Wouldn’t it be great if taking advantage of the benefits loyalty programs offer was streamlined? Given today’s hectic and often stressful lifestyle, consumers are looking for ways to save time and money and remove the “hassle-factor.”

The good news is that help is now in the palm of our hands. You just need to know what to ask or look for. Here are five new ways innovative brands, retailers, service companies, and technology providers are making their loyalty programs easy to use by integrating the one thing most of us never leave home without—our cell phone.

In store

No Paper Coupons or Paper Cuts. Innovative retailers such as Chief Super Market are enabling their loyal customers to have special savings offers placed directly into their loyalty accounts by simply texting a keyword or scanning a new type of mobile barcode (sometimes called QR Codes or 2d Codes). When the cashier scans the item at checkout, it automatically taps into your loyalty account and deducts the coupon offer from the cost—eliminating the need to present a physical coupon. Shopping is expedited, taking advantage of coupons and special offers is simplified, and the overall brand experience is enhanced.

“We are very excited about the opportunities digital coupons bring to our customers in terms of convenience and easier management of their shopping experience. Customers are becoming more technologically savvy everyday and are looking for retailers who can meet their needs. We feel this is one way for us to connect to our customers and provide a service they are looking for”, says Annette Hoeffel, director of marketing, Chief Super Market, with stores in Ohio.

In wallet 

No Plastic Cards. We could all use a little help organizing our lives. Now there are Smartphone applications that can store and catalog all your loyalty cards for quick and easy access. Often it’s as simple as taking a picture of each card with your cell phone camera and filing them directly into the organizer application.

“No bunch of cards or keychain attachments to carry, especially since every store has a card. I used it for the first time yesterday at CVS and it worked perfectly. Since I often forget my cards, this is a great tool because my phone is always with me,” says Triney Gurl who lives in the Philadelphia area.

“We are very excited about the opportunities digital coupons bring to our customers in terms of convenience and easier management of their shopping experience. Customers are becoming more technologically savvy everyday and are looking for retailers who can meet their needs."

In café 

Instant Savings! Compass Group rewards its loyal guests by sending “in-the-moment” incentives, such as a coupon for soup on a very cold day, right to the customer’s smartphone. Customers can also use their smartphone to text or scan a code at various food stations in their university or corporate café to get an on the spot coupon or special promotion delivered right to their phone. “Most consumers today always have their mobile phone with them,” says Kevin Dwyer, senior director of food service for Restaurant Associates. “With these technologies we can now turn their phone into a ‘virtual coupon’ – eliminating the hassle of paper coupons and making it more convenient for our customer.”

In hotel 

Mobile Concierge. Making travel plans and coordinating activities can be time-consuming and downright painful when you’re on the road. Innovative hotels, like the Renaissance Mayflower Hotel in Washington DC, are making life a lot easier for their loyal guests. Their concierge, directly from his or her computer can now send restaurants, sports, theater, and other information directly to their guests’ cell phones— giving them valuable at-their-fingertips information they can readily forward it to the rest of their traveling group. And how about this? The Renaissance Mayflower Hotel has now made their in-room phone system and printed local directory of services available to their guests on their mobile devices, enabling a guest, while traveling throughout the city, to one-click and reach the concierge, front desk, bell captain, restaurant, maid, and nearby local attractions.

”The mobile guest services solution is fast, easy-to-use, cost effective and quite efficient. It is so easy to send a restaurant’s address to a guest now. We love it!” says Robert Nagys, guest services manager, Renaissance Mayflower Hotel, Washington, DC.

In life 

Realizing that speed, ease and convenience of paying upon checkout is something today’s on-the-go customers crave, Starbucks has integrated mobile payment functionality into its Starbucks Card. To use mobile payment at Starbucks, customers just need to download the free Starbucks Card Mobile App for select BlackBerry smartphones, iPhone or iPod touch mobile devices. They can thenpay with their smartphone by holding their mobile device in front of a scanner on the countertop and scan the Starbucks Card Mobile App’s on-screen barcode to make a purchase. In addition to the mobile payment capability, the app allows customers to manage their Starbucks Card account, check their card balance, reload their card with any major credit card (iPhone users can also use the PayPal feature), check their My Starbucks Rewards status and find a nearby Starbucks store with the store locator feature.

With mobile payment, the Starbucks Card platform further elevates the customer experience by delivering convenience, rewarding loyalty and continuing to build an emotional connection with customers. “For millions of our customers, the Starbucks Card is a part of their daily routine, and our Card program offers compelling benefits for gifting, payment and rewards,“ said Brady Brewer, vice president Starbucks Card & Loyalty. “We’re listening to our customers and will continue to innovate and offer new ways for us to recognize and reward our customers with personalized rewards and enhanced mobile offerings.”

Perhaps faster than any other technology in the last decade, the explosion of the mobile network is changing the game for brands. Given the increasing sophistication of handsets and platforms, mobile is poised to realize its true potential of combining proximity to consumer with personalized content and timely messaging. For brands, highly connected consumers mean a dramatic mind shift in how we have to think of our loyalty marketing strategies.