With location-based apps such as Foursquare and Facebook Places growing in popularity, how can marketers harness social 'check-ins' for brand benefit? Richard Austin from SmartInsights.com provides a checklist to help you get started.
A recent report by Deloitte showed that mobile influenced 5.1% of in store sales in the US, accounting for $159bn in forecasted sales for the whole of 2012, way over the $12bn forecast for mCommerce.
Radio Shack has noted that Foursquare users spend 350% more in store than non-users and a pet food brand in the US saw a 14% uplift in sales after using Foursquare to promote free dog food for every unique check-in.
Additionally there are 200 million people sharing location on Facebook, Foursquare is adding 1 million users a month and the recent report by Jiwire shows that 62% of us are willing to share our location.
So the potential for location marketing is huge and as you can started for free, there’s really no reason why you shouldn’t get involved.
What is location marketing?
In a nutshell, it is sending a communication to an individual based on a check-in, via a location-based sharing app (e.g. Foursquare or Facebook Places) on a smartphone. When a consumer visits a restaurant or a store, they’ll open Foursquare or Facebook Places, which then locates where they are based on the GPS on their phone, then they select the venue where they are located and share that with their social network. This is a “check-in.”
In addition to providing users a unique social outlet, checking-in offers customers with several notable benefits:
- Explore: Users can get customized recommendations based on their past check-ins and their friends’ check-ins; for example: where to eat, shop, etc.
- Get tips: Users can see what others have to say about maximising the experience at that venue, such as how to avoid queues, which off-menu selections to ask for, and what items are 'must-dos'. When a user checks in and shares his location, that person’s friends see that check-in, in their own feed.
- Access specials/discounts: The check-in can trigger a variety of special offers and loyalty discounts, based upon whether this is the first check-in (‘newbie’) at the establishment or that person is the mayor (person with the most check-ins at a location).
- Tweet your check-in: This is a Foursquare only feature that allows a check-in and any message the consumer wants to write to be shared on Twitter.
(Examples of Foursquare specials/discounts)
How do I utilise the check-in?
For marketers location based marketing offers a unique touch point with customers, as well as a range of other benefits:
- Drive store traffic and purchases: With the right strategy and tactics, you can entice customers and prospects to visit your stores, trade show booths and/or events, boosting traffic and, ultimately, revenue.
- Engage customers with lists and tips: Just as Foursquare users can leave tips for other patrons, establishments can leave tips for how customers can enhance their experience. Businesses can also take advantage of Foursquare’s 'lists' feature to provide fun ideas for people looking to explore their location. In a world where buyers crave helpful, educational information from businesses, this is a tremendous opportunity to deliver content that will be appreciated and acted upon. Even those businesses without physical locations can get into the action, boosting brand recognition in the process. For example, the History Channel leaves tips on Foursquare with cool historical anecdotes related to different locations.
- Gain valuable data: With Foursquare’s reporting tools, you can garner key insights into how many people are checking in, who they are (gender, age, top visitors) and what percentage are sharing their check-ins on Twitter and Facebook.The benefits of this level of reporting are twofold: use these learnings to inform future location-based marketing campaigns and gain deeper insight into the demographic make-up of your customers.
- Reply to tweets: Twitter messaging enables you to automatically reply, via Twitter, to a customer when they check-in and share this check-in to Twitter.So if Twitter user @biggestof checks-in to a hotel on Foursquare and shares this on Twitter, the hotel is able to reply to this user via Twitter, for example: “@biggestof Thanks for checking-in! We hope you have a great stay. Sign up for our email list to get news & updates: bit.ly/news”. The International Hotel Group is using automatic replies to check-ins in this way to increase customer loyalty and drive email subscriber growth. This is a great way to provide instant customer service and highlight any appropriate promotions, such as a discount for the hotel’s own restaurant.
All of this means that marketers now have an effective method to send highly relevant campaigns, based on immediate consumer actions (and we know how critical timing can be). These campaigns can also be influenced by your offline channels as you can incentivise check-ins through promotions in your physical store.
(An example of lists on Foursquare)
Taking it a Stage Further
A check-in can be used to trigger an email to the individual checking-in, providing the marketer the opportunity to send more sophisticated campaigns such as: loyalty programs, sweepstakes and proximity offers.
Is the person checking-in to a location near your store? If so then send them a limited offer and entice them into your retail outlet. Do you have a customer that’s checked in to your physical store locations but never visited your e-commerce store? Send that person an email inviting them to visit your online store. Or, send your frequent online shoppers an email promoting your check-in loyalty program.
These types of campaigns require that you utilise a location-based marketing platform that can make use of the Foursquare API to deliver these communications that drive store and event visits, conversions and revenue. Note that moving beyond the basics to send these types of sophisticated campaigns, means that you will have to dip into your marketing budget.
