British Columbia

B.C. app developers using bitcoin tech to create local rewards program

A pair of Prince George app developers has set their sights on getting more people to shop locally by developing a new app that helps surface home-grown businesses and events.

The Local Shift is a business directory, event guide and loyalty program

Bart Wagner (left) and Cheryl Turcotte developed The Local Shift out of a co-working space in downtown Prince George. (Jordan Tucker/CBC)

A pair of Prince George, B.C., app developers who work with forestry, mining and oil and gas companies have set their sights on retail by developing a "community concierge" app that encourages people to find and support local businesses — and they're turning to the tech that powers bitcoin for their next phase of development.

Currently, The Local Shift acts as a directory for locally-owned businesses in Prince George and the surrounding region. Users log in and can search for specific needs from locally-grown food to artisans. There are also sections for events, fundraisers and garage sales.

"Basically anything community-based can go into that app," explained Cheryl Turcotte who, along with Bart Wagner, runs Business 2 Mobile Communications out of downtown Prince George.

The app created by Bart Wagner and Cheryl Turcotte is available in the Google and Apple app stores, but is still in the development phase. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

The app has been live for a few months now, but is still in the development phase. The next step is a loyalty program that rewards people for shopping locally by giving them points that can be cashed in at other participating businesses.

The rewards will be based on blockchain, the same technology used to power bitcoin, essentially creating a localized currency within the app.

"The idea is that you could collect points in a coffee shop that is local and then spend them in a local hardware store," Wagner said.

As entrepreneurs who develop custom apps for government and industry, Turcotte and Wagner understand the difficulty of being discovered by customers. They hope the app will make it easier for businesses to connect with clients or shoppers, especially those who are inclined to choose a local option.

Wagner and Turcotte are currently signing businesses up for the rewards program, with plans to launch in early 2018. (The Local Shift)

"Some people, us included, they like to support local companies," said Wagner.

"We're just trying to match together companies that want to sell local and people that want to buy local."

Turcotte compared the app to traditional coupon books that spur people to try out a variety of businesses.

"Just giving them the incentive to come down is what we're trying to do," she said. "If we just shift our spending to local by five per cent, it will shift the economy." 

With files from Jordan Tucker