Shopkick, the four year old mobile retail loyalty app that provides points for people coming into stores and virtual gift cards, has been sold to South Korean mobile services leader SK Planet for $200 million. SK Planet is expected to invest heavily in Shopkick’s international reach.
Once seen as a new mobile paradigm for shopping rewards and loyalty, Shopkick was especially notable in setting up collective “kicks” or points that could be used anywhere, encouraging regular usage. It realized earlier than most that consumers were less likely to download individual apps for retailers that they’d only use once or twice.
The company’s novelty has since worn off. Virtual check-ins are widely enabled by FourSquare and others as the technology has evolved from an exclusive reliance on smart phone alerts to also using wireless Beacon sensors, which are accurate to the point of capturing users within just a few feet — ideal for ID’ing shoppers near brands. Moreover, the value of virtual check ins have been called into question by newer card linked offer players that can match credit card information and more specific data (not to mention that many consumers collect points for just walking by a location and never going in).
Yet, ShopKick has developed a strong base of customers and continued to grow. The Redwood City, CA-based company, which has 75 employees, now has eight million active users and has kept its appeal to retailers eager to jump on location targeting and building loyalty programs. It now has 20 retailers and 200 brands under contract. Macy’s, for instance, has just signed on with a 4,000 Shopkick Beacon deal joining Target, BestBuy and other major chains working with the company.