Launched more than three years ago, the shopkick app allows users to earn rewards points when they walk into the stores of national retailers like Macy’s, Target, Best Buy, and JCPenney. But
people still have to remember to launch the app first.
To overcome that hurdle, shopkick has introduced new technology that reminds users to open the app when they enter a partner
store. The company’s shopBeacon device, which is being rolled out initially in Macy’s department stores in New York and San Francisco, uses Apple’s iBeacon Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)
signaling standard to recognize users when they enter stores.
Apple included iBeacon with the launch of iOS 7, but developers, retailers and other companies are only just beginning to
harness the technology. Major League Baseball, for instance, demonstrated in September how iBeacon could be used in its At The Ballpark app to send users coupons for souvenirs when they go to a
Shopkick is counting on the feature to prompt more shopping activity. “ShopBeacon can welcome a shopper when she enters a store and show her location-specific
deals, discounts, recommendations and rewards, without her having to remember to open the app,” states the company’s Web site.
The technology also ties into
shopkick’s at-home browsing capability, so if a user “likes” an item, they will be reminded of it when going to the store that sells it. Eventually, it will also deliver
department-specific offers throughout stores. The $40 gadget has batteries that last five years and is affixed to the walls of stores.
A shopkick spokesperson said the shopBeacon device
wouldn’t replace the audio-based transmitters currently used by retail partners. But it would offer a hybrid model offering both BLE and audio technology to help retailers better refine the
ShopBeacon comes as shopkick’s answer to Beacon, the BLE device released by PayPal in September that plugs into a wall socket and allows retailers to automatically
identify customers using the PayPal app. Once recognized, all a customer has to do is confirm payment verbally, without having to swipe a card or pull out their phone. The system is expected to be
widely available by early next year.
The shopkick app had 8 million unique users as of September -- up from almost 6 million a year ago -- and 4 million in June 2012, according to
comScore figures. But the company faces increasing completion in the m-payments space from more recent startups, like Square and Coin, and the carrier-backed Isis mobile wallet, along with PayPal.
Shopkick didn’t provide a timetable for expanding shopBeacon to other stores following testing of the new service with Macy’s.