Monday, August 23, 2010

ShopKick iPhone app shows the potential of reward programs tied to merchants; most local media apps currently lack shopping tools, stick to news content

An app that got quite a bit of press last week was ShopKick, a shopping rewards app that claims to offer discounts at several major retails, as well as a rewards points scheme.
USA Today wrote a fluff piece last week that, as usual, did not actually include the author trying out the app for themselves. Sadly, this is pretty much to norm for mobile media reporting. Whether any of these reporters actually own a smartphone or know how to create a screenshot is always a question lurking in the back of my mind.

I didn't write about the app for the simple reason that the app really only worked New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, with Chicago promised within the week. This weekend then was my first opportunity to fire up ShopKick for myself.
The app currently works with Best Buy, Macy's, American Eagle, Sports Authority and Simon shopping malls, so off to Best Buy I went.

The free app is easy enough to understand: fire up the app, create an account and begin earning points for visiting the stores that are currently part of the program. The concept is easy to understand, but the success of the scheme is completely reliant on the developer selling more retailers on the idea. Additionally, the app won't work, of course, if it isn't on.

Ah, and there is the rub: if the app isn't on you simply can not earn points or get discounts. It is the achilles heal of all rewards programs -- if the user fails to make a habit of using the program on an on-going then eventually the program is forgotten.

For me, though, the interesting thing here is that developers are seeing huge opportunities in local shopping applications -- unlike local newspapers who continue to take the easy way out with their mobile apps by sticking with RSS feeds and the occasional traffic map. Driving readers into local stores was always the main sales point when selling ad space. As ADVO and local shoppers began to offer local merchants traffic driving alternatives to display space, newspaper ad teams began to back off direct response promises. Mobile media is precisely where the local ad teams, if working with their mobile developers, could gain an edge.

The one thought in the back of my mind is this: would ShopKick be open to partnering with the local papers, integrating their services into local media apps?

Here is the obligatory video demo: