Compete Blog: I’m the Mayor! So What?

Jan 05, 2011

Commentary by Karen Costa, Online Marketing Specialist, Compete

Through a special
arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article
from the Compete Blog. Compete Inc. is a web analytics
company that focuses on understanding how consumers use the internet.

Are you
on Foursquare, Gowalla or any other check-in services? I use Foursquare and
like many of my friends, I’m beginning to wonder, "What’s
the point?" So far, they’re great in theory, but not in practice.

boasts that you’ll "find inspiration to explore the world
around you while picking up rewards from local eateries, venues, and retail
stores." Similarly,
Foursquare says that it’s "a mobile application that makes cities
easier to use and more interesting to explore. It is a friend-finder, a social
city guide and a game that challenges users to experience new things, and rewards
them for doing so."

Instead of the original intent of rewards and explorations
of new venues, what I usually find is random non-businesses, like "My
Couch" or "Goldie
Lock’s Castle" (true venues within check-in distance from my apartment)
and a mayorship that boasts no rewards other than a badge and proverbial pat
on the back.

I’m an active Twitter persona (for my personal account and also
oversee the social media for Compete and am the former social media person
behind Bliss Spa) and have somehow accumulated about 25,000 random updates
about nothing on my personal account alone. But where could I possibly check-in
that people would care? Justin Beiber’s house?

Although Foursquare and Gowalla
are best used on mobile devices, their web traffic is seeing a steady decline.

the obvious questions and thoughts arise: 

  • Who cares when I’m grocery shopping at my Whole Foods?
  • Why do people need to know that I’m shopping at the mall?
  • I don’t want people to know that this is my third trip to 7-11 today.
    Hostess cupcakes, coffee, diet coke does not a nutritious diet make, but
    that is my dirty little secret.
  • What’s the point of being mayor if there’s nothing in it for
    me or my friends?

Badges are cute and nice (I have 20+), but they have a very flare-like feel
a la Office Space.

Mayorships are generally useless. I fear the day that I’m
out and the new pickup line is, "Hey, baby, can I buy you a discounted
drink? I’m the mayor here." I may have to flee the country and abandon
all social media if that happens.

Most businesses haven’t figured that last
piece of the puzzle out and with so many websites promoting deals and exclusive
offers, how many more offers can a business provide to customers before damaging
their profitability?

Discussion Questions: Are check-in services such as Foursquare and Gowalla
providing enough value to attract consumers? How else besides discounts can
retailers reward customer check-ins?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

Join the Discussion!

8 Comments on "Compete Blog: I’m the Mayor! So What?"

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James Tenser
11 years 4 months ago

I’m generally an advocate of mobile/social media and I see it as the next wave. Networking platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn are virtually mainstream. There’s real promise for “reality browsing” apps that access smart phone GPS to help users locate and visualize nearby businesses and services, too.

However, I have yet to get my mind around “check-in” type apps such as Foursquare and Gowalla (and BrightKite, DodgeBall, MyTown, Whrrl and Loopt). While they may be mildly diverting as games, such apps collect lots of personal data on the user’s movements without delivering much of anything in return.

Why should I bother actively telling anyone where I’m buying my coffee? Is it wise to permit my travel whereabouts to be known by strangers? And why would I allow marketers to track my movements in the background by using the transponder I now conveniently carry in my pocket? (Isn’t that the CIA’s job?)

To my mind, a large sacrifice of personal privacy without the required exchange of personal benefit is a bad bargain.

Max Goldberg
11 years 4 months ago

Gowalla and Foursquare were fun when they both started, but collecting badges and competing in an ill-defined contest to become a mayor have grown old. This is not to say that location based services do not have value. On the contrary, they have great value when coupled with smart promotional offers.

Retailers should experiment with these services to offer consumers discounts and other valuable awards. See what works, then fine-tune the offers to drive word of mouth and traffic.

As smart phone usage proliferates, usage of location-based services will grow significantly. It’s important for retailers to experiment with these services now. They will soon be part of a retailer’s marketing strategy.

Peter Fader
11 years 4 months ago

I agree with the comments above that the novelty of “checking in” to earn meaningless badges is waning. But I believe that there will be genuine value emerging once these companies start viewing themselves as serious B2B service providers, not cutesy consumer-oriented entertainment sites. In this respect they’re very similar to Twitter, which has emerged from its immature early days to be a serious communication tool.

Someone will eventually figure out this B2B check-in thing, and Foursquare in particular has enough of a first-mover advantage that they can keep ahead of Facebook, Google, et al — but only if they start taking themselves seriously and work out proper business relationships with their retail customers. It’s time to drop the badges and start offering meaningful value to (and extracting meaningful revenue from) retailers who want to learn more about their customers.

Bill Bittner
Bill Bittner
11 years 4 months ago

The interesting thing about the check-in services is that their purpose seems to be at odds with the other trends growing out of a ubiquitous network. As improved displays, high speed networks, and online social networking allow people to engage with one another without “being there,” it appears there is less need for a service that helps them “hook up” when they are “there.” Music promoters, sports venues, and others are learning that people are willing to forgo the Live experience. Besides, there is something to be said for anonymity.

Bill Hanifin
11 years 4 months ago

As I write this post, I notice that poll results are equal across all possible outcomes. It seems that even RetailWire BrainTrust members are divided on where LBM will end up.

I have been active with Foursquare for some time and have written on my blog about the unfulfilled opportunities available to merchants via these services.

For local merchants, there are many tools available to help them compete against their national and big box competitors. The missing ingredient might be a source in the market who can package these tools effectively and enable merchants to execute promotional and discounting strategies.

There are emerging social shopping networks like which place the interests of local shoppers, merchants and causes at the center of the value proposition. Maybe the future will found in these plans.

Gordon Arnold
11 years 4 months ago

It makes sense to me that the biggest fans and perpetual hosts of scavenger hunts evolved to Check-in Apps software designers. Ideas like this have always put the consumer base into an ether cloud for a while but as we see here, it wears off real quick. Something for nothing, rebates, and discounts have always worked and I don’t see an end to that for a while.

Chuck Palmer
11 years 4 months ago
The novelty is waning. We early adopters are playing with these things to see what the potential may be. BUT, do we represent a brand’s best customers? Likely not. The ideas these services put forth are exciting, but it is behavior that will turn into real dollars. Discounts are driving these things now, which is a step beyond the game mechanics. We have already seen discount fatigue on both sides of the offer equation (Groupon) so we will see innovation on the offer side. It’s just good consumer marketing–new versions of Green Stamps and the Blue Light Special. Shopkick’s experiment with Macy’s, Best Buy, Sports Authority and American Eagle makes lots of sense. Key retailers in key categories important to the lives of the masses. While it’s not really consumer-centric, that’s one to keep an eye on. Facebook’s Deals and Places has the most potential to create real value for consumers. Facebook already is embedded in our engagement streams–the behavior exists as opposed to disrupting a visit to Target or Kroger with a cumbersome check… Read more »
Mark Johnson
Mark Johnson
11 years 4 months ago

I agree, the novelty of much social media is waning. The customer is tried of keeping up, and is WAY over communicated too. There are too many choices that do not create engagement, but have created stress, burn out and frustration. The adoption rates for these mobile applications, based on the discussions I have with Fortune 500 CMOs is going to be slow and deliberate. One CMO described proximity marketing as having a creepiness factor. Not sure that is good.


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