Shopkick Bought for $200 Million

The world of mobile app shopping just got a boost.

Shopkick, the in-store shopping rewards app, was just acquired by SK Planet for $200 million cash.

The purchase by SK Planet, which is part of SK Telecom, South Korea’s largest mobile carrier, gives Shopkick additional resources for international expansion, Shopkick CEO and co-founder Cyriac Roeding told me earlier today.

The acquisition comes just a week after Macy’s announced it was installing 4,000 Shopkick beacons in advance of the holiday shopping season, which I wrote about here at the time (4,000 Beacons Coming to All Macy’s Stores).

I’ve used Shopkick since it came out four years ago and have watched it evolve over that time.

At first, the app would incent you to find a particular item in a store, scan a code and get a reward, which was not as smooth a process as it might sound, at least at the beginning.

For example, an early offer at Best Buy had me scan an item and approach an employee to receive a reward only to find an employee bewildered about what I was talking about. 

At checkout, it typically would take three employees, usually including a manager, to figure out how to add Shopkick points, called kicks, to my account along with Best Buy’s own rewards programs.

But those were the very early days of Shopkick, when everyone in the chain was learning.

Over time, the process got debugged, store employees became familiar with Shopkick and the checkout process became routine.

With many mobile implementations, these are more important assets than the actual technology, which oftentimes works just fine.

In the case of Shopkick, the technology used would send a message to a smartphone to activate the Shopkick app when entering a store. This was before the current age of beacons, which do sort of the same thing, though a slightly different way.

It’s not so much the technology that’s of value but rather the entire system of operations, which includes the technology.

Another asset is the customer base, and in the case of Shopkick that includes 8 million active users of the app along with deals with 20 retailers and 200 brands, said Roeding.

Another asset is knowledge of mobile shopper behavior. For example, Shopkick learned that users tend to buy more at the store, as I documented here last year (Shopkick & the Arc from Couch to Store). “It has taken us four years to do it,” said Roeding.

Roeding said the company will remain in California and that he and his 75-person team would stick with it.

“I’m all in on this,” said Roeding. “Shopkick will be the core platform for SK Planet to expand from. The idea is not to change everything, but to expand it.”

We’ll be watching that space.

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Check out the MediaPost conference on beacons, being held Nov. 3 in New York (IoT: Beacons), which I’m continuing to program.

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2 comments about "Shopkick Bought for $200 Million".
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  1. Jeremy Geiger from Retailigence, September 29, 2014 at 12:39 p.m.

    Congratulations to ShopKick. They have definitely been an innovator and visionary in this now rapidly growing space.

  2. Chuck Martin from Chuck Martin, September 29, 2014 at 2:09 p.m.

    Right, Jeremy, they have been at it for some time.