why not? Ads are just trying to sell you stuff, while coupons will actually save you money.

“Location-based advertising allows marketers to track consumers’ every movement, thereby increasing the level of intrusion and invasion, specifically in instances in which individuals have not yet planned any purchases,” the report reads. And “because mobile phones are perceived as the most personal and private media that accompany their owners anytime and anywhere, consumers’ vulnerability is likely to be accentuated.”

But these same consumers are more forgiving of location-based coupons, even if they, too, help marketers track their movements and purchases. One key reason is that you have to opt in to receive them – so location-based coupons “respect the consumer’s privacy, since they require his/her prior consent.”

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And of course, the fact that they save you money is a plus.

Another plus is that they don’t require any effort on your part. You save time by not having to search for coupons, clip them out of a paper insert, sort them and keep them handy. “Many researchers argue that location-based coupons are more efficient in terms of time and effort saving than any other form,” the report finds, “because consumers receive notifications (SMS, MMS, e-mail alerts, and notifications of the location-based coupon application) on their mobile devices.”

Finally, location-based coupons make us feel good about ourselves. Having an unexpected offer pop up on your phone can create “feelings of delight and gratification which result from ‘winning a bargain’,” the report explains. “Those who take advantage of location-based coupons perceive themselves as special and much smarter,” they “feel a sense of success, achievement and accomplishment”, they feel as if they’ve “won in an implied game against vendors as well as other consumers who did not use coupons”, and they have an improved sense of “self-esteem and self-satisfaction, so that they can be justifiably proud of themselves”.

In short, the report reads, using location-based coupons “signals the smart-shopping skills and values of the users and may superiorly enhance their social prestige and help them fulfill their personal values and moral obligations”.

All that from using a coupon!

So it is perhaps no surprise that the authors of the study encourage marketers to get with it – to take advantage of the technology and our apparent receptiveness, and offer more location-based coupons.

“Retailers who are savvy with location-based coupons will certainly have a competitive edge,” the report concludes. The researchers advise coupon providers to stress the fact that location-based coupons are an opt-in feature, with an easy opt-out option, while emphasizing that “location-based coupons are a convenient way of getting a good deal.” So more marketers “should invest in this trendy marketing approach. Developing their own apps and mobile marketing efforts is not an option; rather, it is crucial to the future of their businesses.”

So if you’re on the fence about whether to let marketers invade your mobile phone with coupons that may pop up when you least expect them – you may find more marketers are trying to convince you that it’s a good thing.

After all, your self-esteem and “social prestige” may depend on it.

Image source: “Consumers’ attitude and adoption of location-based coupons

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