Google has been giving companies in its business listings ways to offer digital coupons to visitors since 2007. It wasn't until this week, though, that Google could bring the same coupons to mobile users.
It works like this: Businesses add a coupon to their listing in Google's Local Business Center. When you search a Google local listing from your Internet-enabled phone, any available coupons show up. As with other mobile coupon sites and applications, you'll simply present your phone face at the check-out stand. The checker will enter in the coupon bar code and you'll get your discount.
Google's mobile expansion of its digital coupons brings the search and advertising giant in direct competition with coupon providers like Coupons.com, Coupon Sherpa, Cellfire, and Yowza. With the exception of Yowza, which is a mobile-only application for the iPhone and iPod Touch, each service has a mobile coupons site and at least an iPhone app. Yelp has also jumped into the mobile deal business by letting businesses place special offers to Yelp users on Yelp.com and in its iPhone app.
Users' biggest complaints with mobile coupons tend to boil down to one thing: variety. While national chains are easier (and generally more effective) for a coupon service to sign, millions of other shoppers may prefer discounts for local or specialized brands, restaurants, and stores. Any business model that can capitalize on a self-service coupon sign-up for local and national businesses should have the upper hand.
So long as mobile shoppers navigate to Google's site from their cell phone browsers, Google's coupon business should grow. After all, Google isn't creating a brand-new business for digital deal distribution, but extending one that's already in place.