CauseWorld Launches: Do Good Deeds Simply By Walking Into A Store

Six months ago I wrote about a startup called Shopkick (it was then called MOBshop). The company won’t disclose much of what their eventual product will be, but they’ve attracted some of the most high profile investors in Silicon Valley: Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Reid Hoffman.

Here’s what CEO Cyriac Roeding will say about Shopkick which is scheduled to launch in 2010: they aim to bridge the gap between the mobile phone and the physical shopping worlds.

In the meantime they are launching CauseWorld, “the first mobile application that let’s you do good deeds simply for walking into a store.” The application should be available on the iPhone appstore later today. Android is coming soon, along with more mobile platforms.

CauseWorld app users earn “karma points” when they walk into stores and check in with their cell phone. No purchase is required at any store, and karma points can be redeemed nine predefined good causes. Big brands like Kraft Foods and Citi (both are on board) then turn the karmas into real dollar donations to those causes. Food for poor families, water in Sudan, trees in the Amazon, etc. are examples of the causes.

Here’s how it works: Like foursquare and gowalla, you open the application on your phone and see local businesses (instead of showing everything around you, CauseWorld only shows businesses that you can check into for karmas). Enter the store, check in, and get the karma points offered to you. Once you’ve collected enough karmas you can donate them to a variety of causes. And, of course, you get badges for various activities.

Kraft and Citi are donating $500,000 during the initial test of CauseWorld, and the company says it’s likely that more donors will come on board soon. For now businesses that get the extra foot traffic are paying nothing at all. Although I’m sure Shopkick will be sending reports to those businesses letting them know how many people they brought into their stores. In the retail world, people mean conversions, usually 25% – 90%, depending on the type of store (nobody walks into 7-11 or a supermarket without buying something, but less people buy something at Best Buy).

I applaud the charitable aim of CauseWorld, but I also note a brilliant business plan – finding ways to get people to step foot inside a physical store. If I was Gap or Nordstroms I’d pay right now to distribute karmas to users of the app for coming into the store. Heck, I’d love to buy a big pile of virtual karmas and include them at our events for people to grab and distribute.

The wonderful thing about the service is that big corporations have an incentive to donate more to charity. They get regular people to choose where that money goes, and lots of brand impressions along the way. The folks at Citi and Kraft are brilliant for jumping on this early.

Here’s an interview I recorded with Cyriac last week about the company: