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In an ever-more competitive marketplace, customer engagement and loyalty can spell the difference between robust revenue and sagging sales.
Increasingly, businesses are turning to social media and other digital technology in hopes of attracting and keeping customers.
One of the most popular options is Foursquare, a free app that allows users to share location-based details about their activities, such as shopping or dining. Launched in 2009, Foursquare today has more than 30 million users worldwide, as well as in excess of 1 million businesses using its Merchant Platform.
The geo-social site offers a variety of tools for businesses and marketers. With Foursquare Local Updates, companies can share information and photos about sales, fundraising events, loyalty programs, new merchandise lines and other promotions.
Customers receive the Local Updates via their smartphone or other mobile device when they are in the vicinity of the particular business.
For example, business can attract potential customers – and support a good cause – by hosting a silent auction, trivia tournament or similar event for charity and sharing it on Foursquare.
Rewarding Loyal Customers
With the Foursquare Specials feature, businesses can offer online discounts and deals that customers redeem when they visit the place of business, which, in Foursquare speak, is known as “check-in”.
For example, a Rhode Island bar offered $5 pitchers of beer for the first 10 customers each day and a fast-food chain gave away free drinks with a sandwich purchase.
When Foursquare users search for businesses or other locations to visit, the discounts and specials are highlighted as orange pins on the app’s map feature.
Foursquare and other geo-social networks are likely to become even more important for businesses as smartphone ownership increases. Currently, about half of all U.S. adults own a smartphone.
According to a Pew Internet report, 74% of U.S. smartphone owners were receiving real-time, location-based information on their phones as of February 2012. That was up from 55% in May 2011.
The Pew report also noted that a growing number of smartphone owners were using an app such as Foursquare to check in at specific locations or share their location with friends – 18% of smartphone owners in February 2012 compared with 12% in May 2011.
Women were more likely than men to use geo-social services (20% versus 17%) and rates of use were higher among smartphone owners ages 18 to 29 (23%) compared to other age groups.
Tracking Customer Engagement
The dawn of the digital age has not only given businesses many more options for marketing their goods and services, it also has given them the ability to analyze the effectiveness of their marketing efforts in minute detail.
Foursquare offers free analytics that allows businesses to track how many customers are checking in, the number of first-time versus repeat visitors, and whether customers are sharing their check-ins across other social networks such as Twitter and Facebook (Foursquare users can choose to publish their check-ins to their Facebook and/or Twitter accounts).
This information is likely to prove invaluable in helping business owners to tailor their marketing and promotional efforts to the habits and preferences of their target audience.