The one simple feature all location-based services should have in common: a business thank-you message
The geographic nature of these services creates hot spots, most notably in urban areas but also in the regions where the companies were founded. Foursquare is hottest in New York, while it should come as no surprise that Gowalla, Whrrl, and SCVNGR are favorites in Austin, Seattle, and Boston respectively. Next, you have niche applications like Foodspotting and JustSpotted, which are both location- and subject-specific. There are vertical-interest checkin applications like those from ESPN, the NBA, and Apple. There are location-based gaming applications like MyTown. And finally there are the catch-all LBS applications from Facebook and Twitter.
Regardless of fragmentation for any reason, each app shares the checkin feature (or some variation) in common. We’d like to suggest another universal feature: “Thank you for checking in.”
As LBS companies struggle with the notion of “checkin fatigue” and how to provide long-term value for consumers, this is an easy first step. Enable businesses to automate a thank-you message. No coupon. No special offer. No reward for becoming the mayor or completing a series of challenges. Just a simple and sincere gesture of gratitude.
In other words, “I appreciate that you chose to engage with my business by checking in and potentially sharing this experience with your friends. I hope our product or service exceeds your expectations and that you enjoy your experience enough to return. Just know that we’re listening, we’re aware of your checkin, and we’re thankful to have you.”
If we’ve learned one thing from social media, it’s that consumer engagement and acknowledgement matter. Just ask any community manager. The problem with LBS apps is that the mechanisms for reciprocating these engagements are not as straightforward or accessible as, say, Twitter or a blog post. For the most part, checkins are met with crickets chirping (or deafening silence, choose the metaphor that best suits you). A few of the apps award points and offer other rewards, but consumers aren’t checking into the apps. The app is the medium. They’re checking into and engaging with a place. If that place is a business, then they’re probably looking for some type of acknowledgement for their effort. This starts with a “Thank you” on behalf of the business itself.
Implementation of this feature can vary. It may be that a thank-you message can only be triggered on a customer’s second or third checkin and then every five checkins after that so as not to be spammy. We’d suggest the ability to upload a logo to properly brand the message, and businesses ought to properly register with each LBS to activate this feature. Gowalla recently launched a set of business features that enable one to claim their spot and “welcome fans with a check-in message or special promotion.” We assume this can be as simple as thanking you for checking in. Several companies offer variations on this. Our point is that a thank-you message ought to be a universal feature that is uniform in its simplicity and intent. The space may be fragmented, but we can all agree that saying “Thank you” is good manners.
This isn’t to suggest that an automated thank-you message is enough to keep people checking in long-term. It’s meant as a first step to enable businesses to reciprocate these engagements and explore the nature of LBS without going right to discounts, sweepstakes, or some other elaborate scheme. Ultimately, a business will want to reward customer loyalty with coupons and exclusive offers. In the beginning—and we are clearly at the beginning—a simple thank you will suffice.