Beyond Deals, Beyond Points: Location-Based Apps Could Do More!

Abstract: With the novelty of location based apps wearing off, companies like FourSquare and SCVNGR face a simple business problem: why should people play their “game?” Beyond deals and virtual rewards there is huge potential to engage with new and old users if we consider how location tech can offer them more value (and real utility).

Originally published right here.

In days of yore location based apps were really cool, and it was enough for users to simply rack up meaningless points and win virtual badges. But as the novelty wore off many people were left wondering: why am I “checking in” again?

FourSquare and SCVNGR frame their apps as social, casual games, with SCVNGR describing itself as “the game layer on top of the world.” Users score points and level up by checking in and completing challenges. Cool.

Further, many people I’ve spoken with engage with these platforms primarily as digital rewards cards, i.e. buy 9 coffees get the 10th free. This combination of gaming for rewards is good, but there is still much untapped potential.

Big idea: beyond deals and virtual points there are other compelling reasons for people play location based games. People like fun, but they like utility, too.

Let’s consider some problems people face in their day-to-day lives and how location based apps might pick up more users by offering innovative solutions.

Consumer Problem 1: Where are we going tonight?

Thinking about the user/customer, what benefits might compel them to “check in” beyond a free drink or racking up points? Consider the benefit of giving people the chance to build something useful for themselves. Perhaps it’s their own, personalized “Best of Boston” list.

  • Dramatization: Saturday night at 5pm, a visiting friend asks where we’re headed tonight. My mind goes blank. Fortunately, on SCVNGR I’ve been tagging my favorite spots and new places I’ve discovered in passing every time I check in. Pulling out my personalized map/list I remember the new bar a few T stops down.

Take-away: It’s not all about rewards and points. Giving users a quick and easy way to build and maintain lists of their favorite spots around town provides a real benefit (utility) and it gives them another reason to play.

Consumer Problem 2: What was that new restaurant I read about?

Magazines like Stuff, The Improper Bostonian, Boston Magazine etc. are filled with reviews of restaurants, clubs, barber shops etc., but these spots are often tough for the average person to remember. Imagine the potential of placing branded QR codes at the end of these reviews. Scan these codes with X location based app to add the spot in question to a list of “places to try later.”

  • Dramatization: It’s 8:30am on Tuesday, flipping through the latest Best of Boston I spot a new sushi place I’d love to try. I spot the SCVNGR QR code beside the review and scan it. Come Friday afternoon I pull up my list of places to try, remember this spot and make a plan.

Take-away: Yes it’s all game, but how can you make it easier for people to play? Think about the whole process, not just what happens with the user checks in: get involved with users during the decision making process and make that process easier.

Consumer Problem 3: Where are the best (dive, posh, affordable…) bars in my city?

We know that consumers are passionate about their favorite brands and they like getting involved (in fact it’s an expectation). Well, then why not let the sharing begin, as well as the competition. Opening up user-generated favorites lists (discussed above) to all users makes for more reasons to play.

  • Dramatization: Thursday night, checking in at my favorite bar I see this message – “This bar is ranked the 3rd best dive bar in Boston, do you think it deserves this ranking or not? Vote up or down.” Are you kidding, it’s the best. Hey David, get your phone!

Take-away: Location based platforms are (in part) social media, but are they really that social? Right now they offer little more than virtual guest books for users. Instead try facilitating more interactions between users, be it cooperative or competition based, they are waiting for the chance.

Conclusion: As an account planner, it’s my job to give the consumer a voice. Gaming is fun and rewards are great, but with the early adopters all adopted it’s time to think about normal consumers. Get them playing by offering as much value as possible, and beyond rewards you can offer value with utility. Start providing solutions to their day-to-day problems and you’ll be on your way.

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One response to “Beyond Deals, Beyond Points: Location-Based Apps Could Do More!

  • A letter to the Chief Ninja « Wicked Good Planning

    […] For example, it’s tough to keep track of all the cool spots around town that I like, and especially tough to remember when friends come to visit. If, at check in, I could tag places into favorites lists, soon I’d have my very own Best of Boston list with me all plotted out on Google maps. That’s real value in the form of utility (read more). […]

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