Methods and apparatus for implementing a promotional reward program

Abstract

Methods and apparatus for implementing promotional reward programs are provided. One or more images of a proof of purchase are transmitted to a remote location by a mobile device. If it is determined that the one or more images meet predetermined criteria and if the transmission is eligible for a reward, the reward is instantly transmitted to the mobile device. According to another embodiment, one or more images of an item identifier provided on one or more products or displays or a text message containing the item identifier are transmitted to a promotional reward program managing apparatus by a mobile device. If it is determined that the one or more images of the item identifier or a text message containing the item identifier meet predetermined criteria and if the transmission is eligible for a reward, the reward is instantly transmitted to the consumer through the mobile device or through a loyalty program account number.

Claims

1 - 20 . (canceled) 21 . A method for implementing a promotional program to selectively transmit a reward, the method comprising: providing a mobile application configured to enable capturing one or more images of a receipt on a remote mobile device associated with a consumer, wherein the receipt contains information identifying at least the date and time of a purchase transaction, the retailer where the purchase transaction occurred, and one or more products or services purchased, the mobile application being further configured to enable wirelessly transmitting, using the mobile device, the one or more images of the receipt to a remote promotional program management apparatus; receiving, using a communication processor of the remote promotional program management apparatus, a wireless transmission from the mobile device, including the one or more images of the receipt; determining, using a control processor of the remote promotional management apparatus, if one or more properties of the image of the receipt meets one or more predetermined image recognizability criteria; determining, using the control processor of the remote promotional reward program management apparatus, if the transmission meets one or more promotion eligibility criteria for the reward; and transmitting the reward using the communication processor of the remote promotional program management apparatus if it is determined by the control processor of the remote promotional program management apparatus that the one or more properties of the one or more images of the receipt meet the one or more predetermined image recognizability criteria and if the transmission meets the one or more promotion eligibility criteria, the mobile application being further configured to enable redemption of the transmitted reward; wherein the step of determining if the transmission meets the one or more promotion eligibility criteria comprises determining if the receipt was previously validated, and comparing the information on the receipt identifying the date and time of the purchase transaction, the retailer where the purchase transaction occurred, and the one or more products or services purchased to stored information associated with the mobile device to determine if the consumer associated with the mobile device purchased one or more products or services eligible for the reward during a promotional period. 22 . The method of claim 21 , wherein capturing the one or more images of the receipt on the remote mobile device includes using an image sensor of the mobile device. 23 . The method of claim 21 , wherein a predetermined image recognizability criterion is whether the one or more images are of a suitable resolution. 24 . The method of claim 21 , wherein the step of determining if the receipt was previously validated comprises comparing a unique transaction identifier associated with the receipt with one or more previously validated unique transaction identifiers. 25 . The method of claim 24 , further comprising storing a record of the unique transaction identifier associated with the receipt if it is determined that the one or more images of the receipt meet the one or more predetermined image recognizability criteria and if the transmission meets the one or more promotion eligibility criteria for the reward. 26 . The method of claim 21 , wherein the reward is a debit code associated with a predetermined value and is usable to purchase one or more products or services, or the reward is a credit that can be applied to pay one or more bills of a consumer who transmitted the one or more images. 27 . A method for implementing a promotional program to selectively transmit a reward, the method comprising: providing a mobile application configured to enable capturing one or more images of a receipt on a remote mobile device associated with a consumer, wherein the receipt contains information identifying at least the date and time of a purchase transaction, the retailer where the purchase transaction occurred, and one or more products or services purchased, the mobile application being further configured to enable transmitting the one or more images of the receipt to a remote promotional program management apparatus; receiving, using a communication processor of the remote promotional program management apparatus, a transmission including one or more images of a receipt transmitted wirelessly by the remote mobile device associated with the consumer; determining, using a control processor of the remote promotional program management apparatus, if one or more properties of the one or more images of the receipt meet one or more predetermined content recognizability criteria; determining, using the control processor of the one or more promotional program management apparatus, if the transmission meets one or more promotion eligibility criteria for the reward by determining whether the information identifying at least the date and time of a purchase transaction, the retailer where the purchase transaction occurred, and one or more products or services purchased shows that the consumer associated with the mobile device purchased the one or more products or services identified on the receipt during a promotional period, and; transmitting the reward using the communication processor of the remote promotional program management apparatus to the remote mobile device if it is determined by the control processor of the one or more promotional program management apparatus that the one or more properties of the one or more images of the receipt meet the one or more predetermined content recognizability criteria and if it is determined by the control processor of the remote promotional management apparatus that the consumer associated with the mobile device purchased the one or more products or services identified on the receipt a predetermined number of times during the promotional period, the mobile application being further configured to enable redemption of the transmitted reward. 28 . The method of claim 27 , wherein the one or more images of the receipt include an item identifier contained on the receipt. 29 . The method of claim 28 , further comprising translating the one or more images of the item identifier on the receipt into one or more alphanumeric characters representative of the item identifier, wherein the translation is performed either by the mobile device before transmitting the alphanumeric characters representative of the item identifier to a promotional program management apparatus or by a promotional program management apparatus after receiving the one or more images of the item identifier transmitted by the mobile device. 30 . The method of claim 29 , wherein the item identifier is any number or character or combination thereof that is unique to a product or service or any other number or character or other combination thereof that identifies a product or service. 31 . The method of claim 27 , wherein the reward is a debit code associated with a predetermined value and is usable to purchase one or more products or service, or is a credit that can be applied to pay one or more bills of a consumer who transmitted the one or more images. 32 . The method of claim 27 , wherein the reward is information about the one or more products or services identified on the receipt, and the information comprises recipes, tips about how to use the product or to obtain the service, or one or more coupons relating to the product or service. 33 . The method of claim 27 , further comprising assigning the reward to an account identifying the consumer associated with the mobile device. 34 . The method of claim 27 , wherein the transmitting step includes transmitting the reward to the mobile device if is determined that the one or more images of the receipt meets the one or more predetermined content recognizability criteria and if it is determined that the transmission meets the promotion eligibility criteria for the reward. 