NU students create app for Evanston deals

Jia You

With a tap on their smart phones, Northwestern students will now be able to redeem coupons when they shop in downtown Evanston.

A team of six Kellogg and McCormick students recently developed a mobile application for iPhones and Android phones for a class project in collaboration with Downtown Evanston, a non-profit group promoting local businesses. The free application, named Sweetperk, will be available for download today if it passes Apple’s check system, said McCormick graduate student Phil Dziedzic, a team member.

“These are great offers that not a lot of people know about,” Dziedzic said. “What this application does is getting people to go downtown Evanston.”

Sweetperk lists offers from downtown Evanston merchants participating in “Passport to Downtown Evanston,” a coupon booklet developed by Downtown Evanston last December to promote local businesses. Users can locate these businesses through a mapping system and redeem coupons at the shops by simply pressing a button. The app targets primarily Northwestern students, but the team hopes it will also motivate more Evanston residents to shop downtown, Dziedzic said.

Medill freshman Deontae Moore said he is looking forward to trying out the app.

“We’re in an economy where saving is kind of critical,” Moore said. “This is something we need right now … I’m excited to download it tomorrow.”

The development of Sweetperk is a remarkable example of collaboration between NU students and the Evanston community, said Lucile Krasnow, the University’s special assistant for community relations.

“This is a tremendous win-win all around,” she said. “It’s an amazing partnership that will hopefully bring success to the students, more businesses to downtown Evanston, and solidify some wonderful town-gown efforts.”

Laura Folkl, marketing and communications manager for Downtown Evanston, called the app “a great extension to our passport program” that will hopefully attract more customers to shop in Evanston. People without a smartphone will still be able to participate in the program with the hardcopy booklet, which comes with the purchase of gift cards, she said.

The Sweetperk team will continue to develop the application during the summer, including enabling merchants to automatically upgrade their offers on the app, Dziedzic said. It will also try to pitch the app to shopping malls in Evanston.

Their app might soon have a competitor, though. The University Service is working with NUIT to develop a new component to the Northwestern University mobile application. The project will allow students to search local businesses participating in the Wildcard Advantage program on their phones in a Yelp fashion, said Jessica Jacobs, marketing and communications manager at University Services.

However, Dziedzic said he is not worried about potential competition.

“That might be an opportunity to cooperate,” he said.

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