If, as Woody Allen once said, ninety percent of life is just showing up, why is physical presence such an unrewarding retail experience for consumers? This was the question asked by Aaron Emigh, CTO of Shopkick, at the company’s launch today at the Best Buy store in San Francisco.
Think about it: you probably have a pile of catalogs and circulars in your mailbox, an email box full of store offers, coupons in your wallet and online. When you shop online, the site knows your general location, what you’ve done before, and customizes offers for you. Yet when you walk into a store, you are invisible until you’re at the register, at which point it’s pretty much too late to affect your buying experience.
Shopkick aims to flip that equation on its head. Using an app that will soon be available on your iPhone, the store knows when you’ve walked through the doors (as opposed to when you’re just driving by), and can customize offers based on your past shopping history, location in the store and expressed preferences. The idea, says CEO Cyriac Roeding, is to apply the best practices from the online world to the offline world.
When you get to the cash register, whatever points or in-store discounts you’ve accumulated are immediately available on your device, which a sales person can retrieve using your phone number.
The value proposition for consumers is that they receive tangible rewards for in-store shopping (and, in the future, social features and surprises), while retailers can do 1-1 personalization on a mass scale, with the ability to measure the cost per store visit (versus CPC) and the cost per action (item purchased). I suspect that we will start to see more of these performance-based rather than activity-based metrics evolve over time, as retailers become able to measure the actual causes, rather than simply the correlations, of consumer behavior.
The iPhone app should be available in “a few weeks,” says Roeding, with other social features to follow. Best Buy intends to roll out Shopkick in multiple markets; Macy’s will also be a launch partner.
It will be interesting to see how “frictionless” this approach really is once the app hits the market. Will consumers flock to download it, given the promise of discounts and reward points? Or will it be yet another proof of concept used primarily by early adopters, while mainstream consumers stick with advertising circulars and coupons that they can cut out and bring into the store? It all depends on whether Shopkick, aided by its launch partners, can marshall its considerable backing and expertise to make the experience a no-brainer for the rest of us.