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Shopkick Proudly Re-Creates Black Friday Foot Traffic, But Did It Deliver Revenue?

Written by Evan Schuman
March 14th, 2012

Mobile check-in firm Shopkick last month tried an experiment in which it wanted to re-create the foot traffic of Black Friday, on a random day where there existed no special sales. The effort, where double points were offered to walk-ins, seemed to succeed in delivering the crowds of Black Friday but not, apparently, the sales. It was the perfect mobile marketing metaphor.

To be clear, what Shopkick said it did is quite impressive. It created what it dubbed “Black Friday 2” on Friday, Feb. 24, a day chosen to represent a “normal, non-peak shopping day.” And by doubling the kicks—Shopkick’s incentive points—it said it delivered the largest walk-in day ever for its participating partners, including American Eagle, Best Buy, Crate & Barrel, Macy’s, Old Navy, Toys’R’Us and Wet Seal.

Shopkick CEO Cyriac Roeding even stressed—paradoxically enough, for the vendor CEO—how low-value those kicks are. “So we offered about double the kicks to users for walking into any Shopkick partner alliance store and that was still worth less than a dollar,” he said. The magic behind the value placed on those kicks is something retailers—such as Target—are still trying to master.

To what end, though? Are these shoppers who went to the local large mall and simply hit store after store to accumulate the points? The much more meaningful figures would have been sales numbers, to indicate that this rush of manipulated foot traffic did something beyond running to the next store, until their mobile phone heard the Shopkick tone, registered points and moved on.

Shopkick argues that the value of its service is that it delivers the people to the store. To a certain extent, that’s true, aside from people who game the Shopkick system by visiting Web sites that re-create the audio tones and barcode scans to trick Shopkick into thinking that a shopper is in the store when he/she isn’t.

That does make this statement on Shopkick’s news releases rather disingenuous: “Because Shopkick is able to detect actual presence inside stores, partner retailers ensure that marketing dollars put into the Shopkick program are being spent to reward customers who are actually present in the store, translating into higher value rewards for the shopper. Presence detection is something not possible with traditional location-based applications, which rely on GPS technology that has a typical error radius of 500 yards on mobile phones.” The reality is that Shopkick’s app can be fooled, just like all of the others. Shopkick uses a variety of techniques to minimize such fraud—such as making sure that the shopper had enough time to have gone from Store A to Store B and that it’s not done when a store is closed—but let’s not pretend that fraud never happens.


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