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Lowe’s Gift Cards Go Mobile

2010 May 19
Mobile Gift Cards

Gift Cards: Plastic optional

I recently spoke at a conference where Lowe’s gave $10 mobile gift cards to all the participants as a pilot.

(Disclaimer: one of my clients helped enable this process).

It was amazing to suddenly hear a chorus of chimes as the gift cards arrived on listeners’ phones during the presentation about the program.

In this case, the mobile gift card is an SMS with a link to a mobile site. The mobile site provides the gift card number and a 2D bar code for scanning at the checkout if the right scanners are present. Otherwise, cashiers simply key in the card number. In this case the gift card also uses a PIN for added security.

Both the SMS and mobile web applications allow balance and transaction inquiries so you know how much is on the card and what you’ve spent.

As with gift cards in general, I was excited to get it, then promptly forgot about it.

Last Friday afternoon, I received a text message saying:

Don’t forget to use your $10 Lowe’s mobile gift card before it expires at 11:59PM EDT Sunday May 16th!

We had a jam-packed weekend planned. We had a number of events to attend and were hosting all kinds family from out-of-state. We had no plans to go to Lowe’s, but this text message and the thought of throwing away $10, encouraged us find a way to fit a Lowe’s visit into our schedule.

We didn’t plan to buy anything from Lowe’s, but we can always think of something we need.

It turned out we left our kids with their visiting grandparents and got to the store one hour before closing on Sunday (the day the card expired). We ultimately spent $15 more than the $10 on the card for a total of about $25.

We took our stuff to the checkout, showed them the card on the phone, after the standard issues with a new payment process, the cashier entered the card number and it worked like any other gift card.

So, this process worked really well (if I can say so myself) and was even more effective than traditional plastic gift cards. In particular:

  • The SMS call-to-action took a dormant gift card and turned it into more than double the revenue on the card (i.e. a $25 sale for $10 on the card).
  • The card can be sent electronically and programatically. From the merchant it’s like a coupon. From a friend it’s like a gift.
  • Users don’t have to remember to bring the physical card. The phone is always with them.
  • The card could be used on any phone with any POS equipment
  • The retailer didn’t have to pay for printing and distributing a plastic card
  • The entire process facilitates expanded mobile marketing efforts

Gift cards provide a unique bridge to mobile payments because they are not connected to the rest of our financial lives. They’re not the only solution, but they add convenience and fill an expensive gap in mobile commerce.

I think we’ll see a lot more of solutions like this.

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One Response leave one →
  1. patrick le floch permalink
    May 22, 2010

    This is an awesome idea. I hate carrying around a thick wallet, so this is just the right solution for me. Furthermore it takes addresses the problem of those who say, “I am not going to Lowes today because I forgot the gift card at home, and not spending up the giftcard would be wasteful”.

    I can see this catching fire especially if tied to an LBS (location based service) – imagine driving near a Lowes and, ping, you are reminded that you still have $10 to spend. Imagine the impulse buying opportunity!

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