35 . A method for implementing a promotional program to selectively transmit a reward, the method comprising: providing a mobile application configured to enable capturing one or more images of a receipt on a remote mobile device associated with a consumer, wherein the receipt contains information identifying at least the date and time of a purchase transaction, the retailer where the purchase transaction occurred, and one or more products or services purchased, the mobile application further configured to enable wirelessly transmitting the one or more images of the receipt to a remote promotional program management apparatus; receiving, using a communication processor of the remote promotional program management apparatus, a transmission including the one or more images of the receipt wirelessly transmitted by the remote mobile device associated with the consumer; determining, based upon the transmission, one or more promotion eligibility criteria of the promotional program for which the consumer is transmitting the one or more images; determining, using the control processor of the remote promotional reward program management apparatus, if the transmission meets the one or more promotion eligibility criteria for the reward; and wirelessly transmitting the reward using the communication processor of the remote promotional program management apparatus if it is determined by the control processor of the remote promotional program management apparatus that the transmission meets the one or more promotion eligibility criteria, the mobile application further configured to enable redemption of the transmitted reward; wherein the step of determining if the transmission meets the one or more promotion eligibility criteria comprises determining if the receipt was previously validated, and comparing the information on the receipt identifying the date and time of the purchase transaction, the retailer where the purchase transaction occurred, and the one or more products or services purchased to stored information associated with the mobile device to determine if the consumer associated with the mobile device purchased one or more products or services eligible for the reward during a promotional period. 36 . A method, for implementing a promotional program to selectively transmit a reward, the method comprising: providing a mobile application configured to enable capturing one or more images of a receipt on a remote mobile device associated with a consumer, wherein the receipt contains information identifying at least the date and time of a purchase transaction, the retailer where the purchase transaction occurred, and one or more products or services purchased, the mobile application being further configured to enable transmitting the one or more images of the receipt to one or more of a remote promotional program management apparatus; receiving, using a communication processor of the one or more promotional program management apparatus, the transmission including one or more images of a receipt; determining, using a control processor of the one or more promotional program management apparatus, if one or more properties of the one or more images of the receipt meet one or more predetermined content recognizability criteria; determining, using the control processor of the one or more promotional program management apparatus, if the transmission meets one or more promotion eligibility criteria for the reward including determining if the consumer associated with the mobile device previously purchased the one or more items or services identified on the receipt more than one time during a promotional period; and transmitting a message to the communication device using the communication processor indicating that the one or more images of the receipt does not meet the promotion eligibility criteria if it is determined that the one or more images of the receipt does not meet the promotion eligibility criteria. 37 . The method of claim 36 , wherein the receipt is printed on paper. 38 . The method of claim 36 , wherein the receipt is electronic. 39 . The method of claim 36 , wherein the message is transmitted to the mobile device if it is determined that the consumer associated with the mobile device previously purchased the one or more items or services identified on the receipt more than the predetermined number of times. 40 . The method of claim 36 , wherein the message is transmitted to the mobile device if it is determined that the consumer associated with the mobile device previously purchased the one or more items or services identified on the receipt less than the predetermined number of times. 41 . The method of claim 36 , wherein the message is transmitted to the mobile device if it is determined that the consumer associated with the mobile device did not purchase the one or more items or services identified on the receipt during the promotional period.
REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS [0001] The present disclosure is based on and claims the benefit of Ser. No. 11/901,812, filed on Sep. 19, 2007 entitled “Methods For Implementing A Promotional Reward Program,” which is a continuation-in-part of Ser. No. 11/643,234, filed Dec. 20, 2006, entitled “Methods For Implementing A Promotional Reward Program”, the entire contents of which are herein incorporated by reference. BACKGROUND [0002] Field of the Invention [0003] The present disclosure relates generally to promotional reward programs, and, more particularly, to a method and apparatus for implementing a promotional reward program whereby a consumer can transmit a proof of purchase through a mobile device and instantly be provided with a reward, wherein the reward can be used to purchase one or more products and/or services. [0004] Background of the Invention [0005] In order to encourage the purchase of goods and services in the consumer market or to improve the performance of a company's personnel, companies often use promotional reward programs that provide individuals with promotional rewards. The promotional rewards may involve, for example, companies giving away goods or services and/or discounts on goods or services, provided an individual has met certain predetermined criteria. The predetermined criteria could be anything from the purchase of a particular product to the achievement of a particular goal, such as reaching a certain amount of sales over time. [0006] Companies administer these promotional rewards in a variety of ways. For example, upon meeting predetermined criteria, companies may provide individuals with a coupon/promotional number or a physical rebate check, which they could use to redeem their reward and obtain a particular product. However, to receive the promotional reward, an individual may have to wait for a certain amount of time until the reward is validated and sent to the individual. This process can be time-consuming and may pose a problem if the reward is lost, for example, through the U.S. mail. Moreover, an individual may not have the promotional reward available when they want to redeem it. For example, an individual who is already at the movies cannot use his voucher for a free movie ticket if he has left the voucher at home. Certain retail establishments may not process any promotional rewards without having the physical reward available to them. [0007] Accordingly, there is a need for providing a promotional reward program that allows companies to easily manage their promotional reward programs and individuals to instantly obtain promotional rewards for redemption at, for example, a retail establishment. SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION [0008] It is an object of the invention to provide a method for implementing a promotional reward program, including, determining whether a purchase is eligible for a debit code reward; and upon determination of eligibility, providing a debit code reward, wherein the debit code reward is a debit code associated with a predetermined value and is instantly provided and the debit code is usable to purchase one or more products or services. [0009] It is another object of the invention to provide a method for implementing a promotional reward program, including determining whether a purchase is eligible for a debit code reward, and upon determination of eligibility, providing a debit code reward in real time, wherein the debit code reward is a debit code associated with a predetermined value and is instantly provided via Internet, by email, by text message, on a coupon, from a kiosk, or on a receipt at a point-of-sale and the debit code is usable to purchase one or more movie tickets, books, music or other products or services that may be purchased in a retail establishment. [0010] It is another object of the invention to provide an apparatus for implementing a promotional reward program, including a unit for determining whether a purchase is eligible for a debit code reward; and upon a determination of eligibility, a unit for providing a debit code reward, wherein the debit code reward is a debit code associated with a predetermined value and is instantly provided the debit code is usable to purchase one or more products or services. [0011] It is another object of the invention to provide an apparatus for implementing a promotional reward program, including, a control part for determining whether a purchase is eligible for a debit code reward, and upon determination of eligibility and for providing a debit code reward in real time, wherein the debit code reward is a debit code associated with a predetermined value and is instantly provided through the Internet, by email, by text message, on a coupon, from a kiosk, or on a receipt at a point-of-sale and the debit code is usable to purchase one or more movie tickets, books, music or other products or services that may be purchased in a retail establishment. [0012] It is another object of the invention to provide a method for implementing a promotional reward program, including, providing a consumer with a unique promotion code associated with a predetermined product or service, allowing the consumer to input the unique promotion code for verification, verifying the unique promotion code to see if it is valid, and upon verification of the unique promotion code, providing the consumer with a debit code for the predetermined product or service, wherein the debit code is associated with a predetermined value and is instantly provided to the consumer via Internet, by email, by text message, or from a kiosk, and the debit code is used to purchase a predetermined product or service. [0013] It is another object of the invention to provide a method for implementing a promotional reward program, including, providing a consumer with a unique promotion code by email, text message, on a coupon, or from a website, wherein the unique promotion code is associated with a predetermined product or service, which is one or more movie