The Problem with Digital Offers – And It’s Not the Tech!

I did everything right. I work in the payments industry so I have an understanding of the technology. I have one of the hottest Android phones on the market that came preloaded with an electronic payment and offers application. I entered my credit card information into the app and I went out and found offers nearby that I was interested in redeeming.

It all seemed so simple—until I tried to redeem an offer and was met with blank stares by the clerk and shuffling sounds of impatient customers behind me in line.

But let me back up just a bit and tell you where I’m coming from. To start, I’m NOT the target audience for an early adoption of NFC technology with regards to payments and offers. In fact, I’ve blogged before about how, in all likelihood, they’ll be fishing my leather wallet out of my back pocket when I’m gone. I like my mobile phone, but I’m not giving up my wallet for it any time soon.

That said, I got caught up in the hype. Working for a company like VeriFone, you can’t live and breathe this stuff day in and day out and not get interested. But interest isn’t always enough.

What’s happened the two times I’ve tried to use my application’s digital offers features are indicative of the challenges of any new technology—education. But in the case of mobile payment apps, digital offers and NFC, it’s not as much about educating the end user, as it is educating the facilitator of the technology—the merchant.

To illustrate my point, take a look at this image. This is an “offer” I downloaded from my mobile payments app. Presumably, the good people at this particular solution had reached out to the merchant and worked out some deal and the result was a BOGO offer. All well and good.

But when I went to redeem the offer, I clicked the button on my mobile for “Redeem Offer” and this screen popped up. And while the merchant’s name and the offer details were shown at the top in text, there was no sense of authenticity to it—nothing to prove that this was a legitimate offer (like a barcode or QR code the merchant could scan) created by someone in corporate with full approval to do so. In this particular case, the manager of the store I was in came over, looked at my phone’s screen and said, “Uh uh. That didn’t come from us.”

How do you argue with that? You can’t. And when you’re in an upscale boutique store with people in line behind you, it’s kind of embarrassing. Now to be fair, I’ve seen two kinds of offers in this particular payment app’s portfolio:

  • Those like the one shown here that I tried to use and which require human interaction. These tend to be small retailers or services-oriented businesses (e.g. gutter cleaning companies) with little brand recognition outside their local area.
  • Those that automatically redeem via NFC technology and require no human interaction. These offers are mostly from large retailers with stores all over the country.

When it comes to technology adoption, it’s always best to stick with the “KISS” principle. (If you need help with that, Wikipedia is here).
What this boils down to for digital offers is:

  • Purveyors of digital offers should provide guidance to merchants on how to educate their own employees on the acceptance of these new technologies. This should include visual examples of what customers might show up with, and how to enter offers into the store’s POS.
  • We should create redeemable offers that are intuitive for the customer redeeming the offer, and for the seasonal clerk accepting the offer during peak shopping times
  • Ensuring that the value is there for the merchant as well and the only way to do that is by creating offers (and POS solutions) that allow merchants to track customer redemption and loyalty

There are enough barriers to this new “cashless society” we’re hearing so much about that we shouldn’t create more unnecessarily. Early and continual education—and simplicity—will help make everything work more smoothly.

About Chris Souther

Digital Marketing & Social Media Manager After spending four years in the U.S. Air Force as a telecommunications technician, Chris shifted gears and started focusing on a career in Marketing & Communications, where he has been lucky enough to work with some of the world’s best known brands. Chris currently manages Analyst Relations and Content & Social Media marketing here at VeriFone. If you communicate with us over Facebook, Twitter, Google + or Linkedin (or Pinterest, or Instagram etc.), you’re probably talking to Chris.


  1. While education is helpful, merchant acceptance is the true key. The Starbucks mobile payment app is a 2D bar code linked to your Starbucks stored value card (or in the case of Pay with Square, a QR code linked to your credit card). Starbucks claims they are processing over 100 million transactions with that solution. No advertising. No education needed. Why? Not only because its simple, but because it is automated. No human interaction is required beyond you, the consumer, displaying a code for the merchant to scan. Deals, offers, payment… these are all elements that should come from one source: the merchant. Successful offer + payment solutions will leverage technology providers (such as Cimbal) to deliver simple, secure, automated solutions by working with merchants toward this goal.

  2. Comment by: Pingback: Reverse-engineering a perfect consumer experience |

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