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Discounts offered by cellphone exceed marketer's expectations

Lawrence Griffith and his team at Samplesaint Inc. of Chicago may have turned the money-off-coupon industry on its ear. Samplesaint, a two-year-old venture that creates digital media for mobile phones, has come up with a way to place discount coupons on cellphone screens.

Consumers register, provide an e-mail address and password and then download coupons from the http://www.samplesaint.com site or through text message addresses placed on supermarket shelves. On the way out, the cashier scans the on-screen coupon at the checkout counter. No more waiting for flyers to land on the doorstep, no clipping and saving.

In an industry where redemption rates for traditional coupons average between 1 per cent and 2 per cent, an ongoing pilot program at a New Jersey supermarket shows a phenomenal 27.3-per-cent redemption rate for Samplesaint cellphone coupons, Mr. Griffith says.

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"All in all it is quite astonishing," he says.

Given the success of the pilot project, which covered seven of Unilever NV's most popular brands at a ShopRite store in Hillsborough, N.J., Unilever plans to roll out the electronic coupons nationally later this year and in Canada in the next six months, Mr. Griffith says. Among the products featured were Breyers ice cream, Hellmann's mayonnaise, Dove soap and Lipton tea.

The consumers using Samplesaint's coupons are likely dedicated coupon clippers, Mr. Griffith says. What Samplesaint does is greatly simplify the process, especially with its ability to download coupons while standing directly in front of products on shelves.

"The shelf gives a text number to call and within seconds a coupon is downloaded to the mobile device," Mr. Griffith explains.

The benefits go beyond simplifying coupon redemption, he adds. On-screen coupons could substantially reduce demand for the paper that flyers are printed on and reduce the volume of paper waste generated by households.

"It is a huge step forward," Mr. Griffith says.

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