Checking-In to Retail

Early last year a new consumer behavior began to gain traction and take the social space by storm as marketers took notice of customers “checking in” when visiting their businesses. Geosocial services like Foursquare, Facebook Places, Gowalla, Loopt, BriteKite, Yelp and others found their way onto GPS-enabled devices, like smartphones, giving users the ability to share their current locations with their individual social graphs.

Geosocial services have come onto the scene with a lot of hype, but they still have some growing to do in terms of adoption. A Microsoft survey found that 24% of surveyed respondents claim to have used geosocial services (about 40 million) and 30% claim to be familiar with them, which means there’s room for them to grow, especially considering Nielsen’s prediction that smartphone penetration will exceed 50% by the end of this year.

Even though the check-in hasn’t reached mainstream behavior, marketers, particularly retailers, can’t overlook its potential and value to reach customers who are at their front doors or even within their stores.

The Value to the Consumer

Users of geosocial services say connecting with people, discovering locations enjoyed by others and gaining insight into where and when they travel as the top three reasons they use them. Despite popular belief, receiving deals and discounts comes in fourth.

Consumers find value in geosocial services when they connect with others and crowdsource opinions to make decisions. The desire to build, maintain and nurture relationships is what keeps consumers checking in again and again.  

Source: White Horse

The Value to the Business

Geosocial services allow retailers to reach customers who are either within their stores or in the area. In addition, as geosocial services gain popularity, they can drive valuable insights as dashboards like Foursquare’s allow businesses to identify peak times for store visitors, who the most frequent visitors are and general visitor demographics.

Check-ins can also affect behavior in a couple ways. First, users can share their location with their social graphs, potentially influencing their connections to consider visiting a business. Second, rewards can be leveraged to reinforce or change customer behavior.

Meeting in the Middle

Geosocial services have the potential to serve business’ objectives, but marketers must also prove why checking-in is worthwhile for their customers by taking a two-fold approach.

  1. Prioritize and Galvanize:
    • Identify the platforms where the business’ core audience is playing, whether that’s Foursquare, Facebook Places or something else, and claim the venues that are yours.
    • Encourage customers to check-in with a call-to-action, such as a decal on the front door, and ask them to share that check-in across their social graphs.
    • Leverage the data from check-ins to inform your business. For example, if you are running a bar, and you notice check-ins decline at 1:00 am, consider starting a 1:30 am happy hour.
  2. Connect and Offer Incentive
    • The primary reason people use geosocial services is to connect with others, so build a community by encouraging users to share their locations socially and asking customers to add multimedia to your venue like photos, tips and stories.
    • Provide digital “swag” like badges and recognition (i.e., mentioning them on Twitter) to encourage certain behaviors that achieve business objectives, such as checking-in with a friend who’s never been to the store before.
    • Use deals to add icing to the cake by rewarding groups of friends, large numbers of people, new customers and loyalty.

Check Out the Check-In

Geosocial services are new, and for some consumers, privacy is a concern, the benefits of checking in aren’t clear and the fulfillment from geosocial services is found in other channels, which slows down adoption. Still, geosocial services are seeing growth, and it doesn’t look like checking-in is going away. Now, is an opportune time for retailers to take a look, test, learn and grow with one of the latest developments in social media.