One of the areas that I monitor closely is the progression/adoption of geo-location services such as foursquare, gowalla, yelp, loopt, buzz and dream walk mobile. Geo-location services have been around for the past 4 years but are now gaining critical mass fueled by smart phone adoption and media attention around events such as SXSW 2010.
For this post I will focus primarily on the service based game foursquare and will follow up soon with a Gowalla post. For those of you who are not addicted to checking in to every location you frequent here is the 101 version of the foursquare service and why marketers & businesses alike should pay attention.
The opportunity tied to geo-location based services such as foursquare from both an agency/marketing perspective as well as a local business perspective are enormous. Local business can gain access to customer insights tied to geotagging, local search & location based analytics which can drive adoption on the local level well beyond that of the standard digital campaign.
The service can become an extension of activities that you are already engaged with as part of your everyday routine. This presents a new opportunity to interact with consumers wherever they may roam.
Foursquare as a service is available anywhere in the world. Meaning both domestic and international campaigns can be supported. To get the full experience (Friend interaction, leaderboards, etc…) foursquare requires an iPhone, Blackberry, Android, or Palm Pre.
For those whose immediate response is to point to smart phone adoption rates note that other options to engage exist including a mobile web option as well as an SMS check in option if you text to 50500 (e.g. @Red Urban ! typing a blog post). SMS checkins are only available in the US.
Geo-location services are driven by the concept of geotagging and takes advantage of the GPS technology that resides in your device. This in turn provides a means to digitally “tag” and interact with a physical location you just visited.
E.g. Pull into your local Starbucks, pull out your iPhone/android phone, initiate the app, select/create the location and click “check in”. Once checked in you can then interact with the location by writing a review (tips in foursquare) or you may be presented with a special offer.
Example of Special Offer notification as well as sample offer
With foursquare the primary premise is around rewarding users with three different merit systems. Mayors, Badges and Points.
1) Mayor – A mayor is a user who is in 1st place on the location leader board first place defined as most check-ins
2) Badges – Badges are awarded for achieving various milestones tied to either the number of check in’s at a given location or the amount of check in’s throughout the day or other criteria. As with Xbox Live achievement points recognition can be a key driver in influencing behavior
3) Points – Points are awarded at varying increments based on multiple factors such as a new venue may yield a higher point allocation
Example of Starbucks Foursquare Badge
From a brick & mortar business perspective this is a great service to be mindful of as you can begin to gain insight and influence behavior as well as monitor customer service. Instead of a local ad buy or in addition to it why not promote offers within a radius of your location or serve them directly to your customers as they enter your location.
6 reasons to care about Foursquare as a business
1) Customer insight and word of mouth – You can gain invaluable insight into the behavior patterns of your customers. You can analyze visit trends as well as gain insight into their views of your brand
2) Customer service – With the ability to get near real time feedback as users interact you can gauge the sentiment of your users
3) Customer retention/ Loyalty Program – Forget about punch cards, track loyalty via check-in’s and reward those who frequent establishments with special offers and recognition
4) Viral Effect – With the auto post of updates to Twitter & Facebook with badge unlocks and options to post your check-in’s the viral impact of check-in’s is amplified with this service moreso than other geo-services to date
5) Big Brands are taking note – Starbucks (See image above) & Dominos have already started campaigns with Foursquare and with various media partnerships this trend will quickly continue to rise
6) Measurement – One of the powerful elements of the service is the analytics option that is currently being rolled out. As a business owner it is possible to track: Total checkins, unique visitors, when and if users shared their updates (twitter, facebook) as well as analysis of demographic breakdown and ability to track usage over time
Example of foursquare business analytics screen
One additional service of benefit to businesses and users of foursquare is snacksquare. Snacksquare which is powered by foursquare and is a location-based advertising provider that facilitates local businesses automatically delivering SMS text messages to potential customers that check in near a venue (proximity service). The site also allows end consumers to find the best deals ahead of time vs. just being notified via check in. This framework + the business analytics begins to form a more complete package for marketers & businesses alike. For more information on Snacksquare here is a recent Mashable article.
With additional focus being paid to geo-location by the big players such as Facebook, Google, Twitter, etc… It is natural evolution that foursquare is focused on extending APIs and integration as their valuation (recently 100 million) continues to sky-rocket.
Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360