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Harrah's casino chain runs mobile coupon pilot

Casino giant Harrah's is running a mobile couponing pilot as part of its customer loyalty program.

Harrah's Operating Company Inc. claims to be the world's largest provider of branded casino entertainment. It tapped mobile marketing services provider bCode for the mobile marketing pilot program.

"Harrah's is tying bCode in with their customer loyalty program by sending out time-based and location-based offers in real time to the mobile devices of local customers in a particular market or who are already part of their loyalty program," said Art Wagner, chief marketing officer of bCode, San Francisco.

"BCode is a precision CRM marketing play, and we deliver that via mobile," he said. "Consumers can be anywhere and they can have any kind of phone.

"Our codes have over a trillion combinations, it's so entirely secure and every code can do whatever the marketer wants -- in Harrah's case, the mobile coupons can work only one time, multiple times, or they can forward it to a friend to encourage the viral aspect."

In-venue signage asks consumers to join Harrah's mobile loyalty program by texting keyword 'Harrahs' to a five-digit short code.

Once they've signed up for the offer, which is delivered instantly, they are opted in to the program, letting Harrah's push down other offers to them.

Possible mobile promotions include offers of free parking, cocktails and in-venue entertainment.

The mobile program, branded T.I.P. for Texting Important People by Harrah's, is currently being tested at three of Harrah's properties: Harrah's Atlantic City, Harrah's New Orleans and Showboat Atlantic City.

The pilot will soon be expanded to Horseshoe Casino Hammond, near Chicago across the Indiana border.

A fifth still-undecided location will also be added before year's end.

"The first part of the trial has been successful enough that we're adding more Harrah's venues for a total of five, with plans to roll out further along the Harrah's chain in 2009," Mr. Wagner said.

Guests of the selected Harrah's properties sign up to receive special personalized offers as bCode mobile coupons sent via text messages to their mobile devices.

These offers are then redeemed at the Harrah's properties using bCode's self-service media plane scanners.

The SMS-only-based system means that anyone with a text-enabled mobile device - more than 99 percent of the market - can instantly benefit from the offers, unlike other mobile marketing programs that require special software downloads or carrier subscription services.

The secure nature of the scanned bCode mobile coupons means that high-value offers can be sent to the program members to increase the attractiveness of the program to consumers.

The mobile program pilot was created and implemented by Harrah's innovation team.

The company claims the pilot leverages the latest in Web 2.0 technologies including integration with a real-time online software-as-a-service CRM platform.

BCode's Mr. Wagner believes that the combination of a great consumer experience, ease-of-use and high-value offers through a secure redemption mechanism are vital for driving adoption with mobile coupon services.

One of bCode's other mobile clients is IKEA, the leading Swedish home furnishings retailer.

"Harrah's is testing a variety of different mobile initiatives," Mr. Wagner said. "It is a very innovative company, and mobile is a very important component of its marketing strategy moving forward."