Mobile Devices Meet Bricks and Mortar

A recent WSJ report Venture Capitalist's New Frontier, Where Cellphones Meet Retailing points to Reid Hoffman, the Silicon Valley entrepreneur who put money early into hot start-ups like Facebook Inc. and online gaming company Zynga Game Network Inc., who now has his eye on the intersection of mobile phones and bricks-and-mortar retailing.

As well he should. The explosion of mobile devices, adoption of social media and new business models that blend online and bricks and mortar components around the customer will contribute to new ways to engage shoppers.While the technology is emerging in traditional retail, I fully expect it to increasingly enter the bricks and mortar fitness and wellness space soon. Members should be able to purchase and interact with facilities using mobile devices wether outside or inside of the four walls. Solutions that bridge the mobile and facility worlds will flourish.

Hoffman's latest bet as a partner at venture capital firm Greylock Partners is on Shopkick Inc., one of a number of young firms hoping to turn cellphones into tools for spurring sales. Mr. Hoffman, who joined Greylock last November, is leading its $15 million investment in the company and taking a seat on its board on behalf of his firm.

Founded in June 2009, Shopkick is building applications for the iPhone and devices powered by Google Inc. software that will offer product information or coupons when users check into a store with their cellphones.

The company plans to launch the application this summer and has signed up a number of partners, including Best Buy Co., Macy's Inc. and Procter & Gamb le Co. Sonny Jandial, brand manager with P&G, said the company is trying to learn how to take advantage of consumers' obsession with their cellphones.

The enhancement "of the retail experience through your mobile phone is guaranteed to be part of the future," Mr. Hoffman said. Watch the interview with ShopKick's CEO.