Brittany Billings x The Future of Fandom

Shopkick EVP Brittany Billings on How to Fuel Fandom From Couch to Cashier

by The Future of Fandom

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How to Fuel Fandom From Couch to Cashier

Today on The Future of Fandom, we dive deep into the behavioral mechanics of purchase, with an ever-so-slightly nerdy illustration of the next-gen, couch-to-cashier journey with guest, Brittany Billings.

Brittany is the EVP of Marketing and Strategic Markets at Shopkick, and brings some commerce insight to the show that most can’t even provide. When you think about learning who your customer is, most brands will look to their social analytics and their receipt level purchase data. Not a whole lot is captured at least with true attribution about interim activity, that which happens between the couch and the cashier. But Brittany actually does thanks to Shopkick’s rewards based platform. And today we chat about how something as simple as watching a video or simply walking into a store is and should be rewarded.

What we describe on the show is truly next gen, and hopefully you get a glimpse into what the future of commerce really holds. So kick back, (yes, we went there) and listen in as we predict the future with Shopkick and Brittany Billings


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Adam Connor (1:20):

Brittany, thank you so much for joining me on the show today. How are you?

Brittany Billings (01:34):

I am well, thank you, Adam. My daughter is back to school, so we’re back to normalcy now. Thank goodness.

Adam Conner (01:41):

Hey, well that must have been a while shopping season, huh?

Brittany Billings (01:44):

It certainly was challenging for many, many Americans out there, but I’m sure we’re all back, we’re happy to have our kids back in school now.

Adam Conner (01:53):

Well, hey, there have been a number of things that have confused shoppers. At least this year, we’ll get into a little bit of that as we move through this conversation. But of course, I know you’ll know the most and we’ll talk the most about Shopkick. So let’s start there. Let’s kick it right off from the top. Oh, didn’t even mean to make that pun, but no pun intended. What is Shopkick for those who don’t know, but should?

Brittany Billings (02:14):

Shopkick is a leading shopping rewards app for consumers and a leading shopper engagement platform for brands. So we allow consumers to earn rewards through many engagements they can have with a brand, whether that’s digesting content in app through perhaps watching a video through walking into a store, they earn rewards. We call them kicks here at Shopkick. They can pick up a product, scan it and earn rewards. And then they can actually earn incremental rewards for actually purchasing that product as well. And then our shoppers get to redeem those kicks for gift cards, cash and products.

Adam Conner (02:56):

All right. So this is fascinating. We have gone into this tangentially so far on this show in the lens of rewards and in the lens of appreciating people’s pre-purchase behavior, which is critical, but not often incentivized, truly incentivized. So we’ll get into that as well. And listeners, you can tune back into people like Rakuten and Baseline earlier this year for conversations like that, but it won’t be like this.

I’ll start with the broad view of what you’ve put in my head right there with that description, which is that because the consumer is rewarded every step of the way in an interim basis and on a final basis, and because the brand knows ideally what that consumer is doing through the purchase funnel, it seems to create this two way connection that let’s say a CPG or something like that, who doesn’t typically have first party data might not get. This is a two way connection, which is, I would think somewhat unique, at least something I haven’t heard of. It’s worth noting that Shopkick is part of a company based in retail analytics, which is great, because that’s where I started my career.

So I’m sure there’s plenty of data that’s getting passed between both entities. How do you accomplish that true two-way connection. And why is it critical when it ultimately comes to conversing with the consumer to be fan?

Brittany Billings (04:20):

Yeah, absolutely. I think first and foremost, you touched on a really good point from a CPG lens and our clients are Unilever, Kraft Heinz, Nestle. Their main points of distribution are through these major retailers. Those major retailers aren’t giving Nestle and Kraft Heinz a lot of information about the end customer because it’s Kroger’s end customer, it’s Target’s end customer, it’s Walmart’s end customer. So at Shopkick, we believe, and we’re able to facilitate that with our CPG partners, that there should be this two way value exchange before a transaction even takes place. So consumers have dedicated a lot of time and energy engaging with brands pre-transaction or consumers as well. We watch ads, we read content, we research, we follow brands on social.

Why shouldn’t the shopper be acknowledged for those behaviors? And at Shopkick, we think that they should. So as I mentioned earlier on our platform, we reward shoppers and through our brands throughout the entire purchase funnel. So we call it from couch to cashier as our cheeky, little way of saying it. So again, members, we sit on our couch, we watch videos, we digest a piece of content and then we can earn rewards for simply walking into a store.

