Starbucks Taps China's Foursquare for Huge Holiday Check-in Campaign

Chinese Location-Service Jiepang Simplifies Process With Just a Swipe of the Phone

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While Foursquare slowly experiments with near-field communication technologies here in the U.S., one of its Chinese lookalikes is rolling out a massive NFC-powered campaign in Eastern China.

NFC-powered check-ins from Jiepang
NFC-powered check-ins from Jiepang

Jiepang, one of several Chinese location-based apps looking to move ahead of a pack of competitors there, is partnering with Starbucks on a giant holiday promotion utilizing near-field communication, or NFC, technologies.

Starting tomorrow, Jiepang users who visit one of more than 200 Starbucks locations in Shanghai and other eastern China cities can check in by waving their NFC-enabled phones over a postcard waiting for them inside the stores. (They can also check in manually within the app.) If 20,000 users check in to these Starbucks locations by Dec. 17, those users can get a free size upgrade on a Starbucks drink during the following week.

Much of the promise seen in NFC technologies has to do with the potential for mobile payments. But the technology can also be used to make checking in to location-based services easier and cut down on so-called check-in fraud. The Jiepang-Starbucks partnership marks the most significant, branded NFC campaign for Jiepang in its young life, and signals the future path the startup hopes to take.

"In the long term, swiping your phone across a sticker is something that 's going to really be more mainstream in China than someone willing to open an app and spend 20 seconds to go through a bunch of steps to check in," said David Liu, Jiepang's 25-year-old Chinese-American founder and CEO. "This was an opportunity to be among the first to bring [NFC check-ins] to consumers on a social scale."

The Starbucks stores taking part in the promotion are owned by Shanghai President Starbucks Coffee, a joint venture between Starbucks and Taiwan's President Enterprises Corp, Mr. Liu said.

Mr. Liu said Jiepang has nearly 1.5 million users and has partnered with more than 300 brands in China, including Nike , McDonald's and Louis Vuitton, since its launch in May 2010. Helping adoption is the fact that the company's app is preloaded on a variety of new phones in China, including select HTC, Sony Ericsson and Nokia models.

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