tickets, books, music or other products or services that may be purchased in a retail establishment, allowing the consumer to input the unique promotion code for verification, verifying the unique promotion code to see if it is valid; upon verification of the unique promotion code, providing the consumer with a debit code for the predetermined product or service, wherein the debit code is a sixteen digit number or a bar code associated with a predetermined value, and is instantly provided to the consumer via Internet, by email, by text message, or from a kiosk, and allowing the consumer to input the debit code by email, text message, at a kiosk, or through an Internet website to purchase the predetermined product or service. [0014] It is another object of the invention to provide a method for implementing a promotional reward program, including, receiving one or more images of a proof of purchase transmitted by a mobile device; determining if the one or more images of the proof of purchase meet one or more predetermined criteria; determining if the transmission meets one or more eligibility criteria for a reward; and transmitting the reward to the mobile device if it is determined that the one or more images of the proof of purchase meet the predetermined criteria and if the transmission meets the eligibility criteria. [0015] It is another object of the invention to provide a method for implementing a promotional reward program, comprising, receiving one or more images of an item identifier provided on one or more products or displays or a text message containing the item identifier transmitted by a mobile device; determining if the one or more images of the item identifier or the text message containing the item identifier meet predetermined criteria and if the transmission meets one or more eligibility criteria for a reward; and transmitting the reward to the mobile device if it is determined that the one or more images of the item identifier or the text message containing the unique promotional identifier meet the predetermined criteria and if it is determined that the transmission meets the eligibility criteria for the reward. [0016] It is another object of the invention to provide a method for implementing a promotional reward program, comprising, receiving one or more images of an item identifier provided on one or more products or displays or a text message containing the item identifier along with one or more images of a loyalty program account number or a text message containing the loyalty program account number transmitted by a mobile device; determining if the one or more images of the item identifier or loyalty program account number or the text message containing the item identifier or loyalty program account number meet predetermined criteria and if the transmission meets one or more eligibility criteria for a reward; determining if the loyalty program account number is valid; and assigning the reward to a loyalty program account corresponding to the loyalty program account number if it is determined that the one or more images of the item identifier or loyalty program account number or a text message containing the item identifier or loyalty program account number meet the predetermined criteria, if the transmission meets the eligibility criteria for the reward, and if the loyalty program account number is valid. BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS [0017] The features of the present application can be more readily understood from the following detailed description with reference to the accompanying drawings wherein: [0018] FIG. 1 is a flow chart illustrating a method for implementing a promotional reward program, according to one embodiment of the present invention; [0019] FIG. 2 is a flow chart illustrating a method for implementing a promotional reward program, according to another embodiment of the present invention; [0020] FIG. 3 is a flow chart illustrating a method for implementing a promotional reward program by using a cellular phone, according to an embodiment of the present disclosure; [0021] FIG. 4 is a flow chart illustrating a method of obtaining the debit code to purchase movie tickets, according to an embodiment of the present disclosure; [0022] FIG. 5 is a screen shot illustrating the step of allowing the consumer to enter the unique promotion code for verification, according to an embodiment of the present disclosure; [0023] FIG. 6 is a screen shot illustrating the step of allowing the consumer to enter identifying information, according to an embodiment of the present disclosure; [0024] FIG. 7 is a screen shot illustrating the step of providing the consumer with the opportunity to download the debit code for the predetermined product or service, such as a movie ticket, according to an embodiment of the present disclosure; [0025] FIG. 8 is a screen shot illustrating the step providing the consumer with a debit code instantly through the Internet, according to an embodiment of the present disclosure; [0026] FIG. 9 is a screen shot illustrating the step of using the zip code to locate retail establishments participating in the promotional reward program, according to an embodiment of the present disclosure; [0027] FIG. 10 is a flow chart illustrating the implementation of a promotional reward program in real-time, according to an embodiment of the present disclosure; [0028] FIG. 11 is a block diagram illustrating the implementation of a promotional reward program in real-time, according to an embodiment of the present disclosure; [0029] FIG. 12 is a block diagram illustrating a promotional reward program, according to an embodiment of the present disclosure; [0030] FIG. 13 is a flow chart illustrating a method for implementing a promotional reward program, according to an embodiment of the present disclosure; [0031] FIG. 14 is a block diagram illustrating a proof of purchase in the form of a receipt with a unique transaction identifier, such as a bar code, according to an embodiment of the present disclosure; [0032] FIG. 15 is a block diagram illustrating a promotional award program, according to another embodiment of the present disclosure; [0033] FIG. 16 is a flow chart illustrating a method for implementing a promotional reward program, according to an embodiment of the present disclosure; [0034] FIG. 17 is a block diagram illustrating a promotional award program, according to another embodiment of the present disclosure; [0035] FIG. 18 is a flow chart illustrating a method for implementing a promotional reward program, according to an embodiment of the present disclosure; and [0036] FIG. 19 is a notional view of a management apparatus according to an embodiment of the present disclosure. DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS [0037] The present invention provides tools for implementing a promotional reward program. FIG. 1 is a flow chart illustrating a method for implementing a promotional reward program, according to one embodiment of the present invention. A consumer is provided with a unique promotion code or identifier that is associated with a predetermined product or service (Step S 101 ). The unique promotion code or identifier can be any combination of numbers, letters, or characters and may be provided to the consumer, for example, in/on the package of a purchased product. As another example, a unique promotion identifier may be an electronically recognizable or identifiable graphic mark or image. As an example, the unique promotion code or identifier can be printed directly on the package or can be part of an insert in the package. According to an embodiment, other methods of distribution may be utilized, such as, email, text message, printing on a coupon, publishing on a website, direct mailings, printing on a receipt, inclusion as part of a new membership welcome kit and/or incentive program services, such as Catalina Marketing®. The predetermined product or service may be, for example, one or more movie tickets, books, music or other products or services that may be purchased in a retail establishment. According to an embodiment, the predetermined product may be purchased and downloaded from a website directly onto a consumer's desktop computer, laptop computer, portable media player or cell phone. For example, the consumer may download one or more movies or songs from an online store. [0038] The consumer inputs the unique promotion code or identifier for verification (Step S 102 ). For example, the consumer can go to a website, and enter the unique promotion code to be validated, or can enter the unique promotion code by email, text message, or at a kiosk. If it is determined that the unique promotion code is invalid or could not be verified, the consumer is provided with a notification indicating that the unique promotion code is invalid. If it is determined that the unique promotion code has already been activated, the consumer is provided with a notification indicating that the unique promotion code has already been activated. If it is determined that the same consumer previously activated the unique promotion code, the consumer is provided with the debit code along with the notification that the unique promotion code has already been activated. [0039] If the validity of the unique promotion code is verified (Step S 103 ), the consumer is provided with a debit code for the predetermined product or service (Step S 104 ). The debit code is associated with a predetermined value and is instantly provided to the consumer through the Internet, by email, by text messaging, or from a kiosk and may be used to purchase the predetermined product or service. For example, the consumer can print the debit code for the predetermined product or service from the Internet, from the email or from the kiosk. According to another embodiment, a consumer may obtain the debit code by using a mobile device and may show the sales clerk the debit code on the screen of the mobile