Stickybits Turns Product Barcode Scans Into Rewards

Foursquare and Facebook Places are popularizing the location check-in. Instagram and PicPlz are perfecting the photo check-in. Is the product check-in next? Billy Chasen, the founder of barcode-scanning app Stickybits, thinks so. He’s spent the past few months pivoting his startup to focus more on brands and turn product check-ins into rewards. A major update of Stickybits is in the App Store (iTunes link), and an Android update will be ready before the end of the year. Its website also has a new design.

When Stickybits first launched at South-by-Southwest last March, it was positioned as a way to append their thoughts to physical objects by associating barcodes with comments, photos, or videos. The next time somebody scanned that barcode they would see your message. And if a product didn’t have a barcode, you could add one with a Stickybit sticker.

It was interesting, but it never quite took off. People weren’t quite sure what they were supposed to do. The new app gives them a reason to scan objects because now they might unlock a reward. The first promotion will be with Ben & Jerry’s. The first 500 people to scan two pints of its Fair Trade ice cream will get a free Ben & Jerry’s T-shirt. Other product-scan promotions are in the works from Don Q Rum, Elmer’s Glue, Fiji Water, Harper Collins, Pepsi, Universal Music, Weiden & Kennedy, the Washington Capitals, and Wonderful Pistachios.

The app still works like it used to, but by and large people were scanning products anyway. Each product has its own product wall (here’s Pepsi’s) filled with all the comments, photos, and videos left by Stickybits users. The new app adds a leaderboard, rewards & challenges button, and suggests tags to add to each post (“review,” “tip,” “question,” “random”). And, of course, you can share each scan with your friends on Facebook or Twitter like before. For brands, there are analytics and campaign management tools.

The key to getting users will be how good the promotions are. They need to be compelling enough for people to download the free app and start using it. But companies can become very creative. If you could win free lift tickets by scanning a snowboarding jacket or an autographed book, would you take the time to scan it? Stickybits supports four different kinds of product check-ins: a straight giveaway, location-based coupons (you need to scan the product at a particular store or place), group deals (the reward is unlocked only if you convince a certain number of friends to also scan the product, and combo rewards (you need to scan multiple products).

Brands and retailers love the idea of product check-ins because they think it will get consumers to actually pick up their products in stores. Other startups tackling this market are Shopkick from the retailer’s side (Best Buy is installing its system in stores) and Disrupt startup SnapDragon. Stickybits works directly with brands, and helps them bypass retailers to make direct connections with consumers. Getting regular people to use these apps, though, remains the big challenge.