So already right there, these brands are being associated with an incentive, with award, with a value exchange saying, “Hey shopper, we appreciate you taking your time and energy to learn more about my product. Let me give you something back before a transaction even takes place.” And so we’re treating these amazing shoppers as more than just a transaction.

Adam Conner (06:08):

Well, yeah. And in a way that is slightly more proactive than the commercials of [your 00:06:15]. Imagine listeners who are thinking about that traditional experience of watching a TV ad and you may have noticed on digital platforms that sometimes those ads are not coupled with the QR. Well, normally that QR will just take you to a website to go buy something, but it doesn’t really reward you for taking that interim step.

It seems like this is something that Shopkick is covering off and it is certainly a data treasure trove that somebody like a Walmart when they were real heavy into retail link, I know that they’re doing something new now, or DunnHumby, that will just have consumption level metrics, are unable to capture. This is a really nice, well, interim data set to match that interim action.

Brittany Billings (06:55):

Yeah. From a data perspective, we’re actually sharing it with our brand partners as well. So here, customer 1, 2, 3, 4 has watched your video. She is the chief household officer based outside of Atlanta, Georgia. She has two kids and actually she’s also shopped at these retailers. She’s also purchased these brands. Here’s the type of content she’s engaging with.

So we’re also utilizing it to optimize their campaigns, even within our own platform. A lot of times, they don’t have access to do that. As you said, with more traditional advertising, you can’t just change a television ad because that demographic wasn’t responding to it or those display banners or just going to bots. So it’s really exciting that we get to have such a meaningful relationship and value exchange with our brand partners as well.

Adam Conner (07:47):

Yeah, the creation of, and we’re going into a bit of a weed here, listeners, but the creation of a behavioral data set, just so that you’re aware if you’re not, is extraordinarily difficult to do, if all you’re getting is a transaction log. And unless you have something like an entire credit card profile, I know the major payment switches will do things in creation of psychographics.

But again, these are just data sets that well, ultimately you don’t see, you may not even care about, but are things that are critical for finding the path that a shopper takes, as you said, from couch to cashier. These interim steps that are taken along the way and incentivized and rewarded. You talked about watching a video, maybe downloading something. I wonder if there are a few examples of interim steps that people wouldn’t immediately think of as being rewarded, which Shopkick is able to unlock.

And then I also want to know to the degree that you’re able to tell us what you know about consumers who take those interim steps and their incremental proclivity to buy, having been rewarded for those steps.

Brittany Billings (08:48):

Absolutely. So our app right now, and of course we’re always iterating really amazing features and looking for all of those behaviors and those engagements that our members can be rewarded for. So right now it’s watching a video, an ad. We have 99% completion rate within our app on video ads from our brand partners.

Adam Conner (09:11):

That’s unheard of.

Brittany Billings (09:12):

That is unheard of. Absolutely. We have other more static content or lookbooks where our users can go through and get inspiration on what’s the next best thing that they should be making for dinner or spring cleaning tips or festival fashion ready. They can be rewarded for it. Our shoppers can be rewarded for simply walking into a store. So walk through Whole Foods and get rewarded, walk into a Publix, walk into a TJ Maxx, get points. Half the battle is even getting the customer out of their car and into your store. Our shoppers can then go into an aisle and pick up a product.

So at the moment of truth, when it’s the most important time, what product are you going to put into your shopping cart, we can actually influence our Shopkickers, as we call them, to pick up the product, scan it and get rewarded. And then when they go through to purchase the product, they upload a receipt into our app. So what’s even more, I know you as a data geek as I am, we at Shopkick are then receiving the full receipt, the full basket data, which also generally isn’t shared very broadly with those major [inaudible 00:10:22].

Adam Conner (10:22):

No, it’s not. It’s normally just a hash. It’s a hash credit and a total, unless you’re… Yeah, that’s cool.

Brittany Billings (10:26):

Yeah, absolutely. As well as online shopping. So we think omnichannel is very important, especially to the consumers. So you can shop online or shop mobile within the app and then through all of those major points during the shopping funnel, and get rewarded as well. Then we also do really fun things like contesting through social channels with our partners and sweepstakes and some wonderful surprise and delights that our community loves.

Adam Conner (10:49):

So based on the data that you are seeing and the incredible success of that interim content that you have on Shopkick, wonderful internal validation, I want to hook you with a curve ball just because this came up in the news yesterday. And listeners, you’re hearing this on Monday, we’re recording this last week, just so that you know.

