Retailers Reach Out on Cellphones

Thanks to Internet-equipped smartphones, shoppers are increasingly using software applications to check prices at other stores without leaving the mall. Now retailers are trying to use technology to fight back.

A start-up called Shopkick Inc., for example, has signed up Best Buy Co. (BBY) and Macy’s Inc. (M) as launch partners for a new kind of app for iPhone and Android handsets that detects when shoppers are in or near stores and offers rewards targeted to them. Shopkick exploits the phones’ location-sensing abilities–and cameras that customers can use to scan bar codes on items–to offer product information, coupons or other marketing offers when shoppers are in a convenient position to buy.

In a retail world that is typically divided between the “bricks” of physical stores and the “clicks” of online customers, Shopkick “is like bricks on steroids,” says Martine Reardon, Macy’s executive vice president of marketing and advertising. The app, she says, will help the department store find new ways to communicate with consumers while they are inside Macy’s and when they are nearby and might be lured into the store with just the right offer.

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