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Proctor & Gamble brings coupons to the mobile phone

Deal with technology company mobeam will allow consumers to redeem coupons with mobile devices; tests start in 2012.

Mobile commerce continues to enter the conscious of mainstream North Americans, albeit more slowly than the rest of the world. But a deal announced Monday by the world's largest consumer products company, Procter & Gamble, could change all that with what is being described as the first scannable, mobile coupon solution.

The deal between P&G and San Francisco-based Mobeam will enable electronic coupons offered by the consumer goods coupon to be scanned at the checkout. The catch is that the technology doesn't work with current mobile phones; the companies will need to convince handset manufacturers to add Mobeam's light-based communication technology. Apparently, several deals are in the works and the two companies hope that a pilot test of the solution will be on hand sometime in 2012.

In this world of mobile boarding passes and QR codes, I had no idea that this was such a hard thing to do, but here is some insight on the solution from Nick Holland, a senior analyst with Yankee Group:

"As impossible as it seems, even to technologists in the mobile industry, a vividly displayed barcode cannot be read by the typical barcode scanner. The inability for a red laser scanner to read information displayed on a smartphone is not a small problem. This limiting factor is stalling important innovation as the retail industry is stuck waiting for next-generation mobile technology to go mainstream. The mobeam scanning solution eloquently fixes this problem, enabling current generation mobile devices to interface with legacy red laser barcode scanners."

Here is how the solution would work: Consumers would be able to receive or collect coupons electronically, organize them on their mobile phone and bring them to the store on their phone for redemption. Currently, if you receive a coupon electronically, you usually have to print it out. Then, the checkout clerk would have to key in the number manually. The mobeam solution obviously streamlines the process.

"Our vision with P&G is for the mobeam technology to be used and leveraged broadly by many leading [consumer packaged goods] companies, with P&G and other key consumer goods partners as first adopters," said mobeam CEO Christopher Sellers.

The development comes as the concept of mobile commerce finally begins to take hold in the United States. Statistics by ABI Research predict that mobile shopping will account for about 8 percent of the total e-commerce market by 2015, with about $119 billion in goods and services purchased on mobile phones.

European countries and Japan tend to outpace the projections for the United States, but a recent survey by Javelin Strategy Research and PaymentOne found that more U.S. consumers are becoming comfortable with the idea of mobile payments, so that the could avoid checkout lines. Mobile couponing solutions such as the one from P&G and mobeam can't help but accelerate that movement.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com