Mall Shoppers: Prepare To Have Coupons Beamed Straight To Your Phone

Not inundated enough with ads and coupons? Good, because the country’s largest operator of shopping malls is launching a program that will use audio waves to beam both coupons and ads straight to shoppers’ mobile phones.

Simon Property Group, owner of more than 370 shopping centers in the U.S. alone, has paired up with start-up tech company Shopkick Inc. for the program, which will begin popping up as soon as this month in malls in NYC, L.A., San Francisco and Chicago.

Simon says it hopes to have the program up and running in 100 malls over the next few months, with around 30% of each center’s stores signing up to participate in the next year.

Participating stores would have to install speakers outside their entrances. These will emit a sound that is supposedly inaudible to human hearing, but will be picked up by your cell phone.

One good bit of news: Only those who opt into the program by installing the Shopkick app on their iPhone of Android phone will be bombarded by the coupons.

Also, you will need to be in close proximity of a store to receive its signal. Retailers also like this feature because it means they know the shoppers receiving their offers are already in the mall, as opposed to seeing an ad on the street or online.

“Nobody can reward anybody for being in the parking lot,” said a rep for Shopkick.

In addition to the Simon mall properties, Shopkick will also soon be popping up at Best Buy and Macy’s. The electronics chain says it will be testing the technology in a handful of markets including San Francisco. Macy’s will begin testing it next week in around 150 locations.

Here’s a demo of the tech that was posted on Techcrunch:

Mall deal gives big boost to cell-phone coupons [AP]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Oranges w/ Cheese says:

    Who in their right mind would sign up for this?

    • Noah says:


      • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

        < — woman. Hates this idea.

        Granted, I don’t have the “requisite family” to turn me into a coupon conscious shopper with umpteen mouths to feed either.

      • dolemite says:

        I almost typed that, but …lol. I could see my wife signing up. “But I got 10% off!” “Honey, that shirt was already overpriced by 75%. Here it is on Amazon for 1/3 of what you paid with your 10% coupon….”

    • Rachacha says:

      People interested in saving some money. I might not be opposed to it provided I could pick which retailers I would receive offers from…afterall, a 40 year old male has different interests and shopping needs than a 26 year old female.

      Many moons ago (when Dial up internet access was popular) the same company Simon offered free internet access, the only catch was that you had to navigate through a virtual mall of ads and coupons for local retailers (you were presented with advertisements on the opening screen that also had a button to connect to the internet). After about an hour of playing around with it, the ads were annoying, but I found a way to connect to the internet without having to see the advertising screen…free internet for over 2 years…great when I was young and pinching every penny.

  2. Oranges w/ Cheese says:

    Also, this demo is all well and good outside with little background noise, but inside a noisy mall? Oh and its social too? >_< ugh..

  3. rpm773 says:

    I don’t know about that beaming stuff

  4. Outrun1986 says:

    So those of us without smartphones and who don’t want to pay a huge monthly bill to the carriers now will be getting less discounts than those who do… lovely.

  5. ogremustcrush says:

    This seems like quite the obtuse scheme considering that cell phones are often location enabled and have data access… So why bother with silly speakers?

    • Rachacha says:

      No issues with reception. I know that in certain large stores as I move towards the center of the building, reception decreases and location awareness accuracy decreases. By emitting a localized ultrasonic sound, they can easily and accurately give you offers based on where you are. It is the same technology that they used on the BestBuy app during the closing credits for Despicable Me when the minions came on screen speaking their language and the application “translated” what they were saying for you.

  6. Rachacha says:

    I forsee an increase in head injuries as people wandering around aimlessly getting their rewards while watching their screens.

    • AllanG54 says:

      I agree. And who’s going to even notice displays in the store if they’re busy watching their cell phones.

  7. ellemdee says:

    Mall Shoppers: Prepare To Have Your Coupons Denied Because Cashiers Don’t Understand Technology or Aren’t Adequately Trained About The Promotion

    • Conformist138 says:


      Damn it, Bill, you put on the wrong song, change the track!

  8. MaxH42 thinks RecordStoreToughGuy got a raw deal says:

    “One step that may give privacy-conscious customers pause is that they have to give their cell-phone number to the cashier to redeem the rewards to identify their accounts.”

    Oh, HELL NO! They had me right up until then. I figured I’d only run the app at stores I liked, and would have shopped at anyway, but I don’t give stores my cell phone number.

  9. SG-Cleve says:

    If you want to give information and special offers to shoppers as they walk by your store, why not just PUT A SIGN IN THE WINDOW!

    • SerenityDan says:

      Corporate stupidity. Why spend a dollar on a sign when they can spend $100 setting this up.

      To be fair though your phone notification sound going off will get your attention more than a sign you might not see as you walk by.

    • dreamcatcher2 says:

      Presumably, this can use additional info for targeting, such as the user’s past coupon usage…

  10. OBEYshiba says:

    on a train i used to take often from Beijing to Qingdao (aka Tsingtao, hometown of the beer of same name), when we would cross into Tianjin or into Shandong province, we would get text advertising messages letting us know we were in a new city/province. that seemed OK.

    but yeah, in a mall… opt-in is very necessary or i’d be super-grumpy.

  11. howie_in_az says:

    I wrote an Android application that did vaguely similar things. Some stores flat out refused to scan the coupon barcode generated on the display, saying they needed a physical coupon because of store/company policies. Good to hear this may no longer be the case.

    Additionally, sometimes the barcodes just didn’t scan right, so one may want to prepare for lots of irked cashiers that have to key in long numbers so you can get 10% off.

  12. SerenityDan says:

    If it makes your phone listen for these noises it seems like it would drain your power quickly, I would think after an hour roaming the mall your battery would be dead.

  13. vastrightwing says:

    Another reason I love my dumb phone: no ads in my future.

  14. PsiCop says:

    Oh great. Another way to get offers to have $2 taken off of a $300 order. Remind me not to bother …

  15. domac says:

    This has been happening in Japan for years now. When the wife and I go out to eat, they’ll give us a code to punch into our phones and beam us a coupon for a certain % off of our meal. The downside is you’ve signed up to keep getting e-mails from them.

  16. XTREME TOW says:

    If you don’t have any Aluminum Foil handy to block the ‘Beams’; placing large mylar potato chip bags over your head will work too.
    Lat’s and Ruffles work best!

    I wonder if dogs will be upset by this.
    Nothing like grandma’s Rottweiller going nuts in a shopping mall to add that special something to the shopping experience.

  17. dg says:

    I’ve seen other incarnations of this craptastic idea… Except it used BlueTooth connections to beam in the junk…

    Just give me your best price all the time. If it’s good enough, I’ll buy. Forget the coupons and other crap that I have to play with…

  18. operator207 says:

    If this took off, you would get your coupons electronically, and not via dead trees. Seems we would have less waste. I know I would. I have no desire for Best Buy and Target coupons. But I get them anyway. If those 2 companies stopped sending me coupons, that would be ~10 news pages a week. Not much for one person, but multiply that by the percentage of the population that does not shop at those places, it becomes a lot more.

    Better yet, how about this. You walk into the store. There is a QR code on the door that takes you to a site with the coupons. You scan the coupons you need at check out. Maybe a general site all locations use, with login, and settings. Something that you could check off what you bought in that store, and it would generate one “bar code” for the cashier to scan. That barcode would have all the coupons you are entitled to.

    Do this, and the amount of ads in newspapers or in mail would drop immensely. You would “opt in” to getting those ads in the newspaper. There would be incentive to the ads creators to NOT send you the paper ads. It would be cheaper for you to get them electronically.