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coupon-visibleFor years, savvy shoppers have turned to the newspaper to find the best deals at the local grocery store. But new technologies are taking a bite out of the printed coupons, and a Kirkland company by the name of Visible Brands wants to accelerate that trend.

The company is developing a new digital coupon system, one which it says will transform the way people find discounted items in the grocery aisles. To help jumpstart efforts, it recently closed out a funding round at $4.6 million.

“We are delivering the first cloud based media platform that delivers a seamless, targeted in-store digital promotions capability for advertisers,” explains CEO Tim Morton, adding that the technology “crushes how brands traditionally influence shoppers at the shelf.”

Here’s the deal.

Instead of clipping printed coupons or downloading a mobile app, Visible Brands displays discounts on a touch-screen device right in the grocery aisle. To activate a coupon, the shopper simply touches the screen, and the digital coupon is wirelessly connected to a cart or basket. The discount is then applied at checkout, showing up on the receipt.

digitalscreen111Visible Brands notes that 70 percent of purchasing decisions are made in the grocery aisle, not while in the car, watching TV or reading a magazine. Connecting with shoppers at the time of purchase is critical, says Morton. The technology also allows retailers to send customized offers to high-value shoppers, using predictive analytics to determine discounts that might be worth displaying. That, in turn, can result in bigger shopping trips and more profits for grocery stores.

With the new funds, Morton said that they are pushing for a commercial launch with several “tier 1” regional and national supermarket chains. The capital was provided by undisclosed angel investors, with Morton only describing them as a “savvy group of investors who understand the scope of our market opportunity.” Executives from Microsoft, VISA, AOL and Vulcan Capital are among the backers, while strategic advisors include former First Data senior vice president Doug Byerley and former aQuantive executive Bill Keadle.

Visible Brands also has been working closely with technology partners Microsoft and HP on the offering. In a recent interview with the Windows Azure team, Morton offered a more detailed explanation of how the technology works.

“We use collaborative filtering and location-aware wireless networks to deliver the most relevant coupons to shoppers based on real-time analytics. We can optimize against a store’s demand ratios; that is, people who like this might like that, too. We also know, for example, where shoppers are dwelling in the store and whether they are on a quick trip or a stock-up. With these (consumer packaged goods-focused, data-driven insights, we can optimize campaigns to deliver the right offer at the right time to the right shopper. Advertisers get the opportunity to deliver the last impression to shoppers who vote with their feet.”

Morton added in an email to GeekWire that the Visible Brands technology allows big consumer goods brands — who spend $300 billion in the U.S. on retail promotions — to start a dialog with consumers online or mobile and “finish the conversation shoppers in the store … right at the shelf.”

Here’s a video overview of how the system works.

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