Barcode Scanning for Points and Prizes with CheckPoints

If you can believe it, a company called CheckPoints has just come up with yet another twist on how “check-in” location-based services applications should work. With its new smartphone application, consumers are rewarded for scanning the barcodes of their favorite products while shopping. The scans add up to points which can then be redeemed for prizes – good prizes, too, like frequent flier miles, Amazon gift cards, iPods and iPads.

But in return, users are essentially agreeing to receive a one-time mobile ad from each product they scan. This makes us wonder: how far will people go for a free iPad?

Differences from Shopkick

CheckPoints sounds most similar to the mobile app Shopkick which launched earlier this year. Like Shopkick, consumers are rewarded for using their smartphone’s camera to scan product barcodes in a retail store. Those scans equate to points, which are later turned in for prizes.

That’s where the similarity ends, however. With Shopkick, consumers get points for both checking in and for scanning items with the app, as with CheckPoints. But to verify the check-in portion of the game in Shopkick, retailers have to install proprietary equipment in their store to determine if a user is physically present before the app can dole out points. This limits Shopkick’s adoption as it requires retail partners to sign up first.

CheckPoints, on the other hand, only uses GPS to determine location, not special hardware. And instead of partnering with retailers, it’s partnering with brands themselves. At launch, Belkin, Energizer, Seventh Generation and Tyson Foods are offering rewards points for selected products scanned with CheckPoints. By doing brand partnerships, consumers aren’t limited to particular stores – they can scan products anywhere they find them.

How & Why You Check-in

Whether or not this sort of interaction appeals to you personally, says a lot about what kind of location-based, “check-in” app user you are. Many of us (myself included, to be honest) enjoy the more social, game-like elements found in apps apps like Foursquare, Gowalla and Brightkite which award you with badges, stamps and other virtual rewards for announcing your location with a check-in. Although these companies also allow businesses to push the occasional coupon or deal to customers who check-in, adoption is still limited on this front. Outside of tech hotspots like San Francisco and New York, finding local businesses who’ve heard of Foursquare or Gowalla, much less use them, is more rare. For now, the primary focus of these apps is on the “fun” you have using them.

But there’s also a growing crowd of people who either “don’t get” Foursquare (et al.), “don’t like it” or both. These folks find more value in things like Topguest which distributes automatic rewards to frequent travelers which come in the form of real-world discounts – in Topguest’s case, free airline miles or cheaper hotel rooms.

The appeal of a real reward for disclosing your location simply holds more appeal for some people than a meaningless badge or stamp does. For example, TechCrunch’s Sarah Lacy recently wrote at length about why she prefers apps like Shopkick to Foursquare, noting that, “as a user, telling my friends where I am doesn’t gives me enough in return to warrant the privacy invasion.” Instead, she prefers getting points that can be used “broadly across several online and offline brands, including making charity donations.” It’s a statement that’s likely representative of the feelings many have with these new services: what’s in it for me?

Want Free Stuff?

With CheckPoints (and Shopkick) the rewards are real, but to get them, you have to scan products then receive a notification from the advertiser after the scan. These messages could be anything from a handy recipe for the Tyson chicken you just scanned to a less helpful, more marketing-oriented plea to “like” the company on Facebook.

It will be interesting to see how far people will go for the promise of free stuff, be it gift cards or electronics. Will consumers really walk around shops scanning items to collect points? Do people have that sort of free time on their hands?

On a personal note, I have to admit that as a new mom who still hasn’t figured out how to carry a purse, diaper bag and baby all at once, I’m barely capable of the “check-in” process itself, much less barcode scanning in-store…but that’s just me. However, the typical mobile coupon, deal collector and “free-stuff gatherer” is precisely this female-oriented market I represent. (That’s not a sexist statement, it’sjust a fact). Will barcode scanning be the next big thing in mobile rewards? Or will it remain a niche activity as so many other location-based services are today? What do you think?

CheckPoints will launch first as an iPhone app and an Android version is coming soon. Other platforms are still being evaluated.

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