Shopkick Connects Social to the Cash Register

Startup announces partnership with Giant Eagle supermarket

Startup Shopkick has a new partnership that could turn the combination of social networking and shopping into a clear moneymaker for stores.

The company, which says it has more than 2.4 million active users, already allows brands to engage with consumers in partner stores like Target, Best Buy, and Macy's. Users of the Shopkick smartphone app start earning points (which are redeemed for rewards) simply by walking in the door, then they get more points by scanning featured products. It's a cool concept, but it can leave one thing unclear: Did the Shopkick user actually buy anything?

That's where a new deal with the Giant Eagle supermarket chain comes in—it's Shopkick's first partnership with a supermarket, and more importantly, co-founder and chief marketing officer Jeff Sellinger said that it allows the startup to "close the loop." Now, by tying user accounts to Giant Eagle loyalty cards, Shopkick will have data on what users actually purchase. That means brands can offer rewards not just for scanning products, but for buying them too.

The initial participants in the program are Procter & Gamble, Kraft Foods, and Unilever. Ed Kaczmarek, director of innovation at Kraft, said he has been working with Shopkick for the past year and a half, and he praised the company's ability to turn the "very mundane task" of shopping into something that's more fun and game-like.

"Everything we're doing is just dialing up deeper engagement with the brands, as close to the points of purchase as we've ever been able to get," Kaczmarek said.

And these efforts are starting to move out of the purely experimental phase. Kaczmarek said that in the final months of 2011, he plans to shift some of the spending on Kraft's efforts with Shopkick from the "innovation" column into the regular marketing budgets of the various Kraft brands.

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