Shopkick launches iPhone app for shopping check-ins and deals

After building up quite a bit of buzz over the past few months, the Palo Alto, Calif. startup Shopkick — which can best be described as FourSquare meets shopping — officially launched its iPhone app today.

The free app (available on the iTunes store) lets you check-in to participating retailers (as well as other stores) to earn rewards called “kickbucks.” Instead of actively checking in to a location a la FourSquare, users need only have the app open when they enter a store. Shopkick’s “Signal” technology will automatically check customers in and will also let retailers know when they enter.

VentureBeat’s Anthony Ha had a chance to play with the service at a Best Buy in San Francisco. He described the experience like this:

First, I walked into the Best Buy and the app immediately knew when I had crossed the threshold — I received kickbucks and saw a menu of possible deals and offers. Then we previewed an upcoming feature, where the app knows not only that you’ve entered the store, but also the specific section that you’re in, and tailors the deals accordingly. You can also earn rewards by scanning product barcodes, giving you more product details. Then you can cash-in on those offers when you bring your products to the cash register and provide your phone number. And there will be social features, such as a “wall” of most frequent visitors.

Since Shopkick only works when users are actually present in a store, it should be difficult for users to fake check-ins (something that’s possible with other check-in apps). The service is rolling out over the next few weeks at select Best Buy and Macys locations. Users will also be able to manually check-in to stores that aren’t participating, but will earn far fewer kickbucks from them.

I could see Shopkick becoming quite popular among heavy shoppers, and it could even make the process more fun for those who normally find shopping a painstaking experience.

Thus far, Shopkick has raised a total of $20 million from Kleiner, Greylock, Hoffman (investing as an individual before he became a partner at Greylock), Citi Growth Ventures & Innovation Group, and Ron Conway’s SV Angel.

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