Shopular, a mobile shopping startup coming out of Y Combinator’s Winter 2012 batch, is today formally launching its smart couponing application on both iOS and Android. Founded by two former Shopkick engineers, Shopular soft-launched its app a few weeks ago, but with today’s update, it now offers national coverage at retailers and malls across the U.S.
The new app is the brainchild of two people with technical expertise and experience in the mobile shopping space. Shopular co-founder Navneet Loiwal is the co-founder of Google Finance and previously worked as an engineer at Shopkick. Meanwhile, co-founder Tommy Tsai was the first engineer at Shopkick as well as an early engineer at Loopt, one of the first mobile social networks.
“This experience led us to realize the big, gaping hole we personally feel when we are out shopping in the real world,” says Loiwal. “The big gap here, is if you want to save money while you’re out shopping – and a lot people would love to save money – it’s a big hassle, a very painful experience, and a broken experience, in the offline world.”
The problem, he explains, is that people simply don’t have the time or energy to locate all the coupons, deals and specials that are out there for the retailers they frequent. And even when they do take the time to clip coupons, they often still forget them, leaving them behind at home.
With Shopular, the idea is fairly simple. The app itself contains the coupons, offers and circulars for your favorite stores, and it will alert you using push notifications when a deal is nearby. These geo-fenced alerts are somewhat reminiscent of Apple’s Passbook, for example, except the difference is with Passbook, users still have to be proactive about adding coupons and store cards to the app in order to trigger the alerts. Shopular, meanwhile, is more “set it and forget it.”
“The minimum you need to do is put the app on your phone, and that’s about it,” says Loiwal. “Forget about the app, and you’ll start saving money every time you go out shopping.” (Well, we would suggest launching the app at least once, however, so you can give it permission to access your location and send you push notifications. )
The app uses Facebook Connect to better understand your interests, and you can also go into Settings to indicate your favorite stores. Coupons and deals are aggregated from over 100 brand-name retailers – the typical stores you would find at any mall or outlet. Today’s launch also brings in deals from big box stores like Walmart, Target, Kohl’s, Kmart, Macy’s and others.
To source deals, the startup looks at the brands’ Facebook Pages, websites and emailed offers. That’s different from mobile couponing startup SnipSnap, for example, which relies on crowd-sourcing to build its database of coupons.
Additionally, as you use Shopular, the app will also get smarter about what alerts to show you, based on which store’s alerts you’ve clicked and used in the past.
Loiwal says that retailers have gotten better about supporting digital coupons. In the case of those deals where you have to show the coupon at the register, Shopular will offer a barcode and/or code that’s entered at point-of-sale.
The Future Is “Smart Apps”
It’s interesting that something like Shopular came from two people who used to build Shopkick, arguably one of the better-known mobile shopping apps now on the market. But Shopkick, which doles out rewards to users for walking into stores then performing various tasks like scanning barcodes, benefits stores and brands rather than users, says Loiwal. “Shopkick has done a good job at making shopping more of a game…but it’s more of a loyalty program than a way to save money.”
He says that apps that apps like his – “smart apps” – are the future. “What excites us about being a smart app is that they’re going to represent a paradigm shift in mobile. These are apps that are going to provide you value without constant interaction with them,” Loiwal says, “they’ll simply show up when they have relevant information you can use.”
After gaining traction with users, Shopular will approach retailers next year to discuss partnership which would allow them to offer narrower targeting or even personalized offers. These would be based on pre-defined rules, however, not by sharing user data back with retailers, Loiwal clarifies.
The Palo Alto-based startup is currently just the two founders, but they’re now hiring their first two engineers. The company declined to discuss funding but noted they would have more to share on that soon.
Shopular is available for iOS and Android here.