Published in Inc, by Lou Dubois
Thursday, July 21, 2011
Tying a traditional loyalty program to social and location-based check-ins can be an easy way for businesses to attract customers and make money. Here’s how to determine whether it’s worth it for your business and then how to pull it off.
Foursquare has made major strides over the past two years. In the last month alone, the location-based check-in service has signed up their 10 millionth user, agreed to remarket daily deals from Groupon and Living Social, and announced a game-changing partnership with American Express.With the American Express partnership, consumers checking in on Foursquare at select merchants and paying with their American Express cards receive significant discounts (for example, spending $50 at Sports Authority, you’ll receive a $20 account credit), simply by linking the accounts.
At their core, LBS services are another way for businesses to track and reward their most loyal customers. And according to research from international payment systems provider ACI Worldwide, loyalty programs need a lot of work. In the study, ACI found that three out of four Americans are members of at least one retail loyalty card program, but 85 percent of members haven’t heard a word from the program since the day they signed up. Loyalty programs are simply another customer retention channel, and according to February's Harvard Business Review on Increasing Customer Loyalty, "91 percent of small businesses do absolutely nothing to retain their existing clients."
“Current loyalty programs are stale and commoditized,” notes Aaron Strout, the Austin-based head of location-based marketing at WCG World and co-author of the forthcoming book Location Based Marketing for Dummies. “Only a small group of people ever qualify for ‘Platinum Elite’ or ‘Gold Membership’ while most of the general population never gets to participate meaningfully. With location-based services, companies can now allow their diehards to earn additional points while giving away gifts, experiences and recognition for the newer and younger customers.”
In this guide, we’ll explore what types of businesses should be experimenting with Foursquare for loyalty, explain why combining traditional loyalty programs with Foursquare can be beneficial in acquiring and retaining customers, and the steps needed to actually combine the two.
Why Combining Traditional Loyalty Programs With Foursquare Makes Sense
“There are really three things that matter when it comes to loyalty,” says Tristan Walker, the Palo Alto-based director of business development at Foursquare. “It’s all about recency, frequency and providing real value to your customer set, which is what we’re doing in the American Express deal. When you combine the data merchants have on their customers with our data, it becomes more meaningful.”
As Foursquare has grown, their data set has been solid in tracking frequency and recency, but only recently with American Express and other partnerships with Starwood Hotels, Safeway Markets, Pepsi and more have they tied in the value part of the equation. And with the proliferation of smartphones here in America (nearly 78 million people in America now have them, according to recent research from Prosper Mobile Insights), tapping into buyer activity on their phones can really simplify the process. But for businesses, it’s about evaluating where your customers are. If they’re already checking into your location on Foursquare, you have an opportunity to build a stronger relationship. But Foursquare can only be a portion of your mobile marketing strategy.
“It may be surprising to hear me say this, but I don’t think you should abandon traditional loyalty programs for Foursquare,” Walker adds. “That’s because I think the most effective organizations will find a way to combine the two.”
Need an example? Perhaps no industry is as well known for their loyalty programs as supermarkets. That’s why the Safeway Markets partnership with Foursquare and PepsiCo, where they worked with their California-based Vons franchises, was such an interesting one. By swiping your Vons Club Card, it automatically checks you in on Foursquare and gives you the potential to unlock cool rewards from PepsiCo. That takes the guesswork out of a cashier needing training around how to fulfill a Foursquare deal, and gives automatic and tangible rewards. Another example is Tasti D-light, who connected traditional loyalty to their TastiRewards program. They have connected their two programs by integrating their point-of-sale with Foursquare, Twitter and Facebook.