A big challenge for retail: turning online “saves” into offline purchases

A few weeks ago, I spotted a beautiful dress on Pinterest. It stopped me in my browsing tracks — I needed to have it. But when I clicked on the image, it took me to one of those random, photos-pasted-into-Tumblr-pages circles of infinite clicking, and I gave up.
I pinned the dress to my Pinterest board for items to maybe buy someday if I ever found it for sale, and I moved on. But a week later, I was shopping in a store and behold, I saw the dress of my dreams in real life. Not only was it for sale, I got to try it on — and tragically discover it looked pretty weird.
kickscout screenshot shopping retailAs we’ve seen huge growth in websites and apps meant for online shopping and retail discovery, there’s still a gap that exists between the act of pinning something on Pinterest (or saving it to Wanelo, etc.) and actually holding the item in your hands after a purchase. Some people remain reluctant to buy clothes online (tons of Americans still buy things in physical stores) because of the challenging of making sure they fit, and others still do a lot of in-store shopping that isn’t always connected to their online habits.
So I was interested to take a look at Kickscout, a mobile app that alerts you when you’re standing in a store that sells a product you’ve saved online.
The idea behind Kickscout is that you can save products you want — like my dress that sold at Anthropologie — and when I walk into Anthropologie, the app could alert me that the store sells that dress in its inventory, and I could go give the item an in-person look.
“One of the things I’ve always learned is that the simpler the software, the better,” said CEO Michael Sheeley, who was previously COO and co-founder of RunKeeper, which tracks your runs and other fitness activities. “So for Runkeeper you just hit start and start running, and it does everything for you. We want to do the same for consumer mobile social software.”
You start by installing the Kickscout extension on your browser, and saving items using the “Kick it” button to your personal profile. Later, when you’re in the brick and mortar versions of those stores, you open the app and tap “in store,” and it will tell you if you’re standing in a story that carries your saved products. The company decided that for now, having users go into the app to discovery if a store sells their products is preferable to sending them push notifications — a decision I appreciated as a consumer.
The app just launched out of beta in June, and it’s clear that it still has a ways to go before it does everything for you. At first, I had a hard time having the app recognize the products I’d saved when I was in the corresponding stores. Also, the app can only recognize items you’ve saved that are part of a store’s online inventory — if it doesn’t carry those items in-store, Kickscout might not know.  And for me the biggest detractor was that you can’t automatically import the items you’ve already saved to an Amazon Wish List, Pinterest board or Wanelo page — Kickscout requires you to save all your items to a new list, which requires a good deal of new investment.
But Sheeley said they’re working on some of these challenges, and if Pinterest ever releases an API (which has been expected for a while), this could be a good way to instantly add your saved products to the app. And even in its early form, it was fun to walk into a store, open Kickscout, and see it pull up items I’d saved.
Between the rise of smartphones, advances in geolocation technology, and the massive growth of browsing and shopping sites like Pinterest and Amazon, there’s an opportunity for someone to connect these online and offline behaviors into a single experience.
As the growth at companies like Wanelo and Pinterest have showen, users are excited to save and collect products online as they take retail into their own hands. Apps like Shopster are trying a similar tactic for grocery-shopping, but if Kickscout could turn online saves into real life impulse buying, it could be on to something.