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Mail giant Valpak takes coupons mobile

Shared mail giant Valpak is making coupons and offers available to consumers via mobile in yet another indication of the channel's growing appeal for targeted marketing.

The St. Petersburg, FL-based company claims it is focused on reaching people wherever they are, whether on social networking Web sites and on their mobile phones. With this move, Valpak joins rival Money Mailer with its own mobile initiatives for advertisers.

"Valpak has been in business for 41 years and we are evolving," said Deanna Willsey, director of corporate communications at Valpak. "We mail 45 million households a year and we have the online site.

"Now we have evolved to mobile and are allowing people to access coupons right from their smartphones," she said.

Valpak's signature blue envelopes are stuffed with coupons for goods and services such as dental work and local pizzeria menus. The blue envelopes are the bread-and-butter of the business.

In order to increase its reach, Valpak is putting its coupons online and reformatting the site so that mobile users get an optimized version when visiting the site from their handsets.

Mobile customers can plug in their ZIP code and get coupons for local companies. Once they find coupons they want to redeem, they can save them right to their phones and show phone's screen to a retailer to receive the discount.

Valpak quietly launched the new service about a month ago. Now, Valpak coupons display better on iPhones, BlackBerry devices and other smartphones.

Since the mobile-optimized experience launched, the amount of coupons downloaded has increased sharply. In fact, mobile phone users dialed up 140,000 coupons.

Valpak is also planning to launch an iPhone application that presents mobile consumers with deals from local businesses that use the Valpak service.

The company is also dabling in social media. It has made its presence on Facebook and Twitter.

Meanwhile, the real opportunity is on mobile.

The redemption value of mobile coupons will increase by over 30 percent by 2010, according to market researcher Juniper Research.

In a recent report, Juniper identified two key drivers for mobile coupons. First is the fact that consumers are always glad to save a buck or two.

Second, merchants are keen to make sales especially now during a tough economic time.

The Juniper report also said that mobile coupons are attractive to both consumers and vendors as they can be targeted at specific groups of customers and matched against particular interests and purchasing patterns as opposed to more traditional models where everyone gets a coupon.

Big brands such as Jiffy Lube, Planet Funk, Cold Stone Creamery and Domino's Pizza have all seen success with their mobile coupon initiatives.

"Mobile coupons expand our reach and also is just about adding more options to our existing customers," Ms. Willsey said. "Convenience is so important and we are just making sure that consumers are getting great values wherever they are and wherever they want them."