Editor’s Note: This piece is part of a weekly series in which MainStreet spotlights one new smartphone app to help readers manage their money, shop better or improve their job search. Check back each week to find out how to make your smartphone even smarter!
NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Wifarer is about to make shopping in a mall a little more like shopping online.
The primary function of the app, which is available for free on the iPhone and Android phones, is to provide detailed directions within shopping centers so you don’t have to search frantically for those elusive mall directories. Unlike most apps that offer directions, Wifarer’s location feature isn’t based on the phone’s GPS data. Instead, the app uses Wi-Fi network data from within the mall to pinpoint the user’s location and the location of each of the stores.
If this were all the app did, though, we wouldn’t be writing about it. Google and Bing already offer indoor mapping features for shopping malls as well as airports and other venues (although the design of Wifarer’s maps is a bit flashier). What really sets the Wifarer app apart is the way it incorporates promotions into these maps.
Individual retailers can use Wifarer to advertise coupons and advertisements to shoppers who are nearby. So, for example, if you happen to be approaching an Old Navy that has a special promotion, the Wifarer map might display a small red dot on the map in front of the store to notify you about a content announcement. If you tap on that dot, it will bring up a menu of coupons and advertisements for any nearby stores, including the Old Navy.
Wifarer gives a whole new meaning to the idea of window shopping – you don’t even have to step into the store to find out the big promotions. At its best, this could make it easier to comparison shop and hunt for deals in your local shopping mall, though of course it could also just lead to more impulse shopping if you’re not careful.
For the time being, this app only works in a very limited number of locations, but if the company can continue to boost its partnerships with shopping centers, this app could have a significant impact on the way consumers shop at malls.
Seth Fiegerman is a staff reporter for MainStreet. You can reach him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter @sfiegerman.