The Check-In Goes Platinum

In March last year, American Express and foursquare announced a partnership in which users were encouraged to sync their credit card and their foursquare account.  By checking in at various merchants, participating users would receive a credit on their next AmEx statement.  A few months later, the partnership went national, and AmEx now offers significant discounts on purchases for cardmembers that check in via foursquare or Facebook.  While special offers have long been a part of the check-in experience, the AmEx program removes the hassle of redeeming coupons or explaining a “mayor special” at the register.

Foursquare knows that it’s going to take more than badges and mayor contests to keep people checking in. Over the summer, the company announced a series of features that make it easier for merchants to create and manage specials.  The company also introduced a Merchant API, which allows companies to integrate foursquare data into their existing business dashboards, making it much easier for large merchants with multiple locations to manage deals and track consumer behavior.

But adding more Deals isn’t enough if consumers forget to check in.  Apps like RunKeeper use GPS to track a user’s location and share information about your fitness regimen. With the launch of iOS 5 this fall, foursquare introduced Radar, an optional feature that will notify users when they’re close to restaurants on a list they’re following, or if they’re passing by a venue that is popular with their friends.  “Now we can deliver users information that is contextual and relevant without them having to do anything at all,” says Alex Rainert, foursquare’s head of product.

These types of innovations will keep foursquare at the head of the class when it comes to check-in apps, and help prevent check-in fatigue among consumers. Our prediction for 2012? Merchants and brands will get more creative with check-in marketing, too.

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