device, for example. The sales clerk can then input the debit code and the transaction can be processed just like a traditional “debit card” or “credit card” transaction. [0040] The consumer may also use the debit code at an online store to purchase the predetermined product or service. If the consumer chooses to utilize the debit code at an online store, he/she may not have to print it. According to an embodiment, the debit code may be a sixteen digit number, such as those used for credit cards and/or debit cards, and/or a bar code. [0041] FIG. 2 is a flow chart illustrating a method for implementing a promotional reward program, according to another embodiment of the present invention. A consumer is provided with a unique promotion code by email, text message, on a coupon or from a website, where the unique promotion code is associated with a predetermined product or service, which is one or more movie tickets, books, music or other products or services that may be purchased at a retail establishment (Step S 201 ). The consumer inputs the unique promotion code for verification (Step S 202 ). If the validity of the unique promotion code is verified (Step S 203 ), the consumer is provided with a debit code which may be used for the predetermined product or service, where the debit code is a sixteen digit number or a bar code associated with a predetermined value and is instantly provided to the consumer through the Internet, by email, through text messaging, or from a kiosk (Step S 204 ). The consumer may input the debit code by email, text message, at a kiosk, or through an Internet website to purchase the predetermined product or service (Step S 205 ). [0042] At a retail establishment, a consumer may purchase the predetermined product or service by showing the sales clerk the debit code on the screen, for example, of the consumer's cellular phone. The debit code can be sent, for example, to the consumer's cell phone or mobile device by email or Short Message Service (“SMS”), also known as text messaging. FIG. 3 is a flow chart illustrating a method for implementing a promotional reward program by using a cellular phone, as an example of a mobile device, according to an embodiment of the present disclosure. To obtain the debit code, the consumer can provide a text message including the unique promotion code and his/her cellular phone number and a zip code by text message via the cellular phone (Step S 301 ). According to an embodiment, the zip code may be used to locate the retail establishments that accept debit codes for purchases, closest to the location of the consumer. For example, not every retail location may be able to complete a purchase by utilizing the debit code from the screen of a consumer's cell phone and may require a physical coupon/card/voucher, etc. [0043] The cellular phone number is provided so that the system can respond to the consumer. If it is determined that the cellular phone number is invalid (No, Step S 302 ), the method ends. If it is determined that the cellular phone number is valid (Yes, Step S 302 ), it is then determined whether or not the unique promotion code is valid (Step S 303 ). If it is determined that the unique promotion code is invalid (No, Step S 303 ), then an error message is sent indicating that the code is invalid (Step S 304 ). The consumer can then re-enter the code, if necessary (Step S 301 ). If it is determined that the unique promotion code or identifier is valid, (Yes, Step S 303 ), it is then determined whether or not the unique promotion code or identifier has been previously activated (Step S 305 ). If it is determined that the unique promotion code has been previously activated (Yes, Step S 306 ), the system determines if the cell phone number provided by the consumer in Step S 301 is the same as the activation phone number (Step S 306 ). If it is the same number (Yes, Step S 306 ), the consumer is sent a message with the debit code and an indication that the consumer previously activated the unique promotion code (Step S 308 ). If it is not the same number (No, Step S 306 ), an error message is sent to the consumer indicating that the code has been activated by another phone number and the system loops back to Step S 301 . If it is determined that the unique promotion code has not been previously activated (No, Step S 306 ), the system determines whether the zip code entered in Step S 301 is close to a retail establishment location which accepts debit codes for purchases (Step S 309 ). A zip code may be close enough to a participating retail establishment if it is within a reasonable distance, such as 10-15 miles, for example. If the entered zip code is not close enough to such a participating retail establishment (No, Step S 309 ), then the consumer is sent a message indicating that there are no participating retail establishments close enough to the consumer and the consumer can obtain the debit code in another manner (Step S 310 ). For example, the consumer can obtain a printed copy of the debit code by visiting a web-site to print out the debit code. The consumer also may obtain a debit code at a specific store, or may obtain the debit code via mail. If the entered zip code is close enough to a participating retail establishment (Yes, Step S 309 ), then the consumer is sent a message containing the debit code (Step S 311 ). The consumer may then utilize the debit code to purchase a predetermined product or service. For example, if the consumer wants to purchase movie tickets, he/she may show the sales clerk the debit code on the screen of the cell phone. The sales clerk can then input the debit code and the transaction can be processed just like a traditional “debit card” or “credit card” transaction. [0044] According to an embodiment of the present disclosure, the debit code is a sixteen digit number or a bar code that is associated with a predetermined value and may be provided by a bank. For example, a company or any other service may deposit $10,000 into a bank account and instruct the bank or any other service to issue 5,000 debit codes, where each code is associated with a $2.00 value. When a consumer enters the unique promotion code for verification, upon validation, the system will assign one of the 5,000 debit codes associated with a $2.00 value to the consumer. When the debit code is processed at a retail location or an online site for a predetermined product or service in the amount of $2.00, the processor verifies that the bank has the $2.00. The debit code may be processed either by scanning the bar code or inputting the sixteen digit number. The number may be sixteen digits so that it can be utilized by merchants in the same manner as sixteen digit “credit card” or “debit card” numbers to pay for merchandise. [0045] According to an embodiment, the debit code may be used to purchase a predetermined product or service, such as, for example, movie tickets. FIG. 4 is a flow chart illustrating a method of obtaining the debit code to purchase movie tickets, according to an embodiment of the present disclosure. The consumer enters the unique promotion code or identifier and other identifying information (Step S 401 ) either by email, text message, at a kiosk, or through an Internet website. The identifying information comprises one or more of the following: consumer's first name, consumer's last name, consumer's address, consumer's email address, zip code, and/or telephone number. According to an embodiment, the identifying information may be verified and a consumer may be prompted to re-enter the identifying information if it is not verified. For example, identifying information may be invalid if the entered zip code is not live digits. [0046] If it is determined that the unique promotion code is invalid (No, Step S 402 ), then an error message is sent indicating that the promotional code is invalid (Step S 403 ). The error message may be sent by email or text message or displayed at a kiosk or Internet website. The consumer can then re-enter the promotion code, if necessary (Step S 401 ). If it is determined that the unique promotion code is valid, (Yes, Step S 402 ), it is then determined whether the system determines whether the zip code entered in Step S 401 as part of the identifying information is close to a participating retail establishment location, such as a participating movie theater (Step S 404 ). A participating retail establishment is any retail establishment which accepts debit codes for purchases. According to one embodiment, use of the debit code is not restricted to one or more particular retail establishments. If the zip code is not close enough to a participating movie theater (No, Step S 404 ), the consumer has the option of obtaining the debit code regardless of the location of the participating movie theaters (Step S 405 ). If the consumer chooses not to obtain the debit code at that time (No, Step S 405 ), the consumer is sent a message indicating that there are no participating retail establishments close enough to the consumer and the consumer can obtain the debit code in another manner (Step S 406 ). This message may be sent by email or text message or displayed at a kiosk or Internet website. For example, the consumer can visit a web-site to print out the debit code, can obtain a debit code at a specific store, or can obtain the debit code via mail. If the entered zip code is close enough to a participating retail establishment (Yes, Step S 404 ) or the consumer decides to obtain the debit code regardless of the location of the participating retail establishments (Yes, Step S 405 ), the debit code is obtained from a third party (Step S 407 ) and is sent to the consumer (Step S 408 ). The consumer may immediately print the debit code from the Internet, from an email or from a kiosk. A confirmation email may be sent to the consumer in case he/she wants to be reminded of the debit code again at a later date (Step S 409 ). According to an