Bar code scanner added
Shopkick recently revamped its mobile rewards app to line up more closely with consumer behavior: the new app allows shoppers to browse items at major retailers before they head to stores.
And integrated within the mobile shopping app is Scandit's bar code scanner, in hopes of increasing the engagement of users in-store.
Added to both the iOS and Android apps, the bar code scanner is said to be the latest in mobile image recognition technology, able to capture bar codes from any angle before the camera focuses.
That means support for more mobile devices, including a wide range of low-cost Android smart phones without autofocus cameras.
The Shopkick mobile app
So what's new with the app? Here's my take.
As more retailers (almost all major chains) showcase all of their products online, I find the shopping experience much more convenient and efficient if I browse a retailer's website first to get an idea of what I like.
Generally, at the start of a season, I check out fashion retailers’ style guides, be it online or via physical catalogue. Then, when I walk into stores, I have an idea of the style I’m looking for, and I can try on clothes for fit.
The same type of thing goes for cookware, furniture, electronics, and holiday gifts, and Shopkick is capitalizing on this behavior.
Shopkick's app allows you to earn rewards, or “kicks,” for interacting online or in person with a variety of retailers like Macy’s, Best Buy, Crate and Barrel, and Target.
In some cases, a shopper can peruse a store’s “look book” through the Shopkick app, unlocking kicks and earmarking items to look for in-store. At the physical location, shoppers can earn kicks by walking in to certain stores, scanning specified items, or making purchases.
Many stores also offer coupons and discounts a la Groupon Now.
Ultimately, you can redeem kicks for treats at Starbucks, gift cards, iTunes downloads, and even designer goods.
The shoppers and retailers
Shopkick now has over four million users who have earned over one billion kicks. Those are pretty big numbers.
Sucharita Mulpuru, an analyst at Forrester Research, told USA Today that Shopkick's base of 4 million shoppers is more promising for retailers to use than developing rewards apps of their own. But, she says, "there are 200 million shoppers in America, and 100 million of them have smartphones. Shopkick needs to become a habit with them."
Shopkick partners with major retailers around the country; now over 7,000 stores are Shopkick participants.
According to a TechCrunch article, Shopkick drove around $15 million in monthly revenue for its partners from January through October of 2012. After the redesign, Shopkick’s monthly run rate went up to $26 million in revenue driven for its partners.
Let me say right off the bat that I’m not a huge rewards-based shopper. I don’t carry rewards cards around in my wallet; I find it annoying that my grocery store forces me to use one in order to receive the best price on apples.
So, when I was asked to check out the Shopkick app, I figured it would be a real test of the technology.
The app is easy to install, with simple and clear instructions on how to use it.
But depending on the retail product, the integrated bar code scanner did not always live up to the advance billing.
Scannable products listed at Best Buy were difficult to find, and a challenge to scan. At times it was hard to find the exact product match, and sometimes the available bar code just wouldn't scan.
Some bar codes at Target - like Dove body wash - scanned easily, while others - portable battery packs - did not.
And I think there are other problems, though not necessarily with the app.
My issues can mainly be attributed to the fact that my shopping habits just aren’t in line with what Shopkick offers.
First of all, I like to get in and get out. The look books help with this, giving you the opportunity to see what stores are offering. But, I don’t want to spend time scanning items I have no intention of buying when I’m actually in a store.
Furthermore, my neighborhood shopping village had just 35 kicks to offer. That's when you need at least 500 kicks for the lowest reward level.
This is in one of the largest metropolitan areas in the United States (Houston), and in one of the densest in-town neighborhoods. My options were limited to Target (100 kicks for walking in), CVS (45 kicks for scanning a People magazine and a Gillette razor kit), or Costco (25 kicks for scanning a Blu-ray disc).
It seems to me that Shopkick (Download the mobile app here) faces a bit of a catch-22. To add more retailers to their app, they need to prove that customers will use the app. To encourage customers to use the app, they need more retailers offering deals.
And despite promises to the contrary, the bar code scanner integrated in the mobile app might need a little work.
Have you used the Shopkick app? What do you think of the new bar code scanning technology? Leave a comment below.
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