August 9, 2012

Foursquare Evolves Beyond the Check-In

When you are married with three kids a date night becomes a luxury for which you seldom have time. I, therefore, always take advantage of opportunities when they are presented, like last weekend.  Given its rave reviews, we decided to see “The Dark Knight Rises.” When we got to the theater, I pulled out my iPhone and checked-in using Foursquare, as I always do. Fast forward – the movie was excellent and I highly recommend it. As we exited the theatre, I pulled out my phone again to check out nearby places to eat, once again turning to Foursquare.  This time, however, as I opened the explore tab, I was greeted by something new.

A local restaurant, just two blocks away, apparently discovered that I was in the area and let me know that two of my friends had eaten there recently and liked it. In addition, they notified me of a current special they were running.  This combination of social recommendations and an offer were enough to get us in the door, allowing us to have an excellent meal after our excellent movie.

Welcome to the world of Foursquare and its local updates and promoted updates.

Since its launch three years ago, Foursquare now has more than 20 million active monthly users, 1 million verified merchants and over 2 billion check-ins.  Foursquare has amassed a bank of consumer data that has few rivals. For years merchants have had access to that wealth of information including granular data such as male/female demographic breakdown, frequent customers, time since check-in, etc., but have had no viable avenue for utilizing it with the exception of large, blanket promotions.

Foursquare is changing that and giving merchants two new extremely powerful tools.  On July 18, Foursquare announced Local Updates which allowed business to contact their customers directly, offering deals and incentives to those who have expressed interest in the business through check-ins or other comments.  A week later, the company announced Promoted Updates, which allows businesses to push out recommendations to potential customers that are essentially advertisements to a mobile consumer base.

Foursquare is positioning this as a Google search-type tool.  When conducting a “regular” search a person inputs a query, showing their intent, which is replied to with relevant search results.  In similar fashion, a Foursquare user is expressing intent by opening the app and going to the “Explore” tab to find information relevant to what is around them.  This is a large step forward in contextual marketing that uses social data to customize communications to consumers.

Both of these update tools show that Foursquare is serious about monetizing its platform and is very well positioned to do so.  Brands and consumers can expect to see further moves from the app-centered around consumer targeting.

The age of hyper-local consumer targeting is here and Foursquare is among the leaders of the pack in providing customized communications options for businesses.

Here are a few things brands, especially national retailers with large local footprints, should consider:

  • Customizing communications to consumers on this level will drive foot traffic to local stores
  • Offering specials and discounts through Foursquare limits losses that can be experienced through “normal” couponing/discounting sites
  • Engaging on the Foursquare platform opens door to a wealth of social data surrounding brands and their locations

Foursquare has shown that it is a viable platform for reaching consumers and engaging them on a local level.  National brands need to enter into that field through localized, contextual offers and communications or risk losing consumers to the businesses that do.

Categories: Mobile social media