Tech Watch: Shopkick

Category:  Tech Watch
Friday, June 22nd, 2012 at 11:55 AM
Tech Watch: Shopkick by Michael Haas

Wouldn’t you like to get rewarded just for walking into a store? That is exactly what the popular app, Shopkick, is doing. After downloading the app, you can visit a plethora of stores and receive points, or ‘Kicks’, as the creators call them. The kicks you earn can go towards anything from gift cards to charitable donations. The developers of Shopkick are teaming up with not only nation-wide chain companies, but also small businesses, to make your shopping experience ‘more delightful and guilt-free’. Shopkick is not only benefitting customers, it’s helping businesses form a win-win situation by getting people into their stores and purchasing their products.

Cyriac Roeding, Jeff Sellinger, and Aaron Emigh founded Shopkick in 2009 in Palo Alto, California with the idea of eliminating plastic reward cards, and offering rewards for simply being in a store. The app officially launched in August 2010 and now claims over 3 million members using either Android or iPhone operating systems.

The people at Shopkick want to reward shoppers who actually visit the store. To begin receiving the shopping rewards, those members simply open the app on their mobile device and see which stores are offering kicks or deals in close proximity to their current location. Shoppers then travel to a business that is associated with Shopkick and their journey to earning rewards begins.

I decided to try out the app myself, and my reward journey began immediately.When I opened my Shopkick app, it indicated that Wal-Mart, Best Buy, and a slew of other businesses were nearby. I was able to earn Kicks in four different ways. The first way was by simply walking into the store and pausing in the entrance. The stores are equipped with special sensors that pick up on a phone’s GPS signal. That ‘check in’ feel that’s  similar to Foursquare allows Shopkick to know that you entered the store. The second way is by scanning a product’s barcode. I tapped on Wal-mart’s icon on the Shopkick app, and it revealed a series of specific products. I scanned the product barcode in the store and earned a designated amount of Kicks.

I was determined to get 100 Kicks from scanning a Covergirl tube of lipstick. When I tried scanning different tubes of lipstick that resembled the one in the picture, I received an error message. In order for the app to work properly, you must scan the exact product in the picture, After scanning eight different tubes of lipstick, I decided to move to a different product. I was finally successful after scanning a protein drink and earned 10 Kicks! Even if numerous people stared at me in the process, it was exciting because I knew those points would add up to bigger rewards.

The third way I received Kicks was by inviting a few friends to upload the Shopkick app. A few of my friends thought the app was a cool idea since they are thrifty shoppers, and they started using the app immediately. We discovered a fourth and final way to get Kicks – search through the actual app, look through all of the individual companies’ profiles and find green instant surprise buttons sponsored by the company or Citi. Although they’re usually only worth one Kick, there are sometimes multiple surprises when you search through each company.

The Kicks I received could go towards anything from a Best Buy gift card, which is 500 Kicks, to a Princess Cruises trip, which is over 6 million Kicks. Other rewards include restaurant vouchers, purses, and movie tickets. Out of my 54 accumulated Kicks, I chose to donate 18 Kicks to “Help Kids Play Sports,” and there were many other options ranging in Kicks. The ability to help others made me more willing to use the app, and it’s likely to make others do the same.

A recent study conducted by Atomic PR determined that Shopkick was the driving factor for over $110 million worth of in-store revenue in its first year functioning. Essentially, Shopkick is bringing business to businesses with its reward program. Large companies, such as American Eagle Outfitters, Best Buy, and Giant Eagle, are not the only companies using Shopkick.

Shopkick encourages local, smaller businesses like coffee and yogurt shops to become a part of the app. Citi, a company that issues credit cards, as well as multiple investors, support the program. Citi’s main goal is to help local businesses register with Shopkick. They’re focused on helping smaller businesses succeed.  

A local bakery, Ye Ole Sweet Shoppe, on State Street would be interested in registering with the Shopkick app. Owner Lea Yadeski thinks her customers would love using the app at their store, and she also thinks it’d be beneficial to their company. “I could see it going a couple different ways. I could see people scanning and buying things – or they might just scan and leave. It’s good if it just gets them in the door because sometimes that’s the hardest part.”

Another local store, Erie Sport Store, would be willing to register with the app, after learning all of its details. “We believe a small percentage of our customers would benefit from this program, however, with any program that involves one’s time people tend to shy away from.  If we do register with Shopkick hopefully we would see an increase in traffic.”

That increase in traffic is exactly what developers and investors in Shopkick are hoping for. They are concerned about helping national and local businesses while rewarding customers. Everyone wins with increased profits and rewards, one Kick at a time.


-Leah Semroc



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