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Mobile Marketing Strategies – Why Mobile Check-in’s Fail

March 14, 2012

Mobile Marketer questioned in a post yesterday the future existence of independent mobile check-in apps such as Foursquare.  They noted that both Gowalla and Loopt were acquired and subsequently shut down. Even Facebook is struggling with what to do. With all of the hype that surrounded these companies and concepts a year ago, why did they fail?

I see two primary reasons:

  1. The majority of consumers will not expend the effort required to check-in (i.e. perform a not-very-consumerish-action) without promise of an exceptional reward.

The last thing a merchant should want me doing after walking into the store is digging out my phone, loading an app and checking-in. They got me all the way to the store and in the door, now I want to see some cool and interesting merchandise! Foursquare is still experimenting with the ties between rewards and actions, but because of the above reason I think they’re on a trail to nowhere.

  1. When it comes to interaction with merchants, consumers want to be connected – not gamified.

Consumers are much more interested in being handed a reward rather than having to jump through a hoop (or hoops) to receive it. That’s a pretty basic observation, but unless there is more than novelty involved, how long can the check-in craze be expected to last? Receiving a virtual badge for your efforts is the very definition of novelty. Surprise! It’s wearing off.

The lesson for merchants is straight forward – use mobile to connect with your customers and reward them for allowing you the privilege of that direct connection. To be sure, there’s certainly value in knowing when your customers come in the door, but for now I believe the best way is the old fashioned one – greet them at the door.  Customer service still works better than magic.



John Epperson

John Epperson is a co-founder and President of Ruxter. Having worked in various fields across the technology spectrum in the last 20+ years, John has gained a broad understanding of technology. Together with the Ruxter team he has developed a web-based application that allows anyone to quickly and easily harness the power of the mobile internet. You can contact him here. Follow Ruxter on Twitter.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Tyred Uvyou permalink
    March 15, 2012 2:31 pm

    Another part of the issue is the way Foursquare manages things. In our area we have FourSquare “SuperUsers’ that remove unfavorable reviews on their friends businesses, while allowing them to stay on others. I manage around 30 venues and just this morning the FourSquare staff saw fit to ‘not approve” a tip on a school venue. The newbie special was an announcement to visit the schools booster club site.
    Then of course…there was the “I’m on a ‘F******n boat MF”badge
    It’s difficult enough to get people to support new technology.. but when you have FourSquare mindset… it’s impossible.

  2. March 15, 2012 3:42 pm

    @Tyred I’m with you on the review issues. It’s a fine line FourSquare and other crowdsourced review sites like Yelp have to navigate. On one hand, they’re trying to get businesses and other organizations to use their apps, but on the other, end-users can flame the those same businesses.

    Yelp sales reps have been accused in several of cases of extorting businesses by threatening to not remove negative reviews unless the business paid for advertisements: http://techcrunch.com/2010/02/24/yelp-class-action-lawsuit/

    Didn’t mean to go off on a tangent, but that’s another major issue I see that FourSquare has to deal with.

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