The mantra in real estate has always been, “Location, Location, Location!” Over the past year, since the advent of location-based apps such as Foursquare and Gowalla, it’s seemed the plugged-in community has adopted the location motto as its own. Predictions were made, and disputed, about how important these apps could be.
I resisted the allure for a while but succumbed to the new avenue for connection. I’m a sucker for connecting. After several months of using both Foursquare and Gowalla… here’s what I think about the potential and the problems:
Problems I see:
Spam abounds. (It’s possible to drive by a strip center slowly and “check in” to a dozen places in a few minutes.) I’ve “turned off” several people on either service who did this routinely and made my phone go nuts with their check in message. And their poor Twitter or Facebook friends! *shudder*
Stalker potential is high. Early on, I was enamored with the newness of it all and checked in to both services most everywhere I went. Then the sobering reality of just how much information I was giddily sharing with the known world made me pause… and rethink a bit. I still check in often, but not usually if I’m traveling alone. And I keep many of my check ins off of Twitter and FB…. only the connections I’ve accepted on the location services see where I’m visiting.
Reward factor is low. I’m the Mayor of 18 places on Foursquare. Yes, it’s true… 18. And the rewards for that, so far? Nil. Nada. Zilch.
Connection potential is limited. Yes, I can see the possibility of real-world connections happening because of online posting. That’s why I’m still using the services. What bothers me is that when I see someone has checked into St. Francis Hospital, for instance, there’s no mechanism through the service for me to say, “Hey, you OK? Need anything?” or, if they’ve checked into my favorite Mexican restaurant, to say, “Hey, ask for Melinda’s section, she’s fabulous!”
What I’d like to see happen, in order to make location-based services really take off:
Stop the spam. Limit the time between check-ins, perhaps? Reward frequency at the same venues rather than overall number of check ins?
Build actual rewards into the service… Oh, my… the potential here is incredible. Location based apps are the digital convergence of direct mail and intent-based web search. Take for example Pei Wei Asian diner… no dessert offered there. In Tulsa, one of their locations sits adjacent to a Maggie Moo’s store. When I check in to Pei Wei, I ought to get a coupon or offer sent to me from the app for 20% off my order THAT NIGHT at Maggie Moo’s next door. Why, oh why, don’t they do this? They know where I am, they know what I’m doing (location, intent) and the potential to offer me something that is timed perfectly and co-located is huge. Why limit the rewards to free fries for the “Mayor?” Seriously… the data they are developing on customer behavior is worth lots of money and can be leveraged in so many ways. Would bring new meaning to point-of-purchase advertising.
Add connectivity. Let me respond to the shout-outs of my friends. Actually foster real-world connection. What about a badge that’s earned any time 5 people simultaneously check in to the same venue? (the Lemming badge?) Or maybe a trigger for free fries if you and 3 of your friends all check in to the same venue within 20 minutes (long enough to get the ping, decide to go, and get in the door)?
Those are my thoughts… what did I miss and what do you think?