Is the checkin dead? This is a debate that has dogged this short-lived industry almost since the first mayor sat comfortably atop his Starbucks throne with a cheaper latté in hand. Since that era of royalty, so many millions of checkin’s and software companies later, the industry seems to be at a point of transition and the smaller companies – the industry pioneers – are being forced to innovate as the big guys like Google and Facebook start invading their kingdoms.
There is a battle brewing – a new-age world war if you will – and this is where it starts to really get interesting.
The battle lines are being drawn from the moment you walk out of your house. There is a company or a service that wants to tell you what to do, where to go, who is there now, who was there, and who will be there later. What sales are on, what products to buy, eat, drink, consume, what movie to see and what theatre to visit. What roads are closed, what cab to take and where the nearest garage or estate sale is.
There are companies that suggest places to go and things to do based on your social graph, your checkin history, your mood your age, sex and income. But what this truly boils down to is a shift in the battle from those of you stepping in to a business to those of you stepping out of your home.
Stepping in to a business
Identifying, broadcasting and being rewarded for checking in to a location is new — brought to us by popular software companies like Foursquare and Gowalla – is an industry in turmoil these days. In only a few short years and a relatively small but finicky user base, the world of the checkin has innovated, become saturated and evolved in a highly competitive landscape. It was always dogged by the question of what next: Now that I have checked in, what next?
Companies jumped at the opportunity to reward customers who helped spread their brand through these tools. Rewards were small to start – a dollar discount on a frothy drink from Starbucks for the mayor of a location for example. But as awareness spread, consumer expectations increased and companies like Starbucks needed to reevaluate their strategies.
Stepping out of your home
It makes no business sense to give away discounts as a customer stands, product in hand, in line waiting to pay full price. To discount now would be to voluntarily close your doors for good, it would be to set pricing expectations on the consumer and to impact loyalty by putting price ahead of loyalty rewards. Smart companies realized that the battle for the consumer mind and wallet is to have it made up before they even leave their house.
The living room is where the battle has been fought since newspapers ran their first print ad, since radio broadcasted the first advertisement and since the television landed in every living room. Things haven’t changed but precision has. You can now target, manipulate, reduce prices, increase incentive and leverage the “social graph” to get people to see the message you want that will make them run to your store.
The new old battle resumes
Every technology shift brings us back to the couch and to getting people off of it and into a store. Today, with all our innovating, all our location-aware contextualized content, we are still fighting the same battle – how to move a consumer to purchase. No matter what we do, no matter what data we push, no matter what incentive we give it all comes down to convincing someone to step out of their house and into yours.