Mobile-marketing firm Mocapay Inc. this month announced a strategic partnership with payments processor eNational Payments with the goal of helping merchants to deliver customized coupons and other promotions to consumers via mobile handsets.

Denver-based Mocapay, which provides gift card and loyalty program services to merchants, early this year rolled out its service enabling merchants to give customers a one-time authorization code to redeem rewards and conduct purchases from prepaid accounts using mobile handsets (see story). 

Chicago-based eNational Payments provides mobile and contactless payment transaction processing services to more than 2,800 nonbanking financial services businesses such as grocery stores, pharmacies, convenience stores and restaurants.

ENational Payments will offer Mocapay’s mobile marketing service to its clients for free, an eNational Payments spokesperson tells PaymentsSource. The service also is free to consumers. The companies did not disclose terms of the deal.

The technology will enable eNational Payments to deliver highly targeted marketing offers based on a consumer’s location and shopping preferences, the spokesperson says.

ENational Payments also plans to enhance Mocapay’s service by harnessing its own “geo-fencing” proximity-based technology that can notify consumers when they are within one to two miles of participating merchants’ locations. Consumers who opt in to the service may receive a text message or e-mail notifying them of merchants’ special offers or available coupons.

“Geo-fencing combined with Mocapay’s mobile platform enables us to send gift certificates, coupons and savings directly to a consumer’s mobile phone,” the spokesperson explains.

At least one analyst contends that such handset-based mobile marketing technology is an important step for merchants as they explore the future of mobile payments. “This type of solution is of interest in today’s market because loyalty and gift programs are hot commodities,” Gwenn Bézard, research director with Boston-based Aite Group LLC, tells PaymentsSource. Through integration with a mobile platform, “merchants can move away from paper or physical cards, which can be costly to manage,” to mobile platforms, he adds.

Additionally, while not every consumer may want to receive mobile coupons, there still is interest among a fairly large group, Bézard notes. 

In an online survey of 496 U.S. consumers Aite conducted in 2008, approximately 25% of respondents said they consider themselves “mobile-marketing friendly.” Of those, 60% said they like receiving offers and coupons for merchant discounts on their mobile phones.

Indeed, “when you talk about mobile payments, many companies see it as a funnel. Ultimately, the idea is to start with mobile marketing and eventually migrate to mobile payments,” Bézard says.

Mocapay in June partnered with point-of-sale equipment reseller Postec Inc. enabling Postec’s customers to integrate Mocapay’s mobile platform with their existing POS systems (see story).

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