CheckPoints: A Social Shopping App That Will Cost You Negative $0.99

There’s clearly something to this idea of mobile/social shopping. Or at least, a huge group of startups all seem to think there is. Already this year we have apps like Shopkick and Barcode Hero attempting to build upon what apps ShopSavvy and others have been working on for some time. That is, enriching the shopping experience by using a device most of us now have on us at all times: our phones. Today at TechCrunch Disrupt, a new entry attempting to be the broadest of these yet, CheckPoints, is launching.

Co-founder Mark DiPaola calls CheckPoints “the first mobile shopping rewards app that lets consumers own rewards regardless of what store they’re in.” While the aforementioned apps may have been out first, a number are limited in either the number of stores they work in, or the number of products they work with. CheckPoints has products from partners such as Belkin and Tyson at launch, as well as brands like Amazon, CVS, and American Airlines. At launch, CheckPoints will work in over a million stores around the U.S., DiPaola says.

Here’s how the app works: you walk into a store and you’ll immediately see a number of featured products. These can change depending on where you are in the store. As you walk around, if you find an items and scan it with the built-in barcode reader, you may get a little interactive game that a marketer has made for that brand. This app allows marketers to reach consumers at the point of sale when they actually have a product in their hand, DiPaola notes. He calls this the “Holy Grail” of marketing.

Consumers do this scanning because it earns them “checkpoints” which are accumulated and can be redeemed once you have enough. In fact, for TechCrunch Disrupt attendees, CheckPoints is offering to give you the free app with credits around on it. Sure, it’s only a dollars-worth, but this essentially means you’re getting the app for negative $0.99. That’s a new app pricing category.

DiPaola says CheckPoints is an extension of his first startup, Vantage Media, which he sold in 2007 for $150 million (after taking no outside money.

Here are the questions from judges Josh Felser, Joe Kraus, Todor Tashev, Robert Scoble, and Don Dodge (paraphrased):

Q: Can you get retail establishments and brands beyond what you have?

A: Yes.

Q: Customer acquisition is the hardest part, right? Why go with you?

A: We’re going to approach product companies instead of locations. On the advertiser side, what’s unique is showing the product.

Q: How do you get customers in the door? And why is this interesting to people? These are low-value customers, right?

A: I disagree. I think people like deals.