Silicon Valley startup Shopkick is partnering with Simon Property Group, which operates malls and shopping networks across the country, to bring social currency to the “check-in” phenomenon popularized by apps and services such as Foursquare. Unlike Foursquare and other check-in services, Shopkick is working in a unique way to ensure user privacy when they check-in as well as offering users rewards, rather than mere social status, for checking into their favorite shops, retailers, and shopping centers.
With the Shopkick model, GPS is not used for users to check in. Users have to walk into the store, launch the Shopkick application, and the store’s speakers play an inaudible tone that will be detected using the smartphone’s microphone to check in users. Once a user checks in, they accumulate currency, and the more users check in the more currency they accrue, which over time can be traded for rewards, cash back, offers, and other items deemed valuable to shoppers and consumers such as free items, coupons, and discounts.
Under the deal, Simon Property Group will launch the Shopkick program at 25 malls in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and San Francisco. Simon won’t have access to Shopkick data, but will know how many people are using the app in public areas. To address for privacy concern, Shopkick is saying that to redeem offers, customers must give their telephone number to identify themselves to store clerks. This way, customers will “opt in” to receiving offers and won’t have offers being spammed at them. Additionally, shoppers must be actively using the app and unlike GPS-driven services, customers cannot be tracked outside the location away from the speakers that emit the special tone, audible only to the app.
In addition to Simon Property Group, Shopkick will also be launching in other retailers, such as Macy’s and Best Buy.