ibeacon shopping list

It’s 2014 – could this finally be the year when we see a mobile grocery app that will allow us to throw away our paper coupons for good?

Probably not. But one marketer is promising to help nudge us just a little closer to that day, with the help of one of the world’s top tech companies, and dozens of grocery stores across the country.

This week, about 150 Safeway and Giant Eagle stores in Seattle, San Francisco and Cleveland are officially “turning on” special in-store sensors known as iBeacons. The Apple-developed Bluetooth transmitters allow apps to pinpoint users’ locations with greater accuracy than those that use GPS.

So what does this mean for you? The in-store sensors were deployed in partnership with inMarket, a marketing company and app developer. Among its apps are those that allow you to create and share shopping lists, save coupons and collect “points” while you shop (similar to Shopkick).

Interaction with the iBeacons will allow inMarket’s apps to sense when you’re walking by or walking into a store. So the shopping list you or your spouse created at home will pop up when you go through Safeway’s doors, or a reminder about points-earning opportunities will appear when you walk into Giant Eagle (and as you scan those products for points, the stores and manufacturers hope you might just be tempted to buy some of them, too).

It’s all part of what inMarket calls its “Mobile to Mortar” network. As with most such programs, there are vague promises about the eventual inclusion of mobile coupons (though, mercifully, inMarket refrains from promising to revolutionize couponing or kill off the paper coupon). “As inMarket rolls out its iBeacon network, it will provide shoppers with a wide range of benefits – like custom coupons, loyalty rewards, and grocery list reminders – when it matters most: in store,” the company announced in a news release. “For example, shoppers who opt-in can be reminded of items a spouse just placed on their shared list, earn loyalty rewards, or be directed to a custom special offer.”

Right now, inMarket’s couponing app is limited to mostly non-grocery retailers. So if you save a coupon on the app for, say, Macy’s, it will notify you the next time you walk into the store. Eventually, inMarket says other app developers and even retailers themselves will be able to use the technology to push special offers to users.

So far, though, Mobile to Mortar does not appear to be a grocery shopping and couponing game changer. The kind of shopping you might do at Macy’s, with a single 20% coupon in hand, is far different from the kind of shopping you’re likely to do in a grocery store, where there are tens of thousands of individual products from hundreds of different manufacturers, each one potentially able to offer a coupon or a discount. Some other apps are already working on offering coupons based on where you are in the store, or based on what you’ve already put into your shopping cart. inMarket’s apps, by contrast, appear to be designed less for the couponer than for the forgetful – “Hey, dummy, you just walked into Safeway – don’t forget this shopping list you made yesterday!”

There’s still time, however. Mobile to Mortar is expected to roll out to more stores and cities in the coming months. But if you were hoping an app would come along this year that would finally allow you to keep that coupon binder at home – well, there’s always 2015.

2 Comments

  1. I downloaded the coupons.com app and what a disappointment. There is no way to print them from the phone. The only option is the eMail a link to the coupons your select. If I need to get on a computer anyway then what’s the point?

    • From Coupons.com:

      “You can print coupons from the Coupons.com app if you are using an Apple iOS device and HP brand wireless printer.”

      So you have to have the right device, and the right printer, otherwise yes, the app is not particularly useful.

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