Shopkick may redefine consumer loyalty

One of the memorable scenes for me in the 2002 film Minority Report is the bit where the hero John Anderton, played by Tom Cruise, goes on the run and finds himself in a shopping mall. In the society of 2054, the year of the film’s story, advertising displays deliver targeted advertising to passers-by: video cameras scan your eyes using iris recognition technology that identifies you and checks your shopping preferences against a data store, enabling brands to “know” you and thus deliver personalized messages.

Take a look at this video clip from the film to see it in action.

Scary (sinister, actually, in the context of how the film portrays authority and technology) or fascinating, depending on how you see consumerism and society developing in the near future.

Wind back to today and what do we have? Not quite iris recognition technology for marketing purposes but definitely personalized brand messaging that’s targeted to you as you enter a store using technology from tech start-up Shopkick.

Launching today in the US, Shopkick offers an iPhone app (Android coming later in the year) that gives you the consumer the means to receive offers and other targeted messaging from stores sent to the app on your phone as you walk into a store.

Business Insider explains well how it will work:

[…] The idea is that when you walk into a store that Shopkick partners with, you start to earn rewards — "Kickbucks" — just for walking in. (There’s actually a device in the store that connects to your phone.) Its early partners include nationwide chains like Best Buy, American Eagle Outfitters, Macy’s, and the Sports Authority, as well as shopping-mall outfit Simon Property Group.

Once you’re inside the store, you can earn more Kickbucks for scanning in barcodes of products with your phone, and you can get pushed special offers. Kickbucks, in turn, can be redeemed for Facebook credits to play games online, song downloads, in-store gift cards, and other standard online rewards club stuff like magazine subscriptions or donations to charities.

So basically Kickbucks is creating a rewards system; a portfolio of your shopping habits and the merchandise you find interesting enough to scan — so it can potentially target you better with deals; and a virtual currency that can be redeemed for goods in the future.

Business Insider describes Shopkick as “Foursquare for shopping,” noting that the smartphone app is right at the interesting junction of mobile apps, location-based services and commerce, saying, “Someone is going to make money here someday.”

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What I find equally as interesting as the technology described is what this potentially means to the current ways in which retailers engage with consumers through loyalty programmes. Usually, you get discount coupons in the mail or checkout-till print-outs of offers, etc, often tailored very closely to your purchasing habits and history, that you can use on your next shopping visit or online.

All of those incentives-to-buy are designed to happen after your visit. What Shopkick’s offering does is hit you before you buy, at the point of purchase. If offers from retailers are well-targeted to your preferences and purchasing habits, it may well result in your making purchasing decisions based on needs-matching and great timing – purchasing that otherwise might not happen then or might happen at another retailer.

The sharing, highly social, element of Shopkick is another area that I think will appeal to lots of people (it does to me) as it gives you a recommendation system that could build into a trust system of what you say about your experiences (or even just opinions) about brands that your friends will value, and vice versa.

It takes the Nectar and Tesco Clubcard loyalty programme concepts to a whole new level.

What do you think -  will this take off? In the UK when it arrives here?

  • Related: NEC Develops "Minority Report" Advertising System. Engineers from NEC in Japan have created a new advertising system for use in public areas like malls and airports that is remarkable similar to the advertising system that was in the Steven Spielberg film “Minority Report”. In the film, as Tom Cruise walks past holographic ads in a mall, they recognize him and use his name to offer things like a cold beer or a new car. The system – called the Next Generation Digital Signage Solution – NEC has developed won’t know who the person walking by or viewing the ad is, but it will use a system that can determine the gender and age of a person within ten years. The age and gender data will be used to tailor the ads shown to the specific person watching in hopes that the ads are more effective.