McCormick class launches shopping app
    Students designed an app to bring their peers to the Evanston community. Screenshot courtesy of Phil Dziedzic.

    Shoppers in downtown Evanston will be able to access digital coupons with the tap of a touchscreen, thanks to a new iPhone and Android application to be released tomorrow by students in the NUVention: Web class.

    The cross-disciplinary McCormick course, offered to upperclassmen and graduate students, lasts two quarters, during which members must design, prototype, market, and launch a web software product and business.

    This year’s six-person team began brainstorming and researching market needs during winter quarter, McCormick graduate student Phil Dziedzic said. The group, naming itself SweetPerk, decided to develop a phone application that would bridge the gap between businesses and shoppers within a specific shopping district.

    With the free application, users will be able to browse stores by name or category, view promotions and locate each business with the included phone number and map. Participating stores log in to SweetPerk’s website to update the sales or coupons.

    Users can redeem a promotion at each retailer by scanning the store-specific QR code with their phone cameras.

    “The idea is to encourage and force people to actually go into the stores,” Dziedzic said.

    The app will enable Evanston businesses to easily communicate with students, said Amanda Mahoney, the director of Salon Lotus, one of the stores in the app’s directory.

    “Sometimes it’s hard to reach out to you guys without being too pushy,” Mahoney said. “I think we’ll see a nice trickle effect after the launch – when students need a haircut, they will know to come here and take advantage of one of our ongoing deals.”

    The application will initially function for the downtown Evanston area. Once the team receives user feedback and further develops the application this summer, they will expand to other defined shopping districts and malls like Old Orchard and may begin to charge businesses for the service.

    “[The app] can conceivably be used in any shopping area,” Dziedzic said. “We’re starting with Evanston to prove the model works and then we’ll go from there.”

    SweetPerk received warm encouragement from Evanston residents and business owners when they presented their app idea at a meeting last Thursday, Dziedzic said.

    “They were really excited by it,” he said, “and we’re really excited that they’re excited. It’s good to see that people are actually interested in what we’ve been working on.”

    Peggy Sebert, owner and founder of Becky & Me Toys, said Thursday’s presentation sparked her interest. She contacted SweetPerk afterward to add her store to the directory.

    “We’ve been trying to attract college age students on our own and haven’t been successful so far,” Sebert said. “This app is different and we hope it will help make students more aware that we are here and have games, novelty items and other products that suit their age group.”

    Editor’s note: The first link has been fixed. It no longer leads to a four-year-old article about King Tut.


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