2010.31 | Stores + Internet + Mobile + Recommendations = Sales

When I saw this Shopkick demo last night on how to connect mobile social media tools with the real world in a Best Buy, I was very intrigued.  Being able to check in without having to push a button could allow for a better experience for the user, though it does remove a level of interactivity or opt-in that pressing the check-in button on foursquare has.  In a way it’s that whole ‘making a game of it’ scavenger hunt aspect that has brought the social media and the real world together.

Shopkick does present a really interesting opportunity for messaging directly to customers based on their physical locations that has been missing until this point – given the shortcomings of GPS accuracy.  While removing the final barriers between the internet shopping experience and the store experience is huge, there is still the real challenge of what offer to make to whom.  All of the demonstrations I have seen so far are for coupons and discounts – great for pulling in customers (and for demos to be fair) – not so great for the retailer’s bottom line.

I look forward to seeing how recommendation engines can come into this.  If I walked into a store and the retailer knew my preferences for books or movies, they could suggest a purchase to me that I may not have thought about in real time.  This would be of more interest to me personally than a discount on something i may not want, and would be presented to me precisely when I’m looking.   I just read a fascinating article in Wired on just this subject.  It discusses various recommendation engines and their stories, and focuses on hunch – a site that is trying to build the infrastructure that could be connected to the mobile devices to deliver on the vision I just suggested.

It will be a fascinating process to see how retailers feel out this technology, and I applaud retailers for being pioneers.  Seeing Starbucks with offers on foursquare, and now Shopkick with Best Buy should lead to additional experimentation, and increased understanding of the potential of these technologies.

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