Citigroup Inc. is getting into the mobile shopping game with an application that combines card-specific offers with location-based details.
Citi planned to send an e-mail on Tuesday to about 1.5 million of its debit and credit-card holders with a link to a beta version of the Citi Shopper app, which is available for download on Apple Inc. iPhones, Research In Motion Ltd. BlackBerrys, phones that use Google Inc.'s Android operating system and other Web-enabled handsets, said Kurt Weiss, a senior vice president with Citi Cards.
The tool differs from other mobile shopping apps because it unites "location-based offers, pricing information, deals as well as card offers and benefits" and presents them to "consumers in one experience," Weiss said.
Citi on June 3 did a "soft launch" of the app for the iPhone. Non-Citi customers can use the app to search for products and deals in their area but cannot receive card-specific offers.
GPShopper LLC, a New York mobile software developer, is using its merchandise search engine Slifter to power some of Citi Shopper's features. Slifter can search for roughly 2 million products in about 300,000 U.S. locations, said Alex Muller, GPShopper's chief executive.
Because it is available for the predominant smart phone operating systems and basic-feature phones with a Web browser, the app allows Citi to reach a wider audience than with apps that are specific to a particular type of handset, Muller said.
When building a mobile app, "you have to consider an Apple deployment but the majority of folks don't have an iPhone," said Neil Strother, the practice director for mobile marketing strategies at ABI Research. "If you want to target a good audience, you need to reach people on the devices that they have."
Citi customers who install the app can select their card and view offers that are specific to that card, such as the ability to earn extra points for purchases made at a specific retailer or a percentage off a purchase on a product brand. Users can use the search functionality to find where those products are sold nearby.
"These are very much reinforcements of the overall cards' … value proposition to consumers," Weiss said. "They can have those offers, those reward reminders, kind of with them on the go. [The app] is simply making those offers more accessible during consumers' actual shopping experience."
Citi Shopper users can also store and share offers with others via e-mails and text messages, Muller said.
GPShopper also is working with Citi to roll out a locator app for the iPhone to find merchants that have readers that accept MasterCard PayPass stickers, which can read other card brands' contactless cards. The stickers, which are available for most Citi credit cards, can be affixed to the back of a user's mobile phone and serve as a contactless card.
Citi cardholders can obtain the stickers now, Weiss said. The locator app will be available this summer.
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