Checking In: Location-Based Applications Have Tremendous Potential For Franchisees
By: Scott Klososky
If you have not yet experimented with applications like FourSquare and Gowalla on your mobile device I suggest you load them and become familiar. I suspect that either, or both, of these companies will soon be acquired by much larger platforms like Facebook, or companies like Google. Either that or they will face competing services from the giants. These services have the potential to completely alter our relationships with retail locations in ways that will swing billions of dollars in revenues.
If you are not familiar with the new use of the vocabulary "check in" let me give you the fast version. With location-based applications like FourSquare you can identify a location (your office or store for example) and then associate a reward for people to check in while they are at this location. You can also provide tips for anyone checking in, which really is just a way to provide real time information on any special, discount, or new product you want people to know about. These location-based applications provide some game-based benefits on their own like badges, and mayorships for the people that are frequent users. As a side note, I am not even the mayor of my own office because one of our team who makes it into the office everyday checks in like a mad fiend wherever she goes so I never have a chance to take over being the mayor!
Personal issues aside, you hopefully are starting to get the picture that with services like these, retailers have the ability to now use technology to advertise, reward, and attract customers on a free platform that utilizes the Web and mobile devices. Forget little plastic cards I have to carry around to prove I came to your store. Forget expensive advertisingtools that cannot be targeted to each location, or that land on millions of people who are not your customers. You can now give incentives for people to make multiple trips to your location, and then ply them with ads on their mobile devices that are unique to that location. Even better, when someone checks into your location, a note is sent out to their friends to tell them where they are at that moment which gives you great "eWord" of mouth advertising. If your eyes are glazing over at this point because you just don't get it, then load one of the two apps I have mentioned and use it for 30 days - then you will get it.
The surprising thing to me is that retailers, franchisees, and service providers are not moving more quickly to experiment with these tools. This is such an obvious extension of what a mobile device with a GPS can do for a user and a marketer. Now, to be fair, a retailer could challenge the easy ways this kind of marketing system can be gamed. For example, someone could send their friends to a location with their phone over and over so that they can rack up visitation points. Or employees could abuse the system because they are already going to be at the location. I get it. Putting the right algorithms into the check in process can solve all of these abuses, and we will sort this out quickly. Since I love predictions, here are a few I look forward to:
A check in button on my phone so I don't even have to open the application to check into a location - just hit the button.
Automatic check in when I walk through the front doors and the wireless network senses I am there.
An automatic loyalty discount that is given based on how many visits I have had to the location.
A list of new products sent to my mobile device that I might be interested in based on past purchases.
An alert if any of my friends are in the same location.
An annual report on how many visits I made to a location and the amount of hours spent there.
If you have a company with retail locations, please, please get on this trend quickly. The early implementers have a chance to grab market share, and consumers will love the new capabilities!
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