Coupons? There’s an app for that 

Shopping in the Bay Area will be forever changed Tuesday when a Silicon Valley-based startup company brings a new free mobile application to smart-phone users.

“The cell phone is the only interactive medium consumers carry with them in physical environments,” Cyriac Roeding, co-founder and CEO of Shopkick, said via e-mail. “Where do consumers really need better information and interactive services in the physical world? When they are out shopping.”

Just by walking into participating retail outlets and shopping centers, consumers will be notified of special promotions and coupons to help stretch their dollars.

Shopkick, which was first founded in 2009, is now in partnership with Simon Property Group, which will be launching the program in 25 malls in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York and Chicago.

“This is a new channel of communication between retailers and their consumers,” said Mikael Thygesen, CEO of Simon Property Group. “Consumers can be rewarded for specific behaviors like walking into a particular store or trying on a particular piece of clothing. Retailers can then create all kinds of promotions. The angle is to increase the amount of business done per visit into the store.”

While the closest participating mall to Bay Area residents is the Santa Rosa Plaza, four retailers, including all San Francisco Macy’s and Best Buy locations, will launch Shopkick offers on Tuesday, Roeding said.

“At Best Buy, we are one of the largest retailers of the technology that makes things like this possible and we have the responsibility to look at where it can go in the future,” Best Buy spokeswoman Kelly Groehler said. “We are interested in how consumer technology is bridging the physical and digital shopping experiences.”

The Shopkick software requires that retailers install small speakers at store entrances, which emit an inaudible tone picked up by cell phone microphones. The Shopkick signal is detected when consumers open the application — available for iPhones on Tuesday and Android phones later this year — and they instantly receive rewards from Shopkick, called Kickbucks.

“I think that would be awesome!” said Max Stone, a shopper at Westfield San Francisco Centre. “I’m always on my iPhone so it would be really convenient.”

Which suits the app maker just fine.

“This is about instant gratification,” Thygesen said. “Consumers don’t have to accumulate a certain amount of points before they can start redeeming rewards.”

Unlike existing location-based applications such as Foursquare, the Shopkick system does not use GPS signals, which have an error radius of 50 to 1,000 yards on mobile phones, Roeding said.

“No retailer wants to reward a consumer for being in the parking lot, or worse, for being next door at another store. Also, 95 percent of check-ins that have incentives are fake,” Roeding said.

Direct connection

Beginning Tuesday, Shopkick’s app will be available and will send special deals to customers who have the app.

THE DEAL: Silicon Valley startup company Shopkick has partnered with Best Buy, Macy’s and mall operator Simon Property Group to reward smart-phone users for shopping at their stores.
HOW IT WORKS: The Shopkick system requires retailers to install tiny speakers at the entrance to their stores. Cell phone microphones pick up the inaudible signal emitted by the speakers.
THE BENEFITS: Shoppers instantly receive Shopkick deals, which they can immediately redeem for cool rewards. Retailers can shape incentives based on shopping behavior of consumers.

Best Buy locations:
- San Francisco, 1717 Harrison St.
- San Francisco, 2675 Geary Blvd.
- Colma, 200 Colma Blvd.
- Oakland, 3700 Mandela Pkwy.

Macy’s locations (S.F.):
Union Square, 170 O’Farrell St
Stonestown Galleria, 1 Stonestown Mall

Source: AP, Shopkick

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