If you're a smart shopper (and these days, who isn't?), then you probably check the weekly circular for deals and clip out coupons so you can save at the store. Or maybe your coupons arrive digitally, through emails and text messages. But wouldn't it be better if your phone itself could function as the coupon? That's the promise of MoLo Rewards, a wireless coupon application which lets you scan your phone at the point of sale to instantly redeem all your coupons or loyalty rewards using either Near Field Communication (NFC) or Radio Frequency Identification (RFID).

Today at the DEMOfall 09 conference in San Diego, MoLo Rewards demonstrated their technology, already patented here in the U.S. The system, which works via a mobile application, interacts with a reader installed at the point of sale (POS). Without any user intervention, the application automatically determines what coupons are valid at that store based on your purchases and sends those coupons over to the retailer. Even if you have multiple coupons available, you only have to scan your phone once, not one-by-one as with paper-based coupons.

The process works not only with traditional coupons but with customer loyalty cards, too, which are typically used for in-store discounts, points, and other special offers provided by the retailer to regular customers. Since most stores already run their own in-house programs for this, MoLo Rewards is introducing a way to link the existing programs to their mobile platform. The incentive on the retailers' part, says the company, is that a mobile system such as this would dramatically cut down on fraud while also cutting costs associated with mailings and printings. They can also use RFID tags on store shelves to distribute coupons to customers walking the aisles.

In addition to the coupon processing, the MoLo Rewards system tracks your purchases on the backend in order to provide you with targeted coupons and other offers based on both your spending habits and your physical location. As you use the mobile coupons, you earn MoLo points, which can then be redeemed for "rewards" which include things like laptops, game consoles, bikes, gift cards, and so on.

NFC vs RFID

One drawback to this program - at least here in the U.S. - is its use of NFC technology. NFC is much more popular in European and Asian markets where it's already used for everything from micropayments to file sharing. With this in mind, MoLo Rewards also offers RFID as an alternative. This allows the application to work with any phone as all the consumer needs to do is attach the company's RFID tag to their phone in order to participate. Also available are "show and go" coupons, which are basically a low-tech feature of their application that lets you show the coupon on your phone's screen to the cashier so they can then enter it manually into their system.

MoLo Rewards is currently in beta as they work to add more retailers to their system. In the meantime, those interested in registering can do so here.