embodiment, the debit code may be provided to the consumer on a ticket along with the consumer's name, an expiration date, a listing of the three closest participating theaters, address, and/or email address, etc. [0047] FIGS. 5-7 are screen shots illustrating an implementation of the method for awarding free movie tickets, according to an embodiment of the present disclosure. The screen shot of FIG. 5 illustrates the step of allowing the consumer to enter the unique promotional code for verification. The screen shot of FIG. 6 illustrates allowing the consumer to enter identifying information. The screen shot of FIG. 7 illustrates the step of providing the consumer with the opportunity to download the debit code for the predetermined product or service, wherein the debit code is associated with a free movie ticket and can be instantly downloaded and/or printed by the consumer from a PDF reader. Alternatively, as illustrated at the bottom of FIG. 7 , the consumer may choose to obtain a list of retail establishments that accept debit codes for purchases in close proximity to the location of the consumer (click on “Participating Theaters”). For example, the screen shot of FIG. 9 , according to an embodiment, illustrates the step of allowing the consumer to input a zip code to locate retail establishments, namely, movie theaters, participating in the free movie ticket program. If the consumer determines that there are no participating theaters close enough, he/she may opt to obtain the debit code in another manner, for example, the consumer can visit a web-site to print out the debit code, can obtain a debit code at specific store, or can obtain the debit code via mail. If the consumer determines that there are participating theaters close enough, he/she may obtain the debit code instantly through the Internet. FIG. 8 is a screen shot illustrating the step of providing the consumer with a debit code instantly through the Internet, after it is downloaded in FIG. 7 . According to an embodiment, the consumer may also obtain the debit code by email, by text message, or from a kiosk. [0048] According to another embodiment of the present disclosure, the consumer may obtain the debit code reward directly on a receipt in real-time, for example, at a point of sale in connection with a purchase, without having to obtain or transmit a unique promotion code. FIG. 10 is a flow chart illustrating the implementation of a promotional reward program in real-time, according to this embodiment. At a point of sale (for example, at the cashier/check-out kiosk of a supermarket, department store, drug store, restaurant, through the Internet, or any other means, entity or business that provides goods and/or services for sale) in connection with a purchase, a customer number is assigned to the transaction (Step S 901 ). A point of sale may also include any location where a consumer can purchase goods or services, such as, a retail establishment, the home of a person purchasing goods through the Internet. According to an embodiment, the customer number may be the customer loyalty program number or any other number that is unique to the customer. It is then determined whether or not a customer transaction or purchase qualifies to receive a reward, such as a debit code (Step S 902 ). For example, the purchase of a predetermined product and/or service, a total purchase amount greater than a predetermined amount, or membership in the store's customer loyalty program may qualify the customer to obtain a debit code. If it is determined that the transaction does not qualify for the debit code (No, Step S 902 ), the transaction proceeds as normal, with the customer paying for the goods and/or services and obtaining a receipt without a debit code (Step S 903 ). However, if it is determined that the customer or purchase qualifies for the debit code (Yes, Step S 902 ), a debit code may be requested by the point of sale (Step S 904 ). The debit code may be requested from, for example, a debit code issuer. The debit code issuer may be one or more of the following: the point of sale retail establishment, a customer loyalty program, an advertising agency, a coupon code issuer (for example, Catalina Marketing), a manufacturer, and/or any third party which is in the business of issuing debit codes. The debit code is then transmitted to the requesting entity, for example, the point of sale. (Step S 905 ). For example, the purchase may be assigned a transaction or customer number and when the debit code is received from the debit code issuer, it may be associated with the data file for that transaction or customer number. [0049] According to an embodiment, the debit code can be instantaneously provided to the consumer through the Internet, by email, by text message, on a coupon, from a kiosk, or any other means of instantaneous communication. For example, the debit code, according to an embodiment, may be printed on the customer's receipt (Step S 906 ). When a customer is ready to use the debit code, it can be obtained from the receipt. According to an embodiment, the debit code is a sixteen digit number or a bar code associated with a predetermined value and may be used to purchase one or more products and/or services. For example, the debit code may be used to purchase one or more movie tickets. [0050] One or more debit codes may reside on a server at the point of sale or may be transmitted in groups from the debit code issuer to the point of sale. According to an embodiment, the promotional reward program may be implemented internally through a server residing at the store or retail establishment. When requested, the store server may issue the debit code to the requesting entity such as the point of sale, for example, a cash register. The debit code may then instantaneously be provided to the consumer, for example, by printing it on a coupon. [0051] FIG. 11 is a block diagram illustrating the implementation of a promotional reward program in real-time, according to another embodiment. A customer approaches a point of sale 1004 , for example, a checkout lane of a store, to purchase one or more products and/or services. The point of sale 1004 may assign the customer a customer number. The point of sale 1004 , communicates with the customer loyalty program server 1002 to determine whether the customer qualifies for a debit code. For example, using the customer number, the customer loyalty program server 1002 can determine if the customer is eligible to qualify for any offers based on past or present purchases. If it is determined that the customer qualifies for the debit code, the customer loyalty program server 1002 requests a debit code from the debit code issuer 1001 . According to an embodiment, the customer loyalty program server 1002 may alert the store server 1005 that the consumer is qualified for a debit code so that it knows to wait for a receipt. If it does not receive the debit code in a predetermined amount of time, the store server 1005 may notify the customer loyalty program server 1002 . According to an alternate embodiment, the store server 1005 may request the debit code from the debit code issuer 1001 . Both the debit code issuer 1001 and the customer loyalty program server 1002 may be located in a central data center 1000 in a remote location or may be located in separate remote locations, or may be located on site. The debit code issuer 1001 transmits the debit code to the store server 1005 , and the store server 1005 transmits the debit code to a printer 1003 located at the point of sale 1004 . The printer 1003 prints the debit code on, for example, a receipt, which is then given to the customer. According to another embodiment, the debit code can be instantly applied to the transaction without having to print it. [0052] According to an embodiment, a proof of purchase can be validated at the moment a consumer receives the proof of purchase. A proof of purchase can be any indication that a particular product or item was purchased or obtained according to the rules of the promotion. Examples of proofs of purchase may include receipts, codes or identifiers printed on receipts, “Paid” stickers adhered to purchased products, a printed item placed inside a sealed product package, et cetera. For example, a promotional program may be available that allows a consumer to obtain a reward, such as, free movie tickets, if he/she purchases two boxes of cereal during a promotional period. The consumer can take a photograph using a camera feature of a mobile device, such as a cell phone, of a receipt or a code printed on the receipt showing that two cereal boxes were purchased and when they were purchased. Upon verification that the two cereal boxes were in fact purchased and were purchased during the promotional period, the consumer can be provided with his/her reward, i.e., free movie tickets. [0053] FIG. 12 is a block diagram illustrating a promotional reward program, according to an embodiment of the present disclosure. A consumer transmits one or more images 1202 of the proof of purchase 1201 wirelessly to a remote location 1203 through a mobile device 1200 . Alternatively, the image may be transferred by a wired connection, such as a land-line. The one or more images may be captured by the consumer prior to transmission, by using, for example, a camera function of the mobile device. According to an embodiment, the remote location may be one or more computers, servers or other processing or managing apparatuses that are located in the store where the customer is shopping or may be located in another area. If it is determined that a consumer or purchase is eligible for a reward 1204 , the remote location instantly 1203 transmits to the consumer's mobile device 1200 a reward 1204 . The mobile device 1200 can be a handheld device, a cell phone device, an iPhone, a Blackberry, a handheld computer, scanner, camera, personal digital assistant, portable media player, smartphone, personal