Wednesday, October 17, 2012 at 3:09 pm.

Using Data To Rethink Your App: The Shopkick Story

One of the more interesting things about the mobile app industry is that you can put user data to work to help refine and redefine a product. If people are using some features but not others, you can highlight the good ones and ditch the boring ones. If people are using your app in situations you didn’t imagine, you can rework your app to fit those uses.

Recent example: Shopkick — an app that lets you earn points by walking into stores, shopping, etc. and then redeem them for gift cards, etc. — just launched a totally rethought version of its app. Beyond a facelift, it’s also changed a lot conceptually. Instead of just being useful for when you’re actually shopping, it’s now an app-sized catalog for partner stores, designed to plan shopping trips in advance.

Why? Because user data suggested that might be a good idea. Shopkick CEO Cyriac Roeding tells me:

In January, we took a step back and looked at what we’ve learned from our users, from data, and from feedback in over 1.5 years. [...] There’s a lot of information that comes together in 1.5 years. So we looked into the data and found out some really interesting patterns. For example, the average Shopkick user opens Shopkick on 9 days out of 30 per month. And 6 days out of those 9 days turned out to be not at the store. People were at home on the couch or at work.

So we wondered, what are they doing with the Shopkick app? Because it was built to be mostly for in-store. Turns out, they’re using the Shopkick app to look at what’s hot at stores, what’s cool there, which offers they have, which products are new, what’s on sale, and so on. And we thought, wow, that’s really interesting, because our app makes it anything but easy to see those things today. So, there is a really interesting opportunity for us to prepare people at home for their next shopping trip. And that is intent generation par excellence, at its best.

When your active users are using your app twice as often for something it wasn’t designed for as for what it was designed for, and only three times a month for what it was designed for, sounds like it’s time to take a fresh look at the product.

There’s always a risk here — what if the new Shopkick is actually less useful than the old one? — but this seems like a solid bet. (Sarah Lacy has an interesting, more skeptical take at PandoDaily.) I don’t personally use Shopkick — it has an impressive list of partner merchants, but none I shop at — but this sort of exercise interests me greatly.