What does a coupon sound like?

And we’re not talking about the beep it makes when it’s swiped across a scanner. Some new high-tech coupons may come to you in audio form – sounding something like the tweeting of a robotic bird, or even your favorite tune.

And all you need is a cell phone, to help translate those songs into savings.

Food Lion got some attention back in December when it announced that, for a limited time, shoppers in its 1,100 stores would be able to access digital coupons by using the Shazam app on their phones. In partnership with Mood Media, Food Lion sent digital audio signals alongside the tunes on its overhead music system. The Shazam app, which “listens” to songs in order to identify them for you, was able to “hear” the embedded signals and use them to direct shoppers to a selection of digital coupons.

The hidden signals can deliver to your phone whatever message a retailer wants to share, though “couponing is one of the primary ways we’ve envisioned retailers using the technology,” Dave Van Epps, Mood Media’s Global Chief Product Officer and EVP of Local Sales, North America told Coupons in the News.

The clever part of Mood Media’s approach, is that it piggybacks on an already-popular app. Hundreds of millions of people have Shazam on their phones, so most Food Lion shoppers didn’t have to download anything new in order to try out the technology.

“We anticipate, based on the success of this program, partnering on other campaigns throughout the year too if all goes well,” Food Lion spokesperson Courtney James told Coupons in the News.

But Food Lion’s soundtrack wasn’t really delivering coupons to shoppers’ phones, strictly speaking. Instead, the audio signal was basically just delivering an internet link to the store’s existing digital coupon website. So it’s a promising platform, but a limited one.

On a different audio-to-data platform, though, sounds don’t merely link you to existing coupons – the sounds are the coupons.


“All these tech companies build things with retailers and brands in mind, but not consumers,” Moran Lerner told Coupons in the News. He’s the CEO of Chirp, a technology that allows retailers and others “to share something that people actually want to use.”

Using the Chirp app, or Chirp technology embedded in a retailer’s app, you can translate short mechanical chirping sounds into actual, specific coupons delivered to your phone – not just a link to a coupon website. And you don’t even need an internet connection to do it.

“Our technology is the only solution in the world that allows any device with a speaker or microphone – radio, TV, phone, till, kiosk, digital screen, car system, or even something as dumb as a doorbell – to share data of any kind without devices needing to be paired in any way, and without the devices needing to be connected to any network or Wi-Fi,” Lerner said. “Retailers and brands can reach consumers wherever they are, not just in stores. All you need is a working microphone and speaker, and you can send a coupon to anyone, anywhere.”

Chirp can turn just about any form of data into an audio signal that your phone can access, translate and download within seconds. Instead of texting a photo, web link or phone number to a friend, for example, you can chirp it. Toys or greeting cards can chirp special content to your phone.

And stores can chirp coupons and special offers to you, anytime and anywhere.

If you want to try it, you can check it out right now. Download the Chirp app to your Apple device, or to an Android device from this link. Open the app, and play the chirp below on a desktop or another device in order to get Coupons in the News’ 2016 Sunday coupon insert schedule delivered to your phone instantly:

Did you get it?

Now imagine that was a digital coupon, and the chirp was coming from a store’s overhead sound system, via a TV screen, interactive kiosk, on-shelf speaker, or even in a radio or TV ad outside the store itself. If it can make a sound, it can send a chirp.

So when might these chirpable coupons show up in a store near you? “We’re speaking to retailers all over the world,” Lerner said.

So the next time you go shopping, listen closely. You – and your phone – may soon be able to hear what savings really sound like.

Photo illustration: Mood Media / Chirp

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