Yesterday, Amazon basically released some news that it would be layering in TikTok style content into its app to incentivize people to consume that content and then to buy. At least externally, do you all find that as additional validation that maybe you were first to this and now that other players are beginning to catch up in whatever shape that may take that you’re on the right track with something or maybe that they smell some opportunity that you were first to?

Brittany Billings (11:36):

Yeah, absolutely. It’s really funny because as we think about Amazon and we think about online, a recent US commerce study just came out that 54% of consumers still prefer to shop brick and mortar compared to any other channel. So I think Amazon’s trying to approach that angle. And what we tried to do here at Shopkick is when we’re looking on Amazon, we have the ability to search and to filter. We can’t do that in the in-store world.

We wanted to harness that power within Shopkick and make this gamified experience where it’s very curated and you can learn about brands and you’re purchasing in-store and you’re getting that same fun gamified online experience within your store experience as well. So I agree, we are a trendsetter beyond Amazon.

Adam Conner (12:27):

Yeah, I would hope so. And the fact that you are able to do things like geolocate users and reward them for just walking into a store-

Brittany Billings (12:34):


Adam Conner (12:34):

… very, very, helpful. And something that I’m not sure that Amazon’s even thinking about, which is probably again good for you.

Brittany Billings (12:40):

No. And your point of geolocation, we’re actually seeing as we are a native app, we are able to actually send push notifications to our users as well if they’re near a location where they could earn kicks.

Adam Conner (12:52):

Who wouldn’t like that? Listeners, if you don’t have Shopkick, I’m guessing you’ve never had a notification like that, offering to give you something as opposed to have you buy something, which is nice. We’ve talked a lot here so far and this is just fascinating to me. Again, I started my career in retail analytics and just to know the deep mechanics that go into getting somebody to buy something is much more than the first couch to the final cashier, plenty in the middle.

But on the show, we also talk about what that means for the end consumer who have probably to this point only really thought about it in those two end points. Do you have a few favorite stories of Shopkickers? I might not even saying that right. People who use the app to buy things and get rewarded. I’m sure through your tenure, you heard a couple of highlights. Could you share some with us?

Brittany Billings (13:43):

Yeah, absolutely. And I don’t want to get too sappy here on this podcast with you, but I would say the stories that we hear from our Shopkicking community on a daily basis, what motivates us here as a team to get up every day, it inspires our CPG brand partners to continue partnering with us and engaging with our shoppers in this way. We hear from one element of help during these really difficult economic times. As I mentioned earlier, our Shopkick users are America. They’re middle America. They’re worried about gas prices. They’re worried about how to pay for their children’s back to school supplies. And a lot of the stories we hear is that they use Shopkick to help them during these really hard financial times.

So one of the redemption options that we have is PayPal. So we hear that they’re using their Shopkick rewards to cash out, to get cash through PayPal, to help pay for groceries and gas. That they’ve been laid off during these times, that it’s helping ends meet. ‘There’s grandmas, who are helping buy back to school supplies for their grandkids. There’s a single mom who writes in and says that she is the best daughter in the world, and she saves her Shopkick kicks to redeem for a birthday gift every single year. So if that’s not motivating to you or to our brand partners, and if that’s not creating fandom between our community and the brands that are enabling them to do this, it’s pretty spectacular.

Adam Conner (15:20):

I agree. Being able to hear those stories either as a steward of the brand or somebody simply listening to one, that is what the essence of fandom is. It’s experiential in nature. Listeners will readily know what it’s like to be a fan of a TV show or a celebrity or sports team. Why is that? Well, it’s probably based on something that you’ve felt when you were engaging with that person or that good or that service. The stories that you get in the middle here are critical to that conversion from consumer to fan.

And once again, though I’ve harped on it a few times here, that is historically not something that I have seen when it comes to eCommerce companies’ ability to figure out what that path looks like much similar to the path to purchase.

So when we talk about that word fandom, and in this lens of eCommerce where it seems like you have an upper hand on learning behaviors and interim actions of people in that parallel path, how would you define that word? If we flipped open the Shopkick dictionary and we turned to F and got to fandom and maybe your personal dictionary, what would that definition read?

Brittany Billings (16:28):

Wow, that’s a great question. That’s a big one. I think and going on to your point too earlier, we normally don’t hear about fandom in those experiences when it comes to vitamins and household cleaners and… Right.

Adam Conner (16:43):

Right. Totally.

