The State of the Mobile Economy – according to me: The Check-in

This is the first in a series of short (and hopefully insightful) glimpses of what was important in the mobile universe in 2010 and what that means for 2011.

There is nothing that will come to symbolize the year in mobile better than the check-in. 2010 became the year that check-in’s arrived, trended, faded and became dial tone. Foursquare really pioneered this type of service that has seen a myriad of players come and go – GoWalla and BrightKite are the “biggest” names that have moved away from the core of their business being the check-in – and a number of others building innovative approaches in this highly competitive environment – TopGuest and SCVNGR are two examples.

Significant moments in 2010 for this industry are everywhere but none more than the introduction by Facebook of their check-in service, Places, followed by Facebook Deals. These services open up the concept of check-ins known to people who would normally not be exposed to this type of service – Sally Arkansas as Gary Vaynerchuk calls it.

Big moments in 2010: The Check-In is everywhere

What’s in store for 2011

Two things will be front and center in 2011 for the “check-in” economy:

1. Value needs to had when someone checks in – and, no, I don’t mean a coupon or discount. I don’t know about you but I have not spent the past 10 years learning, spending and participating in the mobile industry so I can simply get a coupon for a discount on my latte.

2011 will be the year that merchants, businesses, sports teams, malls, gas stations – everyone – tries to figure out if this type of service fits their business. Lots of experimentation, lots of hits and misses, lots of trial and error. This is the great part of where we are in mobile – we are making the rules up as we go.

By the end of 2011, real value needs to be had from these services or they risk being relegated to the “what were we thinking” pile.

2. Software companies need to start innovating and get beyond the check-in. With the number of services kicking around that allow you to use their data, through open source or API access, the check-in as a business is dead. Now the innovation happens on how to leverage all this location data to make a better experience for the person contemplating a check-in.

The cost of our personal information has now risen, what are you the software developer going to do to make me give some up again.

About the author

Rob Woodbridge

I'm Rob, the founder of and I've spent 14 years immersed in the mobile and pervasive computing world. During this great time I've helped some of the most innovative companies grow their business through mobile. If you are in need of a mobile business advisor or coach, connect with me here to get things rolling.

  • Jonathan Trenn

    A major part of the problem is there is a huge disconnect that most either don’t recognize and don’t want to talk about. You touch on it a bit here. Most merchants, business, etc., haven’t claimed their presence on location based service platforms. Hence, we get these psuedo awards like badges and mayorships. Before these establishments think about doing it correctly, they have to first understand it actually exists in the first place.

  • Well said Jonathan. I find as I wander around that there is a growing awareness but confusion about where to start. There is a misinformed thinking out there that it is expensive to play here or the commitment is too great to begin. Any resources we can push out to help get people moving and leveraging what is available?

  • Hey Rob – just noticed that this was back up online.

    I’m going to approach the regional restaurant association here in the Washington DC area in hope that I can act as some sort of guide to help them understand the developments that have happened, are happening, and are likely to happen. Businesses – restaurants and retail – first look to their own sources (associations, media publications, etc.) than they do the publications that we read and follow.
    FourSquare, Gowalla, even Facebook Places will struggle with their proposed business models if they’re not developing relationships within the industries. I’m not talking beyond McDonalds and Starbucks. I’m talking the VPs of Marketing for restaurants groups and more.

  • They need a guide IMHO but I don’t think that the LBS companies like Foursquare or Facebook are in the mode of creating those relationships. My feeling is that they want to make it so you don’t have to go through your association or governing body to become active in this space. They want to make it easy for anyone to do it. That leaves a huge opportunity for the right group or person to start educating and helping them move towards it.

    If you move on this, you should take a look at if you haven’t already…great Canadian startup focused on LBS analytics (I interviewed them here:

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