Sunoco, Phillips 66, Marathon Testing 'Drive-By Couponing'

Stations "ping" nearby mobile phones with offers using iSign technology

NEW YORK -- To reach new customers, gas stations, other retailers and restaurants are experimenting with a new technology that tracks consumers through their mobile devices and aims discounts and offers to their phones, according to AdAge.

Sunoco, Phillips 66 and Marathon stations in Indiana, Michigan and Ohio and a handful of shopping centers in Florida are among early testers of the iSign mobile technology, said the report, which lets retailers and restaurant operators measure the number of people who pass by their establishments and track responses to targeted discounts sent to mobile phones.

The technology uses antennas installed in business locations that detect WiFi or Bluetooth signals from mobile devices up to 300 feet away. The system currently detects around 1.5 million phones each month, Alex Romanov, founder and CEO of iSign Media Corp., told the publication.

"It's continually searching for mobile devices to advertise to," Ron Leman, president and CEO of Graphic Media, which has exclusive rights to market the iSign technology in Indiana and Ohio, told AdAge. "We can tell you by the hour how many devices are in range of the antenna."

The technology is currently in approximately 200 Sunoco, Phillips66, Clark and Marathon stations, the report said. Graphic Media and iSign previously conducted tests in 15 stations, sending people offers for 10 cents off per gallon of gasoline if they paid inside adjacent convenience stores. The idea was to capture more cash from them than they would have spent if they paid at the pump.

"Their challenge is this they have a lot of patrons that come, fuel up, pay with their credit card and leave, and never come in the store," said Leman.

Richmond Hill, Ontario-based iSIGN Media Corp. offers multiplatform location-based messaging solutions that use Bluetooth, mobile, WiFi and location-aware technologies to deliver permission-based consumer messaging in a way to engage shoppers at the point of sale. The resulting business intelligence and real-time analytics, gathered through iSIGN's patent-pending consumer awareness platform, deliver insights into emerging behaviors and profiles that help businesses measure their marketing and advertising efforts and make better informed decisions to increase sales, customer loyalty and ROI, it said.

Click here to read the full AdAge report.