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Why do location based services still suck for businesses?

By July 22, 201012 Comments1 min read

After millions of people have willingly handed over their location data to a multitude of companies running location based services, I ask you this question: Why do the tools the businesses have still suck?

Why is there no simple business account on foursquare that enables business owners to interact more dynamically with patrons? I know there are business accounts, but I still see companies creating accounts and friending people. Where is the tool that lets businesses blast out geo-targeted deals, or interest targeted deals? Where is the system that alerts a business owner when regulars or mayors show up? Why can’t we be “fans” of a business?

Gowalla is similarly lacking in focus on the business end of things. Where are the options for business owners to claim their venue? Drop custom items? Create their own challenges (could be excellent for chambers of commerce)?

Maybe I’m jumping the gun and we’ll see a roll out of these services in the next few months. Who knows, maybe a cpm based push message ad system is in the works for foursquare, tied in with check-ins, and coupon redemptions and you can quickly see the $100M valuation taking shape.

Or do they just need to build out business APIs and let creative people fill these holes?


  • mike ward says:

    For Gowalla, as the challenger the answer might be get some business-oriented features to market and hope to gain momentum.

    For Foursquare though, build APIs. Be the platform. Creative folks will certainly come along and build cool web apps for setting up user interaction campaigns. People will definitely build iphone apps to alert business owners when the mayor shows up. Folks will do great unexpected things if the API rocks.

  • I think the biggest issue is balancing the users experience with the offers they get. What they are probably trying to figure out is how to keep retention in checkings and maximize the ads. I think it becomes tricky if as a user you walk down the street and you get bombarded with ads in app.

    The other tricky bit is the apps are setup to reward once you are already at or near a location…. Advertisers are going to want to drive traffic that for the most part was not on their way to them, so it becomes a game of how do you reach out to users you have already visited your location but not near it.

  • You could balance this by doing an opt-in to your “favorite places” not just checking in, but adding a “like” functionality to the process. If I'm out at a bar, and another favorite of my bars pushes out “dollar shots for the next hour” I'll walk over.

  • Get a feeling we will be seeing a Twitter-like response to this. We'll see third-parties fill the holes (via third party apps or sites, etc.) then Foursquare/Gowalla will come out with their own better/more integrated service (mainly to increase profitability). Just a casual prediction.

  • that wouldn't surprise me. twitter's geo data isn't super accurate yet, mainly because its “passive” data.

  • Markjsorenson says:

    I think Foursquare and Gowalla are dancing around a 500 lb. gorilla in the room; POS integration. I can't see how these companies can really offer value to a merchant if there is no way for the merchant to verify that purchases are being made because of them. I can drive by a Starbucks and 'check-in' real quick, maybe even become the mayor, and get rewarded for it without ever buying anything from Starbucks. They have huge adoption from the end users and of course the 3rd parties are coming out of the woodwork to make the experience better, but unless the apps can actually talk to the cash register, Merchants are always going to be reluctant to offer attractive deals. Integration into the POS is going to happen eventually. It's a beast of an undertaking, but to me it's the keystone to making a valuable offering to the merchant. is the only company I see trying to tackle this issue. Are there any others?

  • Markjsorenson says:

    To do that effectively you need to know which users you want to target. That can't be done with Foursquare or Gowalla. Just because I am near a restaurant doesn't mean I am it's customer or even interested in what they offer. To my point above, there needs to be a way to track consumer behavior that is not a pain for the consumer. The only solution I can think of is actual POS integration where the time, date, location, and even menu items purchased can be tracked and where the user gets rewarded for it.

  • Mark,
    I don't think there is any way they get into all the mainstream POS systems. The cost is too high for the stores to upgrade to accomodate them. They could get in somehow through mobile payments.

    I think you need to look at things like swipely/blippy if you want to see interest by shopping habit networks/services. it will have to be low-tech (coupons/codes/barcodes).

  • Brent says:

    Take a look at They seem to have a solution for this.

  • Markjsorenson says:

    I disagree. Yes, traditionally there is a huge upfront cost for restaurants to integrate, but there are TONS of workarounds. There are 5 POS that account for 90% of the market. Most are easy enough to build an integration tool for. Swipely/blippy are just doing screen scrapes on your credit card account. This limits them to only being able to see credit card transactions. Cash customers go unnoticed. Mobile payments could work but then you have trouble with adoption from the merchants. Every restaurant has a POS and chances are it is one that can be integrated into. Dinerware, for example is completely open source.

  • Great article! I think Foursquare is focused on building the community, before they build the CRM. However, twitter and facebook could be the real potential players in the geo game to win big… Especially if none of these brands ie foursquare, gowalla, loopt etc can gain the trust of these merchants, while rewarding their users.

  • Shame on me for not reading this sooner. Experiencing this first hand when setting up AutoNation on Foursquare. Not even a simple dashboard option to manage all of my individual stores. To me, that would have been a basic step one.