Digital Promotions

To redeem mobile coupons, users simply show their cell-phone screen to a store employee.

Hardee’s Food Systems is always on the lookout for innovative and cost-effective ways to gain new customers and increase its sales. Earlier this year, its Hardee’s division became the first quick-serve restaurant chain to utilize application-based mobile couponing on a large scale.

The couponing campaign, involving 117 Hardee’s locations across Indianapolis and St. Louis, featured “buy one and get one free” offers for three different menu items. Users were asked to send a text message (“hx”) to a certain number to receive the mobile coupons, which were redeemable at all participating Hardee’s locations.

Hardee’s partnered with Cellfire on the mobile campaign. Based in Santa Clara, Calif., Cellfire is a mobile-couponing service that provides consumers with discounts by delivering them directly to their cell phones (the service is available nationwide on all carriers). Users have their own set of discounts and offers specific to their geographical area. Unlike text-based offers, Cellfire’s application-based service enables consumers to easily store, search and use many discounts across multiple merchants.

To redeem the coupon, consumers click on the coupon they wish to use (the coupons are displayed on the cell-phone screen), and show it to the store/restaurant employee.

To date, the firm has lined up about 200 entertainment, retail and food marketers, which, for the right to send mobile coupons, pay Cellfire an upfront fee and additional subscription rates if the number of cell-phone subscribers to their coupons increases.

At Hardee’s, the mobile coupons were part of an integrated campaign that included in-store collateral and signage, bus panel advertising, outdoor billboards and geographically targeted online search, banners and e-mails. It also featured text messages to Cellfire users in the two participating regions. Total impressions were greater than 10 million.

The four-month digital promotion exceeded expectations with regard to redemptions and cost-effectiveness. Across all three offers, redemption was highest—in excess of 17%—for the Buffalo Chicken Sandwich. By comparison, the average redemption rate for paper coupons is about 1%, according to Cell-fire.

The promotion improved Hardee’s image as a hip and forward-thinking company among a crucial audience group. It also provided insights regarding offer performance.

Encouraged by the success of its initial mobile-coupon promotion, Hardee’s subsequently launched a second campaign, which also was well-received. The company is in the middle of its third mobile promotion.