If you’re the owner of a restaurant or clothing store, and keep noticing your customers using their smart phones in your place of work, chances are they’re ‘checking in’ to your business via a location-based app.
These apps, namely Foursquare, Facebook Places and Gowalla are hot right now. Business owners from Paris to Portland are signing up, attracting new customers, retaining old ones and using the technology to grow their businesses.
As a primer, location-based apps allow consumers to create a personal profile, and search for friends who already use the app—via Twitter and Facebook contacts. From there, whenever the consumer visits an establishment identified on a location-based app, they can ‘check in,’ an action that alerts friends (also subscribed to the app) to their location.
What to read more about location-based marketing? Check these out:
The more you ‘check-in’ the better. For example, Foursquare, the leader in this space, labels those who ‘check-in’ most often at one location as the "mayor" of the establishment. What’s the point? By achieving mayor status, many businesses will award special sales, etc., thereby incentivizing customers to continue coming back and instilling a lighthearted atmosphere of competition.
Here are a few ways location-based apps can grow your business:
“This is definitely the biggest value of these applications,” says Lenny Rachitsky, co-founder of Localmind, an app that allows users to communicate with persons ‘checked-in’ to get the scoop on the scene before going. “By finding out who is coming to your store or restaurant, you get to understand who your best customers are. It gives you the information to retain them.”
“If you want to attract new and existing customers, offer a deal only to your location-based app followers—such as a free coffee, free drink or free valet,” says Heather Whaling, president of Geben Communication, a PR firm based in Columbus, Ohio. It's also important, she says, to research which app your customers prefer.
“Some apps are more popular than others—depending on the community," she says. "Ask your customers or look on app sites to see which one has more activity in your area.”
Let’s say you’re planning to hold an in-store event. This is an excellent opportunity to capture future customers. How do you do this?
“Follow people on your location-based app as they come in,” suggests Whaling. “Ask those who come to ‘check-in’ and post to their Twitter page using your company’s handle or a specific hashtag. Then, as people come in, write them and thank them for attending. This really helps build relationships with your customers and builds a sense of community and loyalty to an organization.”
“It’s kind of like a virtual loyalty card,” says LisaMarie Dias of LisaMarie Dias Designs, an online marketing company in New York City. “A coffee shop can set up a program where each visitor gets a free cup of coffee, for example, after a certain number of ‘check-ins.’”
Dias offers a few additional tips when using location-based apps:
- Make sure staff is informed of deals and knows how to confirm a ‘check-in’
- Change deals frequently
- Monitor comments, and make sure to respond to negative reviews in a positive fashion
- Monitor and be prepared to make changes