October 5, 2011, 9:17 AM

A reward for showing up

With 6.25 million shopkick kicks I could take a cruise.

Lead Photo

Visiting a store generates points and tells the retailer a consumer was there.

I gave myself a simple assignment last weekend of shopping at an electronics retailer. The complication was that I had to remember to walk through the doors with the location-based shopping mobile app shopkick open on my iPhone.

Shopkick rewards consumers with “kicks” each time they walk into a participating store. They also earn points for scanning items inside a store or visiting another part of the store. Points are for coupons to use in the stores, to make charitable donations or to convert into Facebook Credits.

Best Buy Co. Inc., No. 10 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, The Sports Authority, No. 223 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, and American Eagle Outfitters Inc., No. 57, offer shopkick rewards, with Toys ‘R’ Us Inc., No. 29, signing up in late September.

A couple of weeks ago Cyriac Roeding, shopkick CEO and co-founder, reported that on average a shopkick user opens the app 14 times a month and looks at products from 16 stores each time. The goal is to get consumers to step inside stores, Roeding says. Out of 2.3 million users, 2 million of them walked into a participating store in 2010, Roeding says.

Though I shop at electronics stores often—my portfolio of gadgets increases each week, it seems—I rarely walk into a store with my iPhone in hand. After doing so with the shopkick app open I may change that. I went from one kick to 161 on just one store visit. The rewards for more points are enticing, especially if it means little change in my usual shopping habits. For example, at 875 kicks, I could get a $25 Restaurant.com gift certificate. If I’m patient, and take advantage of every opportunity to earn kicks, I could redeem 6.25 million of them for a cruise on Princess Cruises.

But, shopkick is not all about large national chains. It has a program called shopkick local for smaller merchants to offer shopkick rewards. Citibank sponsors the program for 1,000 smaller merchants for up to one year.

I hope that program succeeds. Shopkick has an interesting service, but the vital component is ubiquity. The more merchants I can earn kicks at, the more likely I am to use the app. So many schemes, in the best sense of the word, rely on large national retailers at start-up. I get that. Persuading one decision maker can lead to the service being available at hundreds of locations.

It is a much more time-consuming quest to reach the same number of stores by targeting smaller merchants. The decision makers increase by tenfold, and they all have different stores. That means more time creating pitches and more details to work out.

It can be a complicated effort to build a widely available network. Thankfully, as someone who went from one kick to 161 on a single store visit, and found it an uncomplicated process, that challenge is not before me.

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