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JCPenney lets shoppers redeem mobile coupons at POS

J. C. Penney Co. Inc. is letting shoppers ring up savings at the register using their mobile phones with a 2D bar code coupon program.

JCPenney customers can download and carry coupons on their mobile phones that can be scanned directly from the phone's display screen at the point of sale. The retail giant tapped Cellfire for the initiative, which claims it is a first-of-its-kind program for a U.S. retailer.

?We recognize that this is where the customer is ultimately going, and we want to make sure we?re there and ready when the adoption curve ramps up,? said Dave Owen, development director for emerging digital media at JCPenney, Plano, TX. ?Mobile is a convenient way for consumers to shop JCPenney and redeem coupons and we want to support that need.

?The biggest thing is immediacy, because it puts the consumer in control,? he said. ?Its a competitive advantage to have a coupon right on her phone, which provides true immediacy and a discount offer she didn?t have to plan for.?

JCPenney is a leading retailer operating 1,106 department stores throughout the United States and Puerto Rico, as well as one of the largest apparel and home furnishing sites on the Internet at

It claims to run the nation's largest general merchandise catalog business. The company posted revenue of $18.5 billion last year.

Cellfire is a mobile coupon and discount offer service that lets consumers access deals from brand-name merchants nationwide via their mobile phone.

New imaging scanners from Motorola capable of reading these 2D bar-code coupons have been deployed at point-of-sale registers in 16 JCPenney stores in the Houston metro area.

JCPenney makes coupons available in multiple venues, including newspaper circulars, postcard mailers if consumers are in its database, email communication as part of its regular cadence and now mobile.

?Mobile is a good touchpoint with consumers, because instead of having to cut out a coupon or download it and print it, if they?re out and about and ready to make that decision about where to purchase, it provides an incentive to drop into a JCPenney,? Mr. Owen said.

JCPenney?s digital efforts primarily target women 25-39, extending to consumers in their mid-40s.

JCPenney is in the process of integrating 2D bar codes into its JCP Rewards loyalty program.

?We hope this will provide an opportunity to exploit 2D bar codes to give JCP Rewards members added convenience,? Mr. Owen said. ?We want to make it easy for members to redeem the monthly rewards they?ve earned.?

JCPenney will promote this initiative?introduced during National Coupon Month?through Web and mobile advertising, and directly via e-mail and other messaging to members of JCPenney's JCP Rewards program in the Houston market.

JCPenney?s digital agency of record is Microsoft?s Razorfish, which is building the media buy, which features rich-media mobile ad units driving consumers to register with Cellfire.

Customers who have downloaded the Cellfire application can have access to the same coupons on their mobile phones they would receive from JCPenney by mail.

Continuing throughout the fall and holiday seasons, JCPenney will offer mobile coupons almost every week, including some that are exclusive to JCP Rewards program members.

?Mobile coupons are one part of our overall promotional cadence, and we put fairly general offers out there, if not every single week, on a fairly frequent basis,? Mr. Owen said.

Offers will include targeted discounts and mobile-redeemable rewards.

Cellfire is a free service, although standard data or usage charges may apply depending on the carrier or data plan.

Consumers can register for Cellfire via their PC or mobile Web at or by texting keyword JCP to short code 22888 on their phones.

Cellfire supports more than 800 phone types in the U.S. market, including iPhone, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile and Java.

Cellfire Express is accessible via the mobile Web.

To receive JCPenney mobile coupons, shoppers must be registered with Cellfire and live within the Houston metro area.

Cellfire automatically delivers the 2D bar-code coupons directly to consumers? mobile phones and provides frequently updated discounts specific to their geographic area.

Cellfire's application-based service lets consumers store, search and use many discounts across multiple merchants and locations.

JCPenney's mobile-coupon-scanning program uses the Motorola DS9808 digital imager scanner, which can read 1D, 2D and PDF-417 bar codes.

The scanner will let JCPenney associates scan mobile coupons at first pass, which the retailer hopes will help increase productivity and ultimately improve the overall customer experience.

So what benchmarks need to be reached for JCPenney to roll out its 2D bar-code program nationwide?

?The specific targets we?ve set are internal, but the key issue revolves around redemption rates and what type of adoption we see in market,? Mr. Owen said. ?We need to see if there?s an incremental benefit to consumers? purchase patterns by letting them access coupons via phones as opposed to traditional paths.

?We?re very excited to get this off the ground and to give consumers a chance to tell us what they think,? he said.