New York-based startup Notify Nearby has introduced a mobile app that targets shoppers with relevant deals while they shop.

The free app shares coupons, news and other promotions from a range of brands, and uses beacon technology to target customers during the purchasing process. It is available on iOS devices today and delivers messages from specific brands or within categories chosen by the customer. Shoppers can receive notifications when they are in or near a participating retailer or access a live feed of updates within the app at any time.

By providing beacons to participating retailers, Notify Nearby targets customers for whom the messages are most relevant. Online retailers can also create and submit news or promotions, accessible within the user’s feed. Notify Nearby does not send push notifications unless a shopper is within close range of a participating store.

The service pulls together a number of current themes in the industry with an eye toward merging digital capabilities with the physical shopping experience, including digital apps to supplement the shopping trip, and beacons to detect and personalize messages to customers. For the past couple years, digital coupons have shown to be more influential in completing a sale.

According to a 2014 study from Forrester Consulting and coupon service RetailMeNot Inc. shared with WWD, nearly 80 percent of those surveyed said that digital coupons “closed the deal” when they were undecided about a purchase. It also found that nearly one-third of coupons found on smartphones or tablets are redeemed immediately, and that 47 percent of respondents were open to trying a new brand after receiving a digital coupon on a smartphone.

“Notify Nearby provides shoppers with real-time notifications about opportunities available at a time when they find them most relevant,” said cofounder and chief executive officer Nevin Jethmalani. “Not only will customers love being the first to know about important in-store offers, but brands will love being able to target customers at the time when they’re most receptive to their news.”

While similar apps exist, like deal-aggregator Shopular; ShopKick, which rewards users for walking into a store and was recently acquired by SK Planet; or Spring, which is sometimes called a “shoppable Instagram,” Jethmalani said that the difference is the use of beacons and expanded content beyond simply coupons. “Any retailer of any size can push content through the app,” he said, with the goal of the service being able to provide the same functionality of a retailer’s native app.

Retailers participate with a monthly subscription price and update their brand’s content using Notify Nearby’s CMS system. The app provides beacons or works with the retailer’s existing network. Early participants, include DKNY, American Apparel, Lesportsac, J. Lindberg and Reiss.

Aggregating deals into one app makes sense for both customers and retailers, as asking loyalists to download individual brand apps (or open multiple promotional emails) is a lofty proposition in the competitive world of smartphone real estate. Thus, mobile apps have gone the way of the high-rise in that they have taken to combining multiple brands into one service.

Wells Fargo analyst Matt Nemer said that vying for time and space on someone’s device can be difficult for retailers.

Nemer said that larger organizations and big-box retailers like Wal-Mart, Target or Costco will generally win with apps because of their broad assortment of products. This includes Amazon.com, as well as marketplaces eBay and Etsy. Target and Wal-Mart have recently introduced updated proprietary apps, with functions that include scanning bar codes for pricing and customer reviews and purchases using a mobile payment system.

For now, Jethmalani said, Notify Nearby does not offer purchasing directly with the app. And, although the technology exists, customer familiarity with beacon technology remains minimal. According to a recent study from First Insight, 70 percent of customers didn’t know what a beacon was, and 27 percent reported having never interacted with one.

However, First Insight’s Jim Shea said that beacons appear to be here to stay. “The retailers are making huge investments in beacon technology,” Shea said.

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