Mobile app developer Photopon is launching technology that lets merchants customize its photo-based offer system.

Photopon's technology allows consumers to use their own photos in the coupons they can share on Facebook and Twitter. For example, restaurant patrons could include a photo of their meal as part of a "$5 off" coupon they intend to share.

"There's a whole loyalty system built into the platform. The more consumers share information and the offers, the more the consumer can benefit," says Brad McEvilly, co-found and CEO of Photopon.

Photopon is unveiling the Photopon Merchant Center today. The merchant center combines several mobile marketing concepts such as geolocation, virtual coupons and the use of social networks to generate referrals. The Merchant Center's social component creates an incentive for consumers to share information about the company, McEvilly says.

After registering, merchants can use a template in Photopon's platform to build an offer. The system uses the merchant's physical address to geo-tag coupons, making them appear to users of the Photopon app when they are near the merchant's location.

After seeing an offer and taking a photo, consumers can share the offer with friends on social networks, by email or text message. Photopon lets consumers user reward points, cards and PayPal accounts to buy vouchers to present to the merchant when making a purchase.

"The center and the social tools allow the use of coupons and transactions to grow organically instead of businesses going directly to consumers with general coupons or daily deals," McEvilly says. The Merchant Center provides deeper data on payments activity and word of mouth among consumers.

The social media sites provide flexibility to the sharing of offers and coupons, McEvilly says. The more a consumer shares coupons with peers who redeem them, the greater the reward. "We're trying to bring relevance back to coupons," McEvilly says.

Merchants can also access data such as the number of coupons sent, snipped and redeemed, and can view the consumer's age, gender and location. The same information is also available for the referrals. 

For the first three months, the Merchant Center is available for free to merchants. After three months, businesses pay $0.05 per "snip" when the consumer downloads and saves a digital coupon to a virtual wallet. When the user redeems the coupon, Photopon charges the business $0.25. "Merchants only pay us when their brand is triggered or when a payment is made," McEvilly says.

The merchant center can be accessed on iOS operating systems, and an Android version will be available shortly, McEvilly says. The company did not disclose uptake numbers for the new service.

Other payment companies have used Facebook as a venue to build user adoption. SCVNGR's LevelUp attributes much of its early growth to its Facebook integration. Living Social and JPMorgan Chase used the social network to drive traffic to local stores. Cardlytics is using Facebook as a channel to deliver marketing and other merchant offers. And American Express has used Zynga's Facebook game Farmville to attract users to its Serve prepaid card.

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