MasterCard's path to the hearts of nascent mobile payments customers are time sensitive opportunities to save money that simultaneously build comfort with using smart phones to make purchases based on actionable information.

"This is the virtual equivalent of a 'Black Friday' sale; where after Thanksgiving you rush to the store to get the deep discounts," says Andrea Gilman, a senior business leader for MasterCard, about the firm's new Overwhelming Offers iPhone app. "Now you can get that discount on the mobile phone."

Users access Overwhelming Offers through MasterCard's mobile MarketPlace, a personalized shopping platform. The Overwhelming Offer goes out each weekday at noon ET, and is discounted (usually about 50 percent from a partner retailer) for a limited time and quantity; and requires a user purchase reservation. Examples include netbooks for $150, digital cameras at $100 off and $100 gift certificates for $50. The early offers have typically sold out quickly.

MasterCard developed Overwhelming Offers in partnership with Next Jump, a provider of e-commerce and advertising technology that's designed to optimize targeted marketing campaigns. Next Jump's database performs analysis of retail data culled from more than 30,000 merchant partners, 90,000 corporate customers and 100 million users to help develop online rewards, loyalty and discount pricing programs. "Mobile payments themselves are a commodity. What's needed is some form of incentive," says Red Gillen, a senior analyst at Celent.

An outgrowth of a similar Internet product, Overwhelming Offers is available on iPhone and iPad-MasterCard did not discuss plans to offer the service on other devices. While the service is currently a MasterCard marketplace offering, Gilman says the goal is to increase overall card usage, which will benefit the card firm's bank partners.

MasterCard is hoping to gain share in a domestic market in which the sale of devices via mobile phones is expected to reach $2.2 billion in 2010, up from $1.2 billion in 2009, according to ABI Research. Analysts say that as "real time" transaction reporting and location tracking expands, the potential exists for card firms to offer "time based" notifications that are based on a consumer's current (or very recent) location and nearby retailers. The payment network 'knows' where the consumer is based on charge transactions and communications with the customer," says James Van Dyke, president of Javelin Strategy & Research.

Emmett Higdon, a senior analyst at Forrester, says further benefits are possible by making the app more localized based on consumer location. "You get an overwhelming offer in the store that says a product is on sale for the next hour. That takes this concept to a whole new level," Higdon says.

Gilman says MasterCard is looking at real time consumer offers, and is currently tailoring its network-wide mobile discount offers to coincide with analysis of recent transactions. "For instance, this week we are focusing on travel, since it's a big season for booking vacations."

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