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As they go about their holiday shopping this year, plenty of consumers will enlist the help of mobile couponing apps. But Shopular wants to make it as easy as possible for shoppers to retrieve relevant deals.
Its new app released Friday runs in the background to monitor consumers’ location and then surfaces valid and place-appropriate coupons and deals when it knows that they’re shopping. The app learns from users’ Facebook preference and, over time, their in-app behavior to personalize the offers they receive.
In the version rolling out today, the app will only serve up coupons once it senses that users are at one of 1,000 malls across the country (in every state). But the founders said though they started with malls because of the density of shoppers and retailers, their next targets will be big retailers like Target, Kohl’s and Macy’s and by early next year they anticipate a big increase in locations.
“It’s such a hassle to research coupons, especially when you’re in a store but we’re basically missing out on a ton of savings,” said co-founder Navneet Loiwal. “[With Shopular], there’s no need to remember to open an app… a fresh valid coupon shows up on the phone and you can just show the screen to the cashier.”
Other couponing apps out there similarly try to surface relevant in-store deals through the phone – Shopkick, for example, uses proprietary technology that involves in-store sensors to reward customers when they walk into stores, but it requires that they open the app first. And Placecast’s ShopAlerts program uses geofencing technology to send push notifications regarding deals to consumers when they’re near a specific location.
Shopular’s advantage, Loiwal said, is that it not only surfaces deals without consumer action, it runs in the background to monitor consumers’ locations (via GPS, WiFi and cellular sensors) and learn from their movements and shopping behavior to personalize offers.
Historically, one big drawback of location-aware apps that continuously run in the background – like social discovery apps Highlight and Glancee, for example – is the battery drain. But Loiwal emphasized that he and his cofounder Tommy Tsai have used their technical chops to make the technology efficient and minimize the battery issue. For example, to conserve power, it figures out the times of day you’re less likely to be shopping and monitors your location less closely then. Loiwal co-founded Google Finance (s goog) and is a former Shopkick engineer and Tsai was the first engineer at Shopkick and previously worked at early location-based app Loopt (which sold to Green Dot, a provider of retailer pre-paid cards, in March). The pair graduated from Y Combinator’s Winter 2012 class, although during the accelerator program they were building different technology that involved push notifications but not for shopping.
The app launched in beta on iOS (s AAPL) and Android (s GOOG) three weeks ago, and has been downloaded about 250,000 times. But Loiwal said none of the reviews on either platform mention battery problems.
Shopular sources deals from Facebook pages, websites and emails and then has a team manually verify details to make sure consumers never receive expired offers. It says it provides coupons from more than 100 national brands and retailers, like the Gap, Aeropostale, Bath and Body Works, Target and Home Depot.
In the future, it could give retailers a platform for offering more targeted deals to consumers – for example, it could reward its most loyal customers with extra savings or use steeper discounts to lure away a rival’s customers.