Frequent Shoppers Score With Shopkick

Mobile loyalty app Shopkick made major headlines last weekend, announcing that as of Q4 2012, the company is profitable and generating deals for its partners like never before.

The $200 million in revenue Shopkick says it raised for its partners in 2012 is more than twice what it made in 2011, and with 4 million users, the app is clearly increasing in popularity. That’s largely in part thanks to a major app overhaul the company released in October 2012 and a subsequent 1 billion in product views over the next 12 weeks.

It occurred to us that we haven’t reviewed Shopkick since before their most recent update, so we decided to see what all the fuss is about.

First, from an aesthetic standpoint, I really like how simple Shopkick is. When I’m using a payments app I want functionality, not a visual display, and everything is easy to find, see and navigate in this app.

It’s easy to pick what merchant you want to receive “kicks” for – I opted for Target – but you can switch between options pretty seamlessly and that’s a feature I find attractive. Your profile provides a look at different badges you can earn and campaigns you can engage in, which is an example of Shopkick staying true to its “gamification” roots. If I was a big shopper, the badges and campaigns are features I could see myself getting into pretty quickly.

The geofencing features of Shopkick are probably the most interesting aspects of the app for me, and also where I saw Shopkick’s biggest strengths and weaknesses.

The good: I like the app’s “find kicks near you” function, which pulls up a map, gives you a selection of participating merchants near you and then allows you to view what kind of kicks are available at different places.

As a consumer, I found this pretty helpful. I live equally far away from a participating Target and CVS, and was unsure which store I wanted to grab my supplies form. When I saw that Target had 445 kicks available and CVS just 290 – plus that I would receive kicks just for walking into Target – my decision was made for me.

You have to physically open the app once you walk in a store, but this isn’t a huge deal for me. Odds are you’d want to scan an item or two and need to access the app anyway, and I don’t like intrusive push notifications from my apps, so this is a tradeoff I’m happy to make.

But as I walked deeper into the Target store, I came across Shopkick’s biggest problem: What happens when the store you’re shopping in has no reception?

The answer is that Shopkick becomes useless. You can’t scan items because you can’t load them, and you’re left with a pretty frustrating experience.

Now this isn’t really Shopkick’s fault – it’s Target’s – but the bottom line remains the same: the app just didn’t work where I couldn’t access the internet, and unfortunately, that was the case for about 80 percent of this Target store.

I was able to stay on for long enough to scan a box of Wheat Thins and grab 25 kicks, and the process is very simple and takes almost no time. That being said, as I saw the list of other items available, it really didn’t feel worth it to me to trek across the store to grab a handful of extra points.

Sure, some items — such as a Quick Deluxe 2013 box worth 100 kicks — might provide more motivation than others. But inching my way towards a $5 gift card just isn’t terribly exciting to me, and isn’t scanning for points isn’t something anyone would do when in a rush. Among the new features in Shopkick’s updated app is the ability to save your “favorite” items, which is very useful and allows you to do some planning ahead. But again, I’m more likely to favorite something I was going to buy anyway rather than be incentivized to favorite something I have little use for, even if it does come with plenty of kicks.

Overall, Shopkick is an app I feel everyone should download since it’s free and, if you remember to open the app in-store, you will, over time, be given a few free extra bucks. Yes, it might take you a few months to get to a $5 card if you’re not a frequent shopper, but hey, that’s $5 more than you would’ve had otherwise, and all you have to do is click on an app.

That being said, Shopkick seems geared towards real shopaholics more than everyday consumers, which is fine, but does limit its utility somewhat to me. You have to have a whole lot of time to kill or really, really want a gift card to run all over a store scanning items, and I’m just not sure how many people would be willing to do so.

So there you have it: download Shopkick, because you have nothing to lose. Just have patience with the pace with which it rewards you for shopping, and you’ll slowly collect “free” money. Plus, you might even find a deal you like along the way.

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