Apple iPhone app shopkick bridges online, retail shopping

Best Buy shopkick - Apple iPhone app
Best Buy shopkick - Apple iPhone app

A lot of the location-based innovation we’re seeing is locked into the Foursquare model of having to “check-in” to locations. This is supposed to to eventually be a boon for retailers because they will be able to target these frequent customers for discounts and services.

The mobile app shopkick is tweaking that model a bit by rewarding users for just walking into the store. This is supposed to provide a win-win for consumers and retailers because it drives more foot traffic and enables consumers to get rewards for visiting stores.

Unlike Gowalla or Foursquare, the shopkick Apple iPhone app uses additional hardware to ensure that customers are in the store. There are multiple “beacons” in the store which broadcast a digital signal which is picked up by the phone’s mic, which should provide better location-based information that just GPS or WiFi triangulation.

This also could represent a challenge though, as it will cost retailers cash to install these beacons. The service will work without the beacons with a traditional “check-in” model, but it won’t be as effective, I believe.

With a beacon-equipped store and the app launched, merely walking into the establishment gives you “kickbucks,” a virtual currency which can be applied to digital music, in-store discounts and more. The app also enables you to scan in-store products for more information and additional “kickbucks.”

We checked out the shopkick Apple iPhone app at a Best Buy in San Francisco and it worked as it was supposed to. This store has even integrated the service into its point-of-sales machines, which offers the ability to tailor discounts and promotions to customers based on their interests and app history.

The impressive thing about shopkick is its business model, as the company is taking a very web-centric approach to brick-and-mortar marketing. It only charges companies on a cost-per-“click” (users walking in and receiving “kickbucks) or a cost-per-transaction.

The mobile shopping market is definitely going to be a lucrative one but I like the way shopkick is bridging the physical and online worlds through the smartphone. Is it enough to get me away from the stellar Amazon apps? Those in-store rewards would have to be very good because I have a Prime account and stores like Best Buy love to mark things up to ridiculous levels (go to a Best Buy, use the Amazon app to scan an HDMI cable and then weep, friends).

The shopkick Apple iPhone app will be available over the next few weeks and I’d imagine that versions will soon pop up on Android, BlackBerry and other major platforms. Shopkick is facing a few hurdles but it’s an interesting idea that will be fun to watch.

Check out the demo video below for a taste of what the shopkick app is trying to do and we’ll have our hands-on demonstration up shortly.

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