Brittany Billings (16:44):

It comes more in different categories of sports or entertainment, but making that connection. So how I would define fandom in the lens of what we do here at Shopkick and you mentioned eCommerce before, but I would really approach it from a standpoint of omnichannel or everywhere commerce. As I mentioned before, consumers still want to go into store, but they also want to shop online.

So I think it’s more about shoppers wanting choice. And can you provide the benefits of eCommerce, the search, the filter, the compare to the store experience and vice versa. So many of our customers, partners, excuse me, and this is just an anecdote, we’re originally D2C. Right, so they’re a D2C brand, their only purchasing eCom. And there’s been a huge wave of them moving to distribution through major retailers. And why is that? It’s because they heard from their customers that they want to find those products at those major retailers where they’re doing a majority of their shopping.

So to me, creating fandom is about listening to your customers and providing them that experience that they’re looking for.

Adam Conner (17:59):

So let’s turn for a moment to the other F word we pursue on this show, which is future. And colored by what’s recently been going on, at least in the US macroeconomically, we’ll stick here, is that retail made a huge bet through 2021 and first half of 2022 stocking up on excess inventory, which has now led to a bloat not only there, but with inflationary worries, we are starting to see a few cracks in the US retail landscape. Now Walmart’s earnings beat this week, not withstanding, certainly is going to provide, I believe, downward pressure on price at the, maybe the store or something like that, in the case that inventory becomes a real problem.

For somebody who is running the shop at Shopkick, what does that cause you to adapt to where if a consumer is really only concerned with the final price that they’re going to pay, does that bear some weight on the potential interim awards they can get? Does it further incentivize them to do that because their money goes longer? What do you have to say about this current macroeconomic environment and how it affects retail Shopkick eCom and the consensus they’re in?

Brittany Billings (19:08):

Yeah, absolutely. So I think first, the majority of our shoppers are value driven, and so they’re already going to be concerned. And even though Target might have mismanaged their merchandising buys and predicting the trends up front, yes, consumers want couponing. Yes, they’re going to find discounts at retail. The brands, however, and I think what’s really unique about Shopkick is our Shopkickers are earning kicks. They’re not earning discounts. And so they still need to go in and buy milk and buy eggs. They’re still necessities that families need for their family.

So how can we provide the best alternative in terms of providing additional value to shoppers? And so brands can come in and instead of majorly eroding margin by deeply discounting and deeply couponing, they can give this reward award in terms of kicks to the end user. So it’s also not discounting directly at point of sale, but we’ve heard that from our Shopkickers that a majority of them will actually buy a new brand compared to the one that they’re generally loyal to, if they can earn kicks for it. So I think it’s also a really interesting time that was 87%, excuse me, of our Shopkickers, would buy a new product as opposed to their go-to brand.

And so I think in these times, we’ve seen loyalty waiver, whether it was during the pandemic when consumers were moving more to private label and they had the ability to comparison shop when they’re online, sitting at home, not going out, going through supply chain issues, when maybe their preferred brand wasn’t there. So I think in this time, brands need to not rest on the laurels of their loyalty and discounting here and there just to get a customer. They need to go back, as we talked about earlier, that value exchange of making sure they’re awarding and recognizing a consumer at every step of that purchase funnel.

Adam Conner (21:13):

Yeah, that’s a good point too, because while loyalty has eroded, at least through the middle of ’22, personal consumer expenditure has largely stayed the same or risen a tiny bit. Now my guess is there’s a great deal of trade off beneath that, and that has to be incentivized by something, whether it is a price difference and availability difference or an incentive difference, maybe in terms of some intern award. It’s interesting then to try to, without having the data sitting on this side of the interview table, knowing exactly what the best in class path looks like.

And so that’s what I’d like to round this out with. I want to hear from the other side of the table, because in, let’s say, the future, beyond a high inflationary environment, beyond Target maybe mismanaging the merchandising, beyond Amazon looping in content and seeing if it can get beyond content creators wanting to boycott purchasing from there at all, based on labor practice. All this stuff, eventually there will be, and even if there isn’t, I’m sure you’re thinking about it, some utopian best in class shopping experience for a next gen consumer who is incentivized to meaningfully move through every step of the funnel.

That’s a huge context for the question, which is what do you foresee for the future of that experience, but I’m interested as we round out to just peer into that looking glass with you, because so far you seem to have been a step ahead.

