In just over three months since its May 26 launch, the SweetPerk mobile phone application, , has been downloaded a total of 1,433 times, providing a new form of exposure for Evanston’s downtown businesses.
The free application, available for download on iPhone and Android operating systems, is a digital version of the "" coupon booklet launched last December by nonprofit merchant marketing association Downtown Evanston, and provides users with access to a series of unique discounts and deals to participating businesses.
But in addition to providing deals, the program acts as a directory for those who have it, guiding customers to unfamiliar shops and leading them to eateries they have never before tried. Some local business owners and employees say the ‘category’ search feature, which allows users to browse the downtown area by establishment type, has brought in new patrons.
Roma Nazarians, co-owner of frozen yogurt shop , said that in the past few months, many customers have told him that they found his store through SweetPerk. Offering a buy one get one free deal on frozen yogurt, 38 Degrees has been the most popular deal since the launch, with 97 redemptions.
“It certainly does help with sales,” Nazarians said. “Two to five people [use the app here] every day. Some are return customers, but some are new customers. It’s about fifty-fifty.”
Jesus Perez, assistant manager at Neu Uber Bruger, said that several students have said they found out about the specialty burger joint through the mobile application.
“The people who downloaded the app, they saw us on the list of the restaurants and then they came in,” Perez said. “They had never heard of us before and they came in and tried us. We’ve had a bunch of customers like that.”
In the near future, SweetPerk aims to help business owners even more, providing them with data measuring the effectiveness of the deals they are providing.
But SweetPerk’s success has been modest so far. Currently, there have been a total of only 395 SweetPerk redemptions, meaning that even if each redemption were made by a different user, only slightly more than a quarter of the people who downloaded the program have used it.
SweetPerk representative Kalan Kircher said that though use of the application has been steadily growing over the summer, the brand will get a glimpse of its full potential once the majority of the Northwestern University student body returns to Evanston for fall semester in mid to late September. Kircher said SweetPerk is planning an event that will corresponded with Big Bite Night, the annual day that finds Evanston’s downtown eateries handing out free samples to Northwestern students.
Additionally, SweetPerk is looking to expand beyond Downtown Evanston.
The company has begun seeking out chambers of commerce and business districts that might be interested in a localized version of the mobile application. In the future, SweetPerk will charge local businesses to be featured on new versions of their applications, Kircher said, but Downtown Evanston businesses will remain on the current program free of charge.
New changes to the application may be on horizon, as well.
In the near future businesses might be able to change their deals near instantaneously, instead of changing them through SweetPerk representatives under the current system, potentially making for some interesting one day deals. Kircher also said SweetPerk will soon integrate Facebook connectivity into the product, potentially allowing application users to share information in their online profiles.
As part of the NUVention course from which the application emerged, the students who created the program have full ownership of the company. However, as many of the original creators are still undergraduate and graduate students at Northwestern University, SweetPerk currently has only two fulltime employees.
The Evanston businesses most frequented by SweetPerk users are 38 degrees (97 redemptions for a buy one get one free frozen yogurt), (52 redemptions for a free drink with a sandwich purchase), Subway & TCBY (21 redemptions for a free sub with the purchase of a sub and a drink) and (18 redemptions for six free wings when purchasing 12).