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Mobile-marketing firm Mocapay Inc. this month announced a strategic partnership with ISO eNational Payments with the goal of helping merchants 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.

ENational Payments, which has more than 2,800 merchants, will offer Mocapay’s mobile-marketing service to its clients for free, says Marie Wright, eNational vice president of operations. The service also is free to consumers. The companies did not disclose terms of the deal, but eNational will pay Mocapay a fee, she says. This type of mobile marketing is offered as a “loss leader” to eNational’s merchants, Wright says.

Help The Merchant

The technology will enable eNational Payments to deliver highly targeted marketing offers based on a consumer’s location and shopping preferences, Wright says. Consumers opt in to begin using the service. ENational expects to release an application for Apple Inc.’s iPhone in the fourth quarter, she says.

“We are trying to become the first payment processor to be a profit center versus a cost center for merchants as the payment processing industry is perceived today in the merchant community,” she notes.

The ISO’s focus is on the consumer.

“Therefore, at eNational Payments we simply focused on one element, the consumer, not the merchant,” she tells ISO&Agent Weekly. “After all, if a consumer won’t spend and if we can’t get into his wallet and somehow help him or her to spend at our merchant locations, then we are really not helping our merchant.”

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,” Wright explains.

ENational merchants will receive point-of-purchase materials alerting shoppers about Mocapay, and some merchants will offer consumers incentives to sign up, such as rebates or money off a purchase, she says.

ENational also will work with sales agents in a revenue-share program, Wright says.

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.

Uncertain Interest

“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, interest still exists 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.

With additional reporting by Kevin Woodward.

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