Brittany Billings (22:34):

Absolutely. So incentives should be just one of the many elements of the future best in class shopping experiences as you’re looking for. But it’s really interesting. I believe that the stages of the funnel as we marketers have traditionally defined it is being altered, and it’s no longer going to be linear. So this next gen consumer, and we’re seeing it a little bit right now, anyway, with your Amazon example and my push notifications where we’ll follow you around everywhere that you’re going, consumers are navigating their day with brands and products and services completely competing for their attention.

And we see it as the winners that convert them into buyers is going to create that most frictionless experience. And again, I’m going to come back to this, the greatest value. So if loyalty is no longer guaranteed, brands can’t rely on the customers they once had. So how can they treat this new generation in a different way than how they used to rest on their laurels of past?

So I think it’s about just continuing to always strengthen the habitual and emotional connection that consumers have with your brand. And through incentives is one of them, incentivizing those desired behaviors. It’s how can you blur the lines of physical and digital and make the benefits of the online shopping experience relevant in store and the benefits of the in-store shopping experience relevant online. So I think it’s that seamless frictionless experience where we have all of our data and knowledge and power in our hands and consumers can make smart choices immediately.

That’s how I see the future. And again, I would say you don’t just end with the transaction. So we’ve talked about it a lot in this moment of, “Okay, you see some content, you get awareness, you get education, you get discovery and then you purchase.” One transaction is really great, but how do you guarantee that second one? So how do you follow up post engagement as well? So ensuring that there’s that solid loop between the transaction and those behaviors that lead to it, and then the behaviors that lead to the next transaction is where we’re going to win.

Adam Conner (24:51):

And no music fan ever became a lifelong die hard after one concert ticket. It’s always about that prolonged experience, one where they feel that they belong to a community. And that’s one thing that I’ve personally learned over this year, even via this podcast, is that when we say next gen consumers, which is essentially just, well, the youngest consumers out there, doesn’t matter where they shop, where they bank, how they’re entertained, they want to feel like they belong.

And that is just another way of saying emotional experiential is here to stay, and that will be dominant. Actually, I’m going to do one bonus question here because sometimes I like to flip this question on its head. Based on everything you know about what the next gen best in class experience, could you fill this blank for me? And the blank is, “Well, I could tell you for sure that a best in class next gen experience will not include,” blank. What’s that blank for you?

Brittany Billings (25:41):

It would not include waste.

Adam Conner (25:43):

What kind of waste?

Brittany Billings (25:44):

I think waste of time, waste of money, mental bandwidth. Again, I think we have so many things coming at us from a daily basis and I think the next gen wants something clean and open and honest, and that meets their expectations and is conscientious and wants to get it quickly and has just the power in their hands to make that quick decision to move on to the next one.

Adam Conner (26:13):

Yeah. And that makes sense too. I think, well, it goes hand in hand with that frictionless goal, that ideal where there is no slip up. And the reason why I asked about waste is because that’s taken so many different various definitions and various societal context even this year and last year. But yeah, very interesting. I do hope for at some point a wasteless experience with regard to any of this because it’s hard to do. And that’s the thing that I talk about with people all the time. It’s nice to talk in terms of ideals in the future will definitely include that, but it’s going to be a bit of a slog, I think, because we’re always going to be surprised by whatever, whether it’s macro conditions, societal implications, geopolitical issues, whatever. There’s always something that’s pressuring that bubble, but it’s nice to think about it. It’s nice to conceptualize.

Brittany Billings (26:59):

An ideal world, ideal world.

Adam Conner (27:00):

Yeah, in an ideal world, and we’ll get as close to it as we can. But in the meantime, I mean, hey, this journey to purchase and learning all of this behavior in the middle seems like a pretty ideal way to build that future. And so for that, I’m really appreciative to have you come on here and share your expertise and to share the story of Shopkick. Brittany, thank you so much for joining us today.

Brittany Billings (27:19):

Thank you so much, Adam. I really appreciate it.

Adam Conner (27:24):

Thanks again to Brittany Billings for joining us today. I’m glad you played along with me, even as we approached the weeds on retail macroeconomically and its implications on what’s to come. And thanks to you, the listener for exploring The Future of Fandom with us. I’d encourage you to stay connected. Here’s how you can do it,, where you’re going to get all of our shows from 2022.

Of course, you can also subscribe to The Future of Fandom across podcast networks. And finally, we’re on social media, too, LinkedIn @livelike and Twitter @livelikeinc. I look forward to predicting the future again with you real soon. And until then I’m Adam Conner saying so long and thanks for being a fan.

Written By
Megan Glover
Brand & Content Manager
Written By
Megan Glover
Content Manager

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