navigation device, or any other computing device. According to another embodiment, a consumer can transmit an SMS or text message containing the information on the proof of purchase 1201 or a proof of purchase code or other indication without having to take or transmit the one or more images of the proof of purchase. [0054] FIG. 13 is a flow chart illustrating a method for implementing a promotional reward program, according to an embodiment of the present disclosure. In order to prove the purchase of one or more products or services, a consumer may transmit one or more images of a proof of purchase directly to the managing apparatus for verification by using a mobile device (Step S 1301 ). For example, the one or more images may be transmitted via SMS messaging, also known as text message, to a unique text number of the managing apparatus or may be sent by email to an email address associated with the managing apparatus. The unique text number or email address may also be associated with a particular reward program or a particular customer loyalty account number. [0055] The proof of purchase, as discussed above, can be a receipt, an invoice, shipping document, or any other document or indication that would prove that a consumer obtained or purchased a particular product or service according to the rules of the promotion. If the proof of purchase is too long to capture in a single image, the proof of purchase may be sectioned, for example, by folding the proof of purchase, and each section may be captured in a separate image. Alternatively, if the proof of purchase includes a unique transaction identifier, such as a bar code or other number, a consumer may capture and transmit an image of the unique transaction identifier, without having to capture and transmit images of the entire proof of purchase. A consumer can obtain or purchase a particular product or service by paying for it, or by using a gift card or a store credit, for example. The transmission of the one or more images of the proof of purchase directly by the consumer to a remote location is useful, for example, in situations where a retailer does not have the capability to print a unique promotion code on a product package or insert a unique promotion code as part of a product package. Other information may be transmitted to a managing apparatus, in addition to a proof of purchase. Examples of other information include item identifiers, et cetera. [0056] A unique transaction identifier may be any code, image, or the like that indicates a particular transaction. Such unique transaction identifier may be associated with any one or more of a customer identity, a customer loyalty account number associated with a transaction, a retail location and/or cash register at which the transaction took place, a clerk identification of the sales clerk making the transaction, an identification and/or quantity of the products purchased, an identification of the date and/or time of the transaction, a total amount of the transaction, et cetera. A transaction identifier can also be used as a proof of purchase. [0057] An item identifier may be any code, image or the like that indicates a product or service. The product or service, however, need not be purchased or obtained by a customer according to one embodiment of the present invention. Instead, a customer may capture an image of an item code at a display in a retail store without actually purchasing the product or service. In one example, item identifiers could be scattered on product displays or advertisements throughout a retail location as a part of a “scavenger hunt” type promotion encouraging customers to explore a retail store. [0058] Once the one or more images of the proof of purchase and/or item identifier are transmitted by the consumer through the mobile device to a remote location, it can be determined if the one or more images of the proof of purchase meet predetermined criteria and whether the consumer is eligible for an award according to the rules of the particular reward program for which the consumer is submitting the proof of purchase (Steps S 1302 & 1304 ). [0059] According to an embodiment, the predetermined criteria may include whether the one or more images are of a suitable resolution, whether the one or more images includes the information necessary to determine eligibility, such as the date of the transaction, a unique product identifier such as a serial number, a UPC and/or SKU, a unique transaction identifier, or other information, et cetera. The step of determining whether the one or more images of the proof of purchase meet predetermined criteria may further comprise determining whether the one or more images are of a suitable resolution to enable electronic character recognition, i.e. whether the one or more images may be electronically translated into alphanumeric characters. If it is determined that the one or more images of the proof of purchase or item identifier do not meet predetermined criteria (No, Step S 1302 ), for example, if the one or more images of the proof of purchase are blurry or not of a suitable resolution, a message is provided to the consumer instructing the consumer to re-capture and to re-transmit the one or more images (Step S 1303 ). The message also may indicate why the one or more images are not, for example, of a suitable resolution. For example, the image may be too shadowy or the environment where the image is taken may not be adequately lit. This verification may be conducted by one or more of a computer, a mobile device or a human operator. Alternatively, if the electronic recognition fails, before the message is sent, the image may be sent to a human operator who may manually verify that the one or more images of the proof of purchase or item identifier do not meet the predetermined criteria, for example, are not a suitable resolution. If the predetermined criteria are not met, the method then loops back to Step S 1301 and the process may start again. [0060] In order to determine whether the consumer or purchase is eligible for a reward (Step S 1304 ), the method and system determines whether the consumer or purchase meets one or more eligibility criteria, such as if the proof of purchase was previously validated, if the consumer has purchased the one or more products or services eligible for the reward during the promotional period, if all required item identifiers have been transmitted for a reward, et cetera. In one example, in order to make this eligibility determination, a proof of purchase such as a unique transaction identifier in the form of, for example, a bar code located on a receipt, is identified. The unique transaction identifier may be identified by digitizing, or electronically recognizing alphanumeric characters of, the information located on the proof of purchase through prior art methods and systems, as shown in FIG. 14 . [0061] Electronic image recognition is a process by which an image or graphic mark is translated into alphanumeric characters representative of the image or graphic mark. For example, electronic image recognition may translate an image of a bar code into a series of numeric digits. Electronic image recognition may be performed by the mobile device prior to transmitting the unique transaction identifier, other proof or purchase, or item identifier to a management apparatus or may be performed by a management apparatus after receiving the image transmitted by a mobile device. [0062] FIG. 14 is a block diagram illustrating a proof of purchase in the form of a receipt with a unique transaction identifier, such as a bar code. A unique transaction identifier, such as a bar code 1401 located on a receipt, may be used as a means for identification of the particular transaction by a retailer. For example, by scanning or inputting the bar code 1401 , a retailer could easily obtain a list of all the goods and/or services that were purchased by a consumer in a given transaction, without having to separately scan or input the stock-keeping unit (“SKU”) numbers for each of the individual goods and/or services 1402 . The receipt, for example, may be digitized 1403 so that the text can be electronically read by methods and systems well known in the art. [0063] According to an embodiment, the unique transaction identifier can be compared to a database containing one or more previously recorded records of one or more unique transaction identifiers that were previously validated in order to determine whether the proof of purchase was previously validated. The unique transaction identifier is associated with a data file stored on a server which contains the SKU and/or UPC numbers or other product identifiers of the products which were purchased during the transaction identified by the unique transaction identifier. The data files may be stored, for example, on a server of the retail store. According to another embodiment, SKU and/or UPC numbers for the one or more eligible products and/or services 1402 are reviewed along with the date of the transaction 1404 in order to determine whether such purchases are eligible for the reward. [0064] If there is no unique transaction identifier indicated on the proof of purchase, the system may limit reward redemptions by restricting rewards to a single reward per mobile device, mobile telephone number, or email address used by the consumer. For example, if a consumer transmits a proof of purchase from her cell phone, the system receiving the proof of purchase will determine whether the proof of purchase was previously validated by comparing the unique transaction identifier to a database including records of previously validated unique transaction identifiers, as described above. Alternatively, if the proof of purchase does not contain a unique transaction identifier, the system may verify whether the cell phone number transmitting the proof of purchase has previously transmitted a proof of purchase for the same reward