St. Pete-based Valpak offering 'coupons' in some vehicles
ST. PETERSBURG - The company that sends you blue envelopes stuffed with coupons also wants you to save money while you're driving. Valpak has partnered with Roximity, a Denver-based app developer, to bring coupons and deals to drivers of newer-model Fords and Lincolns who use the voice-controlled Sync AppLink connected to their mobile phone. The app allows people to hear about personalized deals from stores, restaurants and other businesses as they drive. The "coupon" appears on the driver's smartphone and can be redeemed once the car is stopped. Valpak, based in St. Petersburg, is trying to branch out from the traditional print offers and capture the digital coupon market. There are plenty of apps that use GPS-based location services to determine a phone user's location and nearby deals - but Roximity's app taps into the vast number of deals from Valpak."This partnership took us to the next level," said Nancy Cook, the vice president of digital business development at Valpak. "We're delivering offers anywhere, any time." About one million Fords and Lincolns are set up for the new app and technology, Cook said. Here's how it works: People who drive selected vehicles with the Sync AppLink can download the Roximity app on their phone. Once in the car, they plug the phone into the USB port and launch the Roximity app. As they are driving, they can push the hands-free sync button on their steering wheel and instruct the Sync program to access Roximity. Then the driver can search for deals. On a recent day not long after the partnership was announced, Gigi Swanson, the digital alliances and partnerships strategist at Valpak, demonstrated the device on a new Ford Focus. "Find nearby deals," she said to her dashboard. "Roximity found 10 deals nearby," the computerized woman's voice replied. One of the deals was for a large pizza at a nearby restaurant. Swanson showed how to call the restaurant or read details of the offer, all without touching the phone. Had Swanson wanted to buy that pizza, she would have showed the cashier the coupon once inside the restaurant; the virtual coupon was on the Roximity app on Swanson's phone. In the coming months as the app and technology mature, Swanson said, the app and Sync devices will remember a driver's "preference-based behavior" and send alerts based on prior redemptions - similar to Amazon's or iTunes' "recommendations." Valpak already targets homeowners who receive their coupons based on ZIP code; the coupons are sent out in batches of 10,000 in the U.S. and Canada and are based on geographical locations, income levels and postal carrier routes. All of the mailed offers are printed in St. Petersburg; some 40 million coupons are printed and sent each month. Many of those offers will be featured on the Roximity app. Daniel Newman, the co-founder of Roximity, said the app won't collect sensitive data about customers. "Nothing more than just looking at what you are redeeming," he said. "The idea has always been to figure out a way to get customers really cool info and deals as they're cruising around their town."