The Check-in Phenomenon

From Foursquare and Gowalla to Facebook and Google Places, “checking-in” is becoming second nature to millions of people nationwide. Checking-in, as it relates to consumers and technology, refers to using location based services integrated with smart phones, allowing users to “announce” where they are at based on a particular venue. Users can download from a multitude of apps to check-in using a specific platform to earn points. From the millions of Foursquare users to the hundreds of millions of Facebook users, this offers businesses a vast user base to tap into. One goal these check-in services hope to achieve is to fill the intersection between technology and brick-and-mortar businesses. Check-in services encourage consumers to visit physical storefronts to look, peruse, and buy.

Do you check-in?

People check-in for various reasons, but a ReadWriteWeb article highlights some of the top reasons including: the ability to discover where your friends are at, earning badges and virtual goods, gaining points, and even accumulating rewards for frequent visits at a particular establishment. With the onset of real-world rewards for becoming mayor, patronizing a business, and winning challenges, people are taking check-ins more seriously. Rewards can range from buy-one-get-one-free offers to $15 off a $50 purchase.

Businesses are beginning to take notice of these check-in services and starting to integrate them into their social media and marketing strategies. To stay ahead, social media tools are essential to connect with customers to develop new and repeat business. The tricky part for business owners is finding which service is best for them. One major concern of business owners is whether or not someone who has checked-in to their business actually visited and how to justify ‘rewarding’ customers for unverified check-ins.

Why are check-ins important?

Why are check-ins so important to businesses? Check-ins are basically free advertising on social networks to build brand awareness. Check-ins are published to news feeds, alerting their friends and followers of what business and essentially where the user is at. This happens every time, offering brand exposure and brand awareness to all their followers or friends that see these impressions.

The future of check-ins lie in proving to retailers the value of partnering with these services and show their return on investment. We know people are checking-in, but it is not yet clear how valuable it is for retailers to actively manage and partner with these services. Retailers are not just looking for more people to walk the aisles of their stores or pass by their restaurant walking down the street. They are looking to see real revenue being generated from these services in the form of actual purchases. Verified check-ins where you know a customer didn’t just visit, but actually purchased something is of great value to a business. This in conjunction with the social and social media aspect of check-in services are becoming more compelling to businesses who are realizing the value and understand how best to spend their time integrating them into their social media plans.

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