Saturday, November 20, 2010

Converting those who say: Foursquare's NOT for Me!

As some may be aware,  I religiously follow the tweets of my virtual mentor Olivier Blanchard (aka @thebrandbuilder).  He recently got into a feisty discussion about Foursquare. Some good points were made about the platform, but clearly he explained that there are numerous opportunities within their business model to be improved upon to make it a stand-out leader & to grow among their competitors.

"For Foursquare to scale, adoption has to accelerate. How do I do that? I focus on businesses AND users/players." - Olivier Blanchard
Image from
That conversation got me thinking about if & why or why not the people I converse with on a regular basis have adopted this mobile app since I've rarely seen any of them "checking in" via fb or twitter. Or perhaps they have & I missed it since it's a declaration of a particular time, place & event.

So, I did a rather informal & non-statistical survey among a few Twitter & Facebook friends.  Out of the 15 women that responded:
  • 2 had no idea what Foursquare was
  • 3 deliberately don't use it, citing privacy concerns
  • 6 are more active users
  • & 4 are either non-recent or infrequent users.
I personally fall into the never been interested for privacy bucket, so with me, there are 4 in that category and 16 total, however I am curious to understand what all the fuss is about.  When I compare it to other reward vehicles like a debit or credit card that pays me cash back every time I use it and loyalty programs who utilize something as simple as a punch card, the value proposition just doesn't measure up fast enough to make it worth my time.

Trophy Case & badges ~ From
One major consideration would be that I am NOT a gamer. Although I've been very competitive over the years from an athletic perspective, video games will never hook me. I'm also not interested in the status of a hypothetical political title, so being proclaimed a "Mayor" doesn't cut it either.

So what would Foursquare need to do to convert me, the value-conscious, but curious segment, in order to attract & retain me as a user? The Utilization & Retention challenge certainly isn't a new one, but good marketing plans that understand & build programs to proactively manage them supports every good revenue model.When you're talking about a free service, there's little value in a database of inactive users.

So for those of us that find no status in badges & titles, what rewards will get & keep us engaged? Take a lesson from retailers like @Target, who has introduced a new 5% immediate discount on every purchase. Kids Hair just convinced me to buy a coupon book which essentially gives me a free hair cut for my munchkin when I buy a bunch up front. They already see me & my wallet every 6 weeks.  Once Upon A Child hooks me with stamp incentives for paying with cash & bringing my own bag.  Those stamps add up to 15% of my purchase total, a discount which I can really use. Caribou hands out $2.00 off coupons that are valid if you come back & order another drink after 2:00pm when I'm in need of a boost, but feel guilty about spending the extra cash. Get the idea? Foursquare do you care about connecting with me or not?

Reward us where we already live & breathe versus trying to get people to always have to "try some new spot" in order to "play the game". That may have worked on me in my 20's, but not so much now in this stage of life. Watch my behaviors & then approach those businesses I frequent & say "here's your customer, what can we do for them to add value to your relationship & save them money instantly." Don't just say "here businesses come & figure this out for yourselves", or "here, go ahead & build an app".  Own the relationships, grow them & be a real partner.

 "I think use is across the board re: generation, social identity groups, etc." - @cindyelizabeth

That may be true but this is not a one size fits all kind of world we live in.  As a consumer I care about businesses that put me first & care about me & my personal shopping, or the rare entertainment/dining experiences. After all it's my time, my loyalty & my dollars to spend. In this economy, none of us can afford to just give that away.  Foursquare needs to earn my trust, loyalty & respect. 

Should Foursquare just be left to flounder in it's present manifestation? Or perhaps I shouldn't even be curious.  Share your thoughts here.

You might also be interested in this study from @emarketer  ~ Still Waiting on that Mobile Couponing Explosion

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