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Timberland, Kenneth Cole, Alex and Ani dole out targeted, in-store mobile offers

The brands are the first retailers to partner with the Swirl mobile app to bring offers and deals into bricks-and-mortar stores in Boston and New York. The entire list of retailers included in the pilot are Timberland, Alex and Ani, Kenneth Cole, Exhale Spa, Scott James and The Blue Jean Bar.

“The Swirl marketing platform allows us to connect directly with our customers in a way that is exciting and engaging,” said Ryan Bonifacino, vice president of digital strategy at Alex and Ani, Cranston, RI.

“Our customers are tech-savvy and they love their smartphones,” he said. “This new set of capabilities allow us to interact with them in real-time and with incredibly relevant content and offers while they shop.”

How it works
Swirl aggregates deals from more than 200 brands and is available for iPhone devices.

Thirteen retail locations in Boston and New York are participating in the mobile pilot and have rolled out Bluetooth-based sensors into some of their bricks-and-mortar stores.

For example, Exhale Spa has 20 locations in the United States. Two locations in New York and one in Boston is participating in the pilot.

The sensor broadcasts a short-range signal and detects when a consumer with the Swirl app crosses into the area. This triggers the app to push out an alert to consumers with an in-store offer.

The signals can be set in range from two feet to 600 feet, depending on how granular a retailer wants to get with targeting.

For example, Timberland’s Soho location in New York is one of the participating locations.

Currently, the store is offering a 20 percent discount on a purchase of more than $15o for consumers who unlock in-store content via the app.

“We were really interested in the technology, and thought it was a great way to bring our in-store experience online,” said Kim Kiernan, public relations manager at Exhale Spa, New York.

“We think it’s a great opportunity to give out guests what they want,” she said.

Alex and Ani on the other hand is pushing out a time-sensitive discount for  20 percent off of a bangle bracelet.

When consumers open the app, they can view details about the offer as well as a code that can be entered in by a store employee. The code integrates directly into a point-of-sale system, and the offer is automatically applied to a transaction.

In-store signage is being used to educate consumers on how to receive offers.

Additionally, outreach to existing consumers with Swirl app is also being used via email and in-app messages.

“What the Swirl app does for brands is bring new shoppers in-store to access exclusive content,” said Rob Murphy, vice president of marketing at Swirl, Boston.

“This is about making the consumer experience richer and easier,” he said. “In the past, I had to remember what I was looking for, and this is really about delivering those things to the person when they are most likely to need them, which is in the store.”

In-store mode
Some of Swirl’s competitors include shopkick and foursquare, which both alert consumers of nearby stores whether it is through a check-in or detecting that a consumer is in a store.

However, many of these apps are not as seamless as they should be for consumers.

“If you think about check-ins, it requires the user to do some work by letting the app know that you are there, but with Bluetooth, the app automatically knows that you are in the store,” Mr. Murphy said.

“From a retailer perspective, it allows them to deliver more relevant content and offers,” he said.

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York