Some shoppers have felt the need to stealthily scan items in stores with their smartphones. They’d rather not be accused of “showrooming,” the practice in which one scopes out merchandise in a brick-and-mortar store, only to purchase it online—at Amazon, likely—for less money. This week, though, Target began actively encouraging mobile phone scans nationwide. The free Shopkick app can now be used in all Target locations. Shoppers scan the bar codes of items in stores to accumulate points, or “kicks,” which can be traded in for gift cards, iTunes downloads, and Facebook credits.
After months of tests in a couple hundred Target stores, the retailer announced this week that Shopkick can now be used in all Target locations. The app, which is free for iPhones and Android phones, works with many major retailers, including Best Buy, Home Depot, Old Navy, Toys ‘R’ Us, and now, Target stores nationwide.
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Once you’ve downloaded the app, merely walking into a Target store and opening Shopkick gets you 60 “kicks.” Strolling the aisles and scanning specified items—scanning at random won’t work—nets more kicks, around 25 per item. At the 500-kick mark, you’re eligible for a Target gift card—worth $2. A $25 gift card is available for 6,250 kicks. If that sounds like a whole lot of scanning, that’s because it is just that. Dutiful scanning and well over a dozen Target visits are needed to get a payoff in the neighborhood of $25.
Target, of course, is using Shopkick to increase the chances that customers will visit stores dozens of times and take a close look at all sorts of items they might not otherwise have seen. More eyeballs on more merchandise increases the odds that impulse purchases occur.
Instead of trying to maximize kicks, it’s probably wisest to use the app simply in the course of your regular shopping. The kicks will accumulate more slowly, but you won’t be wasting a ton of time. When viewed that way, a gift card of even $2 doesn’t seem measly at all.
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By opening the Shopkick app in Target stores, you’ll also be subjected to the latest special in-store deals and promotions. Again, it’s wise to take advantage of deals only for things you were already planning on buying. Resist getting overly excited, look hard at the bottom line price, and ask yourself: Is this really worth the money?
Brad Tuttle is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @bradrtuttle. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.