Kiip, a reward service for mobile apps, has kicked off its first entry into Japan, partnering with local loyalty program Ponta for its first campaign.

Ponta is a useful partner to have in Japan, as it already has a relationship with 20,000 retailers across the country. Kiip’s reward offers 5,000 Ponta points as users level up in a game.

CEO Brian Wong said the expansion happened faster than originally expected. The company had planned on launching its first campaigns in Japan early this year, but the local advertising community took to it fast enough that Kiip was able to get the Ponta partnership off the ground last month.

kiip ponta 2 220x330 Kiip mobile rewards platform arrives in Japan with campaign for Ponta loyalty programThe Japanese market should be ripe for Kiip’s mobile rewards program. Wong says that real-world customer response has remained at the “extremely high” levels that Kiip achieved with its test campaigns. Kiip announced last September that it was prepping an entry into Japan with the help of Digital Garage and had already begun testing its platform in the country.

Wong went on to note that Kiip has noticed differences in the ways international markets have responded to the startup’s product, though he was quick to point out that the data is not yet conclusive. Wong speculated that Japanese users have already become accustomed to consuming media on their phones.

The UK, where Kiip arrived last August, has also shown a slightly higher reward redemption rate than the US.

As Kiip continues to expand globally, it’ll have a new partner by its side. Last week, the company announced advertising conglomerate Interpublic Group (IPG) as an investor and partner. IPG’s Media Lab will help introduce brands to Kiip’s product.

At the time, Wong said that expected the new partnership to bring “accelerated global growth with top-tier marketers who are looking to engage with mobile consumers.”

Kiip rolled out version 2 of its service last November, expanding beyond games and implementing a new design. It completed an $11 million round of funding at the end of last year with the help of IPG, Relay Ventures, Hummer Winblad, True Ventures and Digital Garage.

As one of advertising’s “Big 4″, IPG is a crucial ally for the startup. Wong told TNW that he wanted to work with a top agency because he feels that the advertising world and startups don’t always understand each other.

The founder noted that advertising detracts from the user experience, but Kiip’s program is meant to augment it. In fact, he shies away from referring to the company’s program as advertising because of its negative connotations.

“[Kiip is] a way for brands to connect with consumers in a new way. It’s not a placement of an image, it’s using something that you can act on. You can act on it, redeem it, claim it. It’s a social object, not only social but valuable,” he said.

To drive his point home, Wong highlighted three key points about the way Kiip works. First, it’s meant to respect the user’s original intent (“preserving the intrinsic motivation” in his words). Rewards are not meant to alter consumer’s actions, but rather come serendipitously.

Second, Kiip is meant to be instant and simple. By reducing the number of hoops that users have to go through to redeem the reward, the company aims to improve conversion rates.

Finally, the startup encourages app developers to place the reward at meaningful moments. Instead of serving up advertising to passive user, Kiip designs its rewards to come at positive times when users have accomplished something, such as completing a task list or finishing a game level.

With better-than-expected results already arriving in Japan, Kiip seems off to a rewarding start in the country. Now to see if it can keep it up in the long-term.

Image credit: iStockphoto