program, and may deny the reward if the verification is positive. [0065] If it is determined that the consumer is not eligible for the reward (No, Step S 1304 ), the consumer is provided with a message transmitted to the mobile device indicating that the consumer is not eligible for the reward and the process ends (Step, S 1305 ). If it is determined that the one or more images of the proof of purchase meet the predetermined criteria and if the consumer or purchase is eligible for a reward (Yes, Steps S 1302 , 1304 ), the consumer is instantly provided with the reward by transmission of the reward to the mobile device (Step S 1306 ), for example, by text message. According to an embodiment, the reward is a debit code associated with a predetermined value and is usable to purchase one or more products and/or services, or is a credit that can be applied to pay one or more of the consumer's bills. For example, the reward may be used to pay a consumer's cell phone bill or may be applied as a credit towards the cell phone bill. [0066] According to an embodiment, if a consumer is unable to obtain an image of the proof of purchase or the unique transaction identifier or a clear image thereof, the consumer can simply send in a text message the relevant information to the remote location using the mobile device. For example, the consumer can send a text message through the mobile device to the program management apparatus that contains a proof of purchase such as, for example, a unique transaction identifier. [0067] According to another embodiment, the present invention may be used to implement various contests and promotional programs that allow consumers to transmit images of an item identifier that may be located on one or more products, used in connection with one or more services or used on one or more product displays by using the mobile device. A product display is a display that may be used to advertise a particular product or service. For example, at a retail establishment, end-of-aisle displays, stand-alone displays, or point-of-sale displays can be used to showcase different products or services, such as, for example, supermarket products or services, or massage/nail services, automobile repair services, etc. In exchange for transmitting the item identifier, the consumer is provided with a reward, for example, a coupon that is applicable to the purchase of one or more of the products and/or services corresponding to the item identifier transmitted. [0068] FIG. 15 is a block diagram illustrating a promotional award program, according to another embodiment of the present disclosure. An item identifier 1505 is provided on one or more products or displays 1501 . The item identifier can be any number, code, or image that is unique to the product or display (for example, a display associated with a service) or any other identifier that can be used to identify the product, display, such as, for example, a bar code. A consumer transmits one or more images 1502 of the item identifier 1505 or transmits a text message containing the item identifier 1506 associated with one or more products/displays 1501 to a remote location 1503 by using a mobile device 1500 . If it is determined that a consumer is eligible for a reward 1504 , the remote location 1503 transmits to the consumer's mobile device 1500 a reward 1504 . [0069] For example, the item identifier 1505 , such as a bar code, may be placed on a product package or movie studio billboard. A promotional sweepstakes could be advertised which would provide that the first 100 people to text the bar code or transmit the image of the bar code on the product package or movie studio billboard, for example, could win a reward, such as a debit code associated with a predetermined value which is usable to purchase one or more products and/or services, such as free movie tickets, or a credit that can be applied to pay one or more of the consumer's utility or other bills. The promotional sweepstakes could be advertised on the package of the product itself, inside the package, on a display, or in connection with an advertisement relating to the product or service. The advertisement may be a written advertisement or may be available on the Internet, on television or on the radio. [0070] FIG. 16 is a flow chart illustrating a method for implementing a promotional reward program, according to an embodiment of the present disclosure. An item identifier is provided on one or more products or displays (Step S 1601 ). A consumer may transmit one or more images of the item identifier or a text message containing the item identifier directly for verification to a remote location by using a mobile device (Step S 1602 ). Once the one or more images of the item identifier or a text message containing the item identifier are transmitted by the consumer through the mobile device to a remote location, it can be determined if the one or more images of the item identifier or the text message containing the item identifier meet predetermined criteria and whether the consumer is eligible for an award (Steps S 1603 & S 1605 ). If it is determined that the one or more images of the item identifier or the text message containing the item identifier does not meet predetermined criteria (No, Step S 1603 ), for example, if the one or more images are not of a suitable resolution, or, as another example, if the text message containing the item identifier contains an incorrect number of digits, a message is provided to the consumer indicating that the one or more images should be re-captured and/or re-transmitted (Step S 1604 ) or the text message should be typed again and re-transmitted. This verification may be conducted by one or more of a computer, a mobile device or a human operator. The message also may indicate why the one or more images are not, for example, of a suitable resolution. For example, the image may be too shadowy or the environment where the image is taken may not be adequately lit. Alternatively, if an electronic recognition operation fails, before the message is sent, the image may be sent to a human operator who may manually verify that the one or more images of the item identifier do not meet the predetermined criteria, for example, are not a suitable resolution. If the images or text message does not meet the predetermined criteria, the method then loops back to Step S 1602 and the process may start again. [0071] In order to determine whether the consumer is eligible for a reward (Step S 1605 ), the method and system determines whether the transmission from the consumer has met all the requirements for the promotional program, for example, whether the consumer has transmitted an image of a valid item identifier, such as a bar code (or has provided a valid unique promotional identifier, such as a bar code via text message), i.e., whether it is the item identifier, such as a bar code, for the relevant product or display, and whether the transmission is, for example, one of the first 100 people to text an image of the item identifier. If it is determined that the transmission is not eligible for a reward (No, Step S 1605 ), a message is provided to the consumer indicating the consumer is not eligible for a reward (Step S 1606 ), and the process ends. If it is determined that the one or more images of the item identifier or the text message containing the item identifier meet the predetermined criteria and if the transmission is eligible for a reward (Yes, Steps S 1603 , S 1605 ), the consumer is instantly provided with the reward to the mobile device (Step S 1607 ), for example, by text message. [0072] According to an embodiment, the reward may be a debit code associated with a predetermined value and may be usable to purchase one or more products and/or services, or is a credit that may be applied to pay one or more of the consumer's/user's utility or other bills. According to another embodiment, the reward may be information about the product or service comprising recipes, tips about how to use a product or to obtain a service, or one or more coupons relating to the product or service. The one or more coupons relating to the product or service may be assigned to an account of a customer loyalty program which is associated with the consumer so that the consumer may use such coupons through the customer loyalty program in a manner that is well-known in the art. [0073] According to another embodiment, the item identifiers provided on product packages or displays and/or proofs of purchase can be used in connection with a customer loyalty program for a retailer in order to obtain rewards or information through the customer loyalty program. Customer loyalty programs are marketing tools that encourage consumers to buy from specific retail establishments by issuing rewards. A retail establishment, for example, may issue a customer loyalty program card and/or account number to a consumer who can present the card and/or account number in connection with a purchase, in order to receive a discount on a current purchase, or other rewards, including rewards that can be used for future purchases. Such customer loyalty programs generally assign a customer loyalty account number to a customer, and establish an account associated with that customer loyalty account number which maintains information concerning that customer's purchases and spending habits in a database on a server for the customer loyalty program. [0074] A customer or consumer can transmit one or more images of an item identifier or proof of purchase, such as a bar code, or a text message containing the item identifier or proof of purchase, such as a bar code, along with one or more images or a text message containing the customer's customer loyalty program account number to a remote location or program management apparatus by using a mobile device. In response, the consumer may receive information about the product or service identified by the item identifier or proof of