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In parallel with our constant harping on the need for more substance in check-in services, there has been a general movement to “move beyond the check-in.” We discussed it recently with Gowalla’s Andy Ellwood, and it’s becoming a common talking point at industry events.

The check-in isn’t going away though. Location, as SimpleGeo’s Matt Galligan asserted at Web 2.0 last week, is just a foundational layer upon which all kinds of cool stuff will continue to be built. And the check-in is becoming more of a means than an end, as it should.

That end has carried its own weight so far on the appeal of game mechanics and badges, but has more recently evolved into exchanges of monetary value, like coupons. This is a necessary evolutionary step, as game mechanics lose novelty over time.

Foursquare is the latest to evolve this idea further. It’s long been a proponent of moving beyond the check-in and has offered users deals, promotions and financial incentives for checking in. But last week, it brought this to the next step with a series of new ad partners.

This will involve pushing into the loyalty card space, where LBS competitors like Loopt and PlacePop have already ventured. It will work with Safeway, as well as as a series of CPG brands like Pepsi to tie Foursquare accounts to existing loyalty card programs.

But the key is that offers will be driven by a range of check-in activity, going beyond just location or mayoral status. Offers will be triggered and sent to users based on the check-in activity throughout their day, involving a broader set of relevance points.

This is important as one of the downsides of most current check-in deals is that you’re rewarding someone who has already walked in your door. Doesn’t it make more sense to appeal to customers who aren’t already standing at the cash register?

In other words, instead of offering a Peets coupon to someone who checks in at Peets, other data points are used to indicate who’s a likely coffee drinker (lots of early check-ins) or who’s a likely barfly (lots of late check-ins).

So along these lines, Foursquare will offer Sobe energy drink coupons (redeemable at Vons) to anyone who unlocks the “gym rat” badge. Or picture a Red Bull coupon for someone with frequent check-ins at a campus library … you get the idea.

This is basically behavioral targeting meets location. In that sense, it’s really just an extension of Foursquare’s model with additional data points as well as brand and retail partners to tie it all together.

The program will start at 300 Vons stores throughout California, and grow from there. I expect to see these partners grow in both number and across verticals where check-in activity translates to user intent (i.e., arts & entertainment, events, etc.).

For now, it’s a good move and we’ll see similar ones from the growing batch of check-in services out there — at least those that will survive.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Foursquare is working with grocery coupon giant Catalina Marketing on the Vons/Safeway programs to extend check-ins into the grocery aisle. Grocery stores are significant because they are the leaders in understanding how promotions influence spend and loyalty.

    As a result, look to Foursquare to get scary-smart in 2012 and beyond at taking the same lessons to other retail segments. And, I would have to say that the combination of Foursquare/Catalina makes at least as much sense as a Google/Groupon ever did.

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