Earlier today, we talked about how The Gap used a social media push to encourage people to step into their stores this past weekend. Now Best Buy is working on a similar idea with a decidedly “big brother” twist. Starting tomorrow, in 187 stores in major markets all over the US. They plan to follow this with an additional 70 stores by October 1.
The “shopkick” system is designed to detect and reward shoppers just for walking into a Best Buy store. In order to accomplish this feat, consumers must download an application to their smart phone. Right now the app is only available for iPhone but Android is coming soon. On the store’s end, there is a “shopkick Signal” which reaches out and talks to the application when they meet. The conversation includes information on who owns the phone that just walked in and that person gets rewards that they’re calling “kickbucks.” These bonus bucks can be collected and spent in the store as cash.
In addition, the “shopkick” system will offer POS discounts and added bonus bucks when you use your phone to scan the barcode on select products.
The idea here is pretty simple. Retailers know that getting someone into the store is half the battle. “Shopkick” offers that extra incentive that a coupon doesn’t because it rewards you for showing up, no money needed. Presumably there’s a cap on this thing or people will quickly learn how often they can walk in and out in order to rack up bonus points in record time. Giving out “kickbucks” for scanning products is a great way to get shoppers to touch the items you want them to buy, because, come on, touching is the next step toward buying, right?
The real advantage here over the Foursquare version The Gap used, is that the customer isn’t required to “check in”. They don’t have to print anything or Tweet anything, they just have to show up. Can’t get simpler than that.
The downside of this version is that you lose the social media sharing component. If my friend sends out a tweet that he’s at a great sale at The Gap, that’s free advertising for them. Best Buy’s system doesn’t encourage any social media sharing, though people are likely to do it anyway if the system is a success. The bigger downside is that you have to have a smartphone to take advantage of the program and that means a large portion of the population can’t play. Granted, Best Buy is a retailer who probably has a much higher ratio of smartphone customers than most, but word is Macy’s will soon be trying the system, too. It would be interesting to see if “shopkick” is more effective in one chain than the other.
I’m a coupon shopper and I believe in retail loyalty programs. They work. I will shop for a DVD at Best Buy in order to get my points over buying it a Target where it might be a dollar cheaper. But the concept of a computer tracking me the second I step into a store is a little Orwellian. Next thing you know my cell phone will talk to my car computer and conspire to drive me to Best Buy even though I wanted to go to Target. I have images of my iPhone getting flirty with the local “shopkick,” promising to deliver me on a weekly basis in return for a quick charge. Of course, it’s worth giving up a little freedom if it means a 20% discount on a Blu-ray player.
What do you think? Is this one step away from installing tracking chips in humans? Or just another fun way to get consumers into the store?