purchase or any other product or service and/or may also receive a promotional credit or coupon relating to the product or service identified by the item identifier or proof of purchase or any other product or service through the customer loyalty program. For example, the promotional credit or coupon can be automatically sent or assigned to the customer/user's loyalty account by the management apparatus so that the customer can use it immediately in connection with a current or future purchase. [0075] FIG. 17 is a block diagram illustrating a promotional award program, according to another embodiment of the present disclosure. An item identifier 1705 is provided on one or more products or displays 1701 . The item identifier can be any number or character or combination thereof that is unique to the product or display (or service associated with a display) or any other number that can be used to identify the product or display, fir example, such as a bar code. A consumer transmits one or more images 1702 of the item identifier 1705 or transmits a text message containing the item identifier 1705 associated with one or more products/displays 1701 along with one or more images of a loyalty program number 1707 or a text message containing the loyalty program account number 1707 to a remote location 1703 by using a mobile device 1700 . If it is determined that the transmission from the consumer is eligible for a reward 1704 (and if the one or more images of the item identifier meet predetermined criteria and/or if the loyalty program account number is valid), the remote location 1703 instantly transmits the reward 1704 to the consumer, for example, through the loyalty program 1706 by assigning the reward to the loyalty program account associated with the received loyalty program account number. The reward may be points in the loyalty program, one or more coupons, or, for example, a movie trailer to promote interest in a particular movie. [0076] It will be recognized that the examples shown in FIGS. 15-17 could also be configured to receive an image of or a message containing a proof of purchase in lieu of, or in addition to, an item identifier. [0077] FIG. 18 is a flow chart illustrating a method for implementing a promotional reward program, according to an embodiment of the present disclosure. A unique transaction identifier, as a proof of purchase, is provided on a receipt for a transaction (Step S 1801 ). A consumer may transmit one or more images of the unique transaction identifier and/or a text message containing the unique transaction identifier along with one or more images of a loyalty program account number or text message containing the loyalty program account number directly for verification to a remote location by using a mobile device (Step S 1802 ). Once the unique transaction identifier is transmitted by the consumer through the mobile device along with the loyalty program account number to a remote location, it may be determined if the one or more images of the unique transaction identifier and/or the loyalty program account number and/or the text message containing the unique transaction identifier and the loyalty program account number meet predetermined criteria. (Step S 1803 ). The consumer may transmit any combination of the following: one or more images of the unique transaction identifier along with a text message containing the loyalty program account number; one or more images of the unique transaction identifier and one or more images of the loyalty program account number, one or more images of the loyalty program account number and a text message containing the unique transaction identifier; or a text message containing both the unique transaction identifier and the loyalty program account number. This verification may be conducted by one or more of a computer or human operator. If it is determined that the one or more images of the unique transaction identifier and/or loyalty program number or the text message containing the unique transaction identifier and/or loyalty program account number do not meet predetermined criteria (No, Step S 1803 ), for example, if the one or more images are not of a suitable resolution or if the text message containing the unique transaction identifier contains an incorrect number of digits, a message is transmitted to the consumer through the mobile device indicating that the one or more images should be re-captured and/or re-transmitted (Step S 1804 ). The message also may indicate the reason that the one or more images are not, for example, of a suitable resolution. For example, the image may be too shadowy or the environment where the image is taken may not be adequately lit. Alternatively, if an electronic image recognition operation fails, before the message is sent, the image may be sent to a human operator who may manually verify that the one or more images of the unique transaction identifier do not meet the predetermined criteria, for example, are not a suitable resolution. If the images or text message does not meet the predetermined criteria, the method then loops back to Step S 1802 and the process may start again. [0078] In order to determine whether the transmission from the consumer is eligible for a reward (Step S 1805 ), the method and system determines whether the contents of the transmission have met all of the eligibility criteria, for example, whether the transmission includes an image of a unique transaction identifier, such as a valid bar code (or has provided a unique transaction identifier, such as a valid bar code, via text message), whether it is an eligible unique transaction identifier, and/or whether the loyalty program account number is valid (Step S 1808 ). If it is determined that the transmission is not eligible for a reward (No, Step S 1805 ), a message is transmitted to the consumer indicating that the transmission is not eligible for a reward (Step S 1806 ) and the process ends. If it is determined that the loyalty program account number is not valid (No, Step S 1808 ), a message is provided to the consumer indicating that the loyalty program account number is invalid (Step S 1809 ) and the process ends. If it is determined that the one or more images of the unique transaction identifier and/or the loyalty program account number or the text message containing the unique transaction identifier and/or loyalty program account number meet predetermined criteria and if the transmission is eligible for a reward and if the loyalty program account number is valid, (Yes, Steps S 1803 , S 1805 , S 1808 ), the reward is instantly transmitted to the consumer through the customer loyalty program (Step S 1807 ), for example, by assigning the reward to a loyalty program account corresponding to the loyalty program account number received from the consumer. According to an embodiment, the reward may be information about the product or a service comprising recipes, tips about how to use a product or obtain a service, or one or more coupons relating to the product or service. According to another embodiment, the reward may be a debit code associated with a predetermined value which may be usable to purchase one or more products or services, or may be a credit that can be applied to pay one or more of the consumer's bills. In order to redeem the reward, the consumer may utilize the loyalty program account number in connection with a purchase to which the reward may be applied. [0079] It will be recognized that the example shown in FIG. 18 could also be configured to receive an image of or a message containing another type of proof of purchase or an item identifier in lieu of, or in addition to, a unique transaction identifier. [0080] According to another embodiment, a promotional reward program may be implemented by a promotional reward program management apparatus. The management apparatus may comprise any one or more of the servers, kiosks, etc. described above, or may also include one or more different electronic apparatuses, such as a personal computer, dedicated reward server, et cetera. [0081] The management apparatus 1902 , shown notionally in FIG. 19 , may comprise a communication part 1904 configured to communicate with mobile devices 1906 . The communication part 1904 may be configured to share data with mobile devices 1906 through any one or more networks and/or using any data sharing protocols known in the art. As an example, a communication part 1904 of a managing apparatus 1902 is configured to send and receive emails over the Internet. As another example, a communication part 1904 of a managing apparatus 1902 may be configured to send and receive text messages through cellular telephone voice and/or data networks. [0082] The management apparatus 1902 may also include a control part 1908 for implementing any one or more of the various validation and determination steps of the various methods for implementing a promotional reward program described above. For example, the control part 1908 may be configured to determine if a received image of a proof of purchase meets one or more predetermined criteria. As another example, the control part 1908 may be configured to determine if a purchase meets one or more eligibility requirements for an award. [0083] In another aspect, the management apparatus 1902 may optionally include a local storage part 1910 for storing information regarding past reward redemptions or attempted redemptions for use in determining eligibility for current and future reward requests. [0084] The above specific embodiments are illustrative, and many variations can be introduced on these embodiments without departing from the spirit of the disclosure or from the scope of the appended claims. For example, elements and/or features of different illustrative embodiments may be combined with each other and/or substituted for each other within the scope of this disclosure and appended claims.

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