By the dealnews staff A few months ago, the increasingly popular Shopkick app announced that it had recently reached 3 million active users. These millions of consumers cash in on in-store savings from the shopping rewards application by earning points, as well as unlocking special discounts redeemable at the cash register. This obviously excites anyone invested in brick-and-mortar retail, but is the app really providing a sizable advantage over online shopping? As a site that focuses mainly on defined, immediate discounts, we were most curious about the coupon codes users can unlock while out and about. To the best of our knowledge, we could only obtain these codes by making a store a "favorite," then viewing the "faves" tab and looking for current promotions. We found that, typically, these offers were only ads indicating the store's current sales promotion. Depending on the day and the stores deemed favorites, about a third feature an in-store coupon. The goal here is likely to make in-store shopping — and specifically, in-store buying — more appealing by offering customers an incentive to shop at the brick-and-mortar location. But we at dealnews know how frequently many of these stores offer coupons online, which makes us question if these in-store offers actually provide any additional savings. Are Shopkick Codes Superior to those Online? On random days over the course of three weeks, we checked what Shopkick coupons were available from a variety of different vendors. We then compared the discounts to what was available online at that exact moment. The bad news? Of 25 coupons checked, 44% were beaten by online offers. Therefore, if you opted for the Shopkick savings, you'd be missing out on a better deal online nearly half of the time. On the other hand, 24% of the promotions were better on Shopkick, as compared to online codes. And a respectable 32% of the time, the in-store promotion matched what was available online. But when it comes down to it, three fourths of the coupons we found on Shopkick were less than or the same as online offers. Of course, you must take into account that often you will need to make a minimum purchase online in order to avoid shipping charges. But according to a Nielson/NetRatings MegaView Online Retail report, the average apparel order placed with the top 15 online retailers is $44.68, which is just shy of the popular $50 minimum. Moreover, it is important to note that these numbers are culled from 2005; online retail has become an increasingly trustworthy source for apparel, and that average order might be even higher today thereby making shipping costs irrelevant for many shoppers. So if coupons aren't a strong incentive to use the Shopkick app, how do its other features rate? Checking In for Kicks No shopping service is complete without a rewards program, but Shopkick's service left a lot to be desired. One of the quickest ways you can gobble up points – or "kicks" – is to check into a store. However, our staff frequently had issues with the app recognizing proximity to a store, let alone that we were at the door trying to check in. What's more, the "nearby" tab clearly ranks certain retailers higher; sponsored ads are one thing, but this is annoying, especially when out shopping and looking to see what stores are actually nearby and running promotions. Another method of earning kicks is to scan specific items in stores. But we learned that many of these items were both vaguely described and difficult to find (or not in the store at all, like a bottle of Pantene at a Bath & Body Works). In the worst example, it suggested that our staffer ask a Macy's sales associate for a perfume demonstration (he's a 6-foot tall dude, by the by), and then required him to ask the salesperson for a QR code to scan before he earned any points. The kicker: this effort didn't even yield an appropriately high number of points. And what can you redeem these points for? Rewards cards are available from $2 to $20 for various stores ranging from Best Buy to Target, but the number of kicks required to obtain said rewards starts at a disheartening 500+ points. To put this into perspective, you'll get about 50 kicks for entering a store on an average day, but as little as 5 kicks for other actions on the app. Donations and Facebook credits start at a much more attainable 3 and 25 points, respectively. For example, you can buy ONE Facebook credit for 25 kicks (half of what you earn for checking into Old Navy); the going rate for a Facebook credit is about $0.10, which means 25 kicks are worth about $0.10. Good luck to anyone who has the patience to save up for an Xbox 360 (75,000 points) or Bravia HDTV (925,000 points)! You can also find kicks hiding inside a store's offer page. "Look! I just found 5 kicks, by doing nothing ... except wasting my time, at work, poking around on a shopping application." Clearly not a valuable use of time as 5 kicks is, essentially, $0.02. Time-Consuming Savings Although much of your browsing will be tab-based, it's not very intuitive and oftentimes we've found ourselves drilling through sections we didn't even know existed. Visually, using the app felt more like browsing tiny ad circulars on your phone, but in a very cluttered fashion. One of our staffers wished there was a way to organize stores with categories as well, beyond just indicating your favorites. A lot of the business of the app, in both appearance and verbiage ("unlock a double instant surprise kicks booster!"), seems to be an attempt to keep user interest. While we're at it, this app should also come equipped with a a glossary of terms. What does it mean that Shopkick is "unleashing 'Terrific 2s' & 'Nine-O-Mite' for 9 kicks ALL DAY LONG!" We still do not know. Shopkick or Dropkick? Our main question is: who is this app for? We can see people using Shopkick because they figure, "Well, I'm in these stores anyway, might as well grab these 'kicks' while I'm here." Earning kicks and potentially earning enough points to be rewarded in savings is just icing on the cake. The developers have turned shopping into a game — and also into work, as real rewards require some persistence from kicks that don't payout very well. If you keep at it long enough however, it might just pay off for you. Maybe. But since coupons are hit or miss, we wonder if that's enough to actually encourage people to go to stores, rather than predominantly shop online. Front page photo credit: BizBest Follow @dealnewsfeature on Twitter for the latest roundups, price trend info, and stories. You can also sign up for an email alert for all dealnews features.