Tuesday, 17 August 2010 10:00

What incentive to checkin?

Written by

As hype-laden services go, FourSquare must be right at the top of the hysterical ladder. It's up, it's down, it's the next big thing, it's a flop.

I'm a FourSquare user. I like to checkin, just not everywhere. Who cares if I'm the Mayor of Coles? I am however in a running battle with my sister-in-law for the Mayorship of CoffeeGuy, a small boutique coffee house in Wooloowin, Brisbane. Best coffee going and an ambience that's hard to beat.

It's just one of those places that you want to tell your friends about. For this purpose, FourSquare is genius. An ongoing stream every time I checkin, either boasting or bemoaning my status and the wonders of the coffee - which is then published to my FaceBook and Twitter accounts.

Of course, CoffeeGuy isn't the only place I visit, but my checkins elsewhere are rare. I see this as more symptomatic of the business than of FourSquare: most businesses simply don't inspire you to checkin.

Think about your favourite places. Most of mine are in Melbourne or Sydney. You'd love to go there everyday, but it's just not possible. Instead it's the coffee shop on the corner, the quick bite from a nearby café. These places don't become your regular haunts, unless they're convenient. You'd don't love them, they're just there.

There's no incentive to checkin because you simply don't care about the business. It's not an inspiration, it's not your moment of peace from the world, it's not a place where you love to take your friends.

Unfortunately, this is most businesses. Some try for uniqueness and fail, some just don't care.

This is where I see the potential for forward thinking (but otherwise ordinary businesses) to really take advantage of location-based social networking.

Not every business can afford character - it can take a fiendishly difficult combination of staff, decor, location and product to create a business personality that people relate to.

But everyone relates to savings and specials. If you can't be unique, be relentless in offering your customers an incentive to come back.

There's a little café on Toorak Rd in Melbourne, Krakatoa. They have an extremely ordinary dining room, packed with tables and mismatched cutlery. Patrons share the sauce bottles. But they offer the best value quality breakfast in town. $6.50 gets you a generous serve of eggs, sausage, bacon, tomato and toast. It's not the fine experience or the ambience that draws the capacity crowds every day. It's the low price and quick service. Even celebrities aren't immune: I regularly see Rob Sitch and other denizens of the nearby Channel Ten offices ensconced in their morning papers.

Krakatoa's incentive is the price and speed.

Foursquare gives every business the opportunity to compete, rewarding loyalty - or even just an ad-hoc visit.

I believe this represents an enormous opportunity for businesses and consumers alike, a virtuous cycle that just needs a few businesses to get on board and some customers to grab themselves a deal!

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