Location-based loyalty programs reward customers for signing up and frequently checking in to your location using Foursquare and Facebook. For businesses, location-based loyalty programs are an easy way to reward your best customers and turn them into even stronger brand advocates. They also provide valuable data on your most frequent visitors that you can use to more strongly engage them. And like other location-based marketing programs, they boost store traffic.
You might offer users a reward at sign-up such as '10% off next purchase' or 'free latte' and then deliver additional awards at various intervals. Tanger Outlets offers discounts at the third and fifth check-ins, along with chances to win prize and saw thousands of new check-ins as a result.
Tanger Rewards Sign-up Page
Competitions and sweepstakes
You can run flash offers such as 'First 10 people here for dinner get a free appetiser or dessert!' using the free tools in Foursquare.
However integrating with a location based marketing platform allows you to award 'surprise' or 'instant win' prizes based on check-in frequency and other behavioural factors. Promotions can be buy-one get- one free, exclusive deals based on previous purchase history, instant win (or not) a competition entry or any other promotion that fits into your overall promotions strategy. Dunkin’ Donuts’ location based sweepstakes combined a grand prize giveaway with daily prizes to keep participant interest high, resulting in a huge uptick in check-ins and store revenue.
This is probably the most talked about feature of location marketing as it allows marketers to pull new customers into a specific store/restaurant/event/ location and lure customers away from the competition in the process.
These are special offers delivered to customers when they check-in at nearby locations. As a marketer you set up a virtual radius around a location and when someone checks-in within that radius, an offer is sent via email that can only be redeemed within your nearby store, so helping drive footfall. For example, you could automatically email a special offer to someone whenever they check-in within a 1 mile of any of your stores. Many regional restaurants in the US do this and have seen redemption rates between 5% and 15%.
So proximity offers are an excellent way to increase foot traffic to your stores. But even if users don’t take you up on your offer (this time), you’ll have built valuable brand awareness that might lead to a future visit.
As you’ll appreciate, location marketing can drive up the awareness of your venue amongst millions of consumers, help pull in customers from competitors, increase in-store footfall, increase buyer loyalty and increase revenue.
Adopting location-based marketing
Do I need to have an opt-in?
Location marketing is permission based, the Foursquare and Facebook apps are defined as Ad Networks and as the features raised under 'What is location marketing?' are all delivered through the network, then the consumers registration to Foursquare or Facebook Places is permission enough.
This also applies to the benefits to marketers shown immediately under 'How do I utilise the check-in?', however when taking location marketing a step further and integrating with email, then active consent (opt-in) is required. This is normally requested during the sign-up (on your website) to receive offers based on check-in, the competition/sweepstake entry form or as part of an email preference centre.
How do I get started?
It’s easy and free with both Foursquare and Facebook; first claim your venue, either via the mobile app, the Foursquare website or by adding a location to Facebook Places. Both require that you verify you are the location owner.
From there, you can set-up specials on Foursquare, create lists add tips and set-up your auto reply Tweets or you can monitor customer check-ins, tips and comments and the Foursquare reports and use these to help define the types of campaigns you should send.
Do most customers check-in only once, is there a hard-core set of customers who check-in multiple times per day, are they mostly women between 18 & 35? All this information is available and is invaluable in helping marketers decide exactly what campaigns to run and what offers to include.
Foursquare analytics enables marketers to see:
- Total daily check-ins over time
- Your most recent visitors
- Your most frequent visitors
- Gender breakdown of your customers
- What time of day people check in
- Portion of your venue’s foursquare check-ins that are broadcast to Twitter and Facebook
- If you’re a chain with multiple locations, you can see aggregated stats across all of them.
With Facebook, once you claim a venue, a profile page is created and you’re free to post updates, offers and other content as you would to any Facebook page. Note that the page is venue specific and so allows you to create some very tailored promotions.
That’s all you have to do to be ready to take advantage of location marketing and without spending a penny out of your marketing budget!
Whilst it’s easy and free to get started with location marketing, success will come by combining a number of factors:
- Considering check-in promotions as part of your overall promotional strategy. For example what level of discount can you offer to newbies or loyal customers?
- Making your staff fully aware of the check-in promotions offered and how to redeem them.
- Deciding what level of freedom local venue managers have in the rewards or competitions offered
- Creating a process that allows the check-ins and rewards to be tracked at a corporate level.
As most location marketing initiatives fail through lack in execution and poorly trained staff; addressing each of these points will enable you to be sure you’re fully prepared from both a logistical as well as technical standpoint.
To recap, location marketing has the potential to become a significant revenue generator for your business. Delivered as part of your overall promotions strategy, it has the ability to drive the awareness of your venue, increase footfall, customer loyalty and most of all revenue.
Good luck in your location marketing endeavours!