How to Attract Customers to Your Storefront with Foursquare

FoursquareFoursquare is one of the leading geo-location check-in mobile applications available to the millions of smart phone users around the world.  It basically allows people to indicate they are at or nearby a given location based on GPS enabled services bundled with their phone.  If you think this sounds silly, consider the fact that Foursquare has 15 million users as of March 2012.

Unlike Twitter, where people mostly talk about what they’re up to, Foursquare uses GPS to geo-tag an individual’s location. For example, if I visit Starbucks I can use the Foursquare iPhone app to “check-in”. When I do this, all my Foursquare friends and Twitter followers get an update or notification. That is, roughly 1500 people now see that I’m at Starbucks. While I’m there I can also add a comment, attach a photo or leave a tip for others that check-in later.

Why Consumers Use Foursquare

Why do I use Foursquare as a consumer? I check-in on Foursquare for a few reasons. First, I want to share places I love with my friends. I love the lunch menu at West Main Restaurant in Charlottesville, so every time I go there I take a picture of my meal and check-in. I also check-in to places because maybe it’s someplace new and I want to make other people aware of this store or location. Finally, I check-in on Foursquare because I want rewards. If I check-in enough I’ll become what’s called the Mayor. In some restaurants and retail establishment, the Mayor is given special discounts, free parking or other perks. That’s where you come in.

Why Businesses Use Foursquare

Businesses need to get a grasp on Foursquare to leverage the fact that there are millions of users checking in all the time. In Charlottesville alone there are likely 2,000 – 3,000 people actively using Foursquare on a regular basis. Most of us share our check-ins on Twitter and Facebook. What does this mean for your business? Well, if your business has some special incentive you could offer those who check-in or earn Mayor status, your brand can get a serious number of impressions across the social landscape rather quickly.

If you own a business, go to, register as a user and claim your location. Set up a special for all the Foursquare users out there and make it a good one. I don’t want 10% off – I want something really special.

Retailer Venue Setup on Foursquare

Most retailers have a listing on Foursquare whether they know it or not.  By simply creating an account, they can login, claim their location and update their profile with additional information to help spread the word and best represent their brand on Foursquare.  It only takes a few minutes and can  make a world of difference.  For example, you can add detailed address information, product categories, and add tips and links to content you choose.

Setting up Foursquare Specials

Foursquare Specials on iPhoneRetailers and other businesses that use Foursquare have the ability to leverage Foursquare by offering Specials – incentives to Foursquare users that perform certain check-in behavior in order to earn rewards. There are four types of Specials a business can offer on Foursquare:

Friends Special –
You can set a minimum number of foursquare friends a user needs to check-in with to unlock a Special. That special is only redeemed when that pre-set number of friends check-in together. The goal is to get groups of friends coming to your venue.

Swarm Special –
You can set a minmum number of foursquare users that need to check-in within a 3-hour window in order to unlock this Special. It can only be unlocked once per day per venue, and is great to incentivize large groups to visit your business!

Flash Special –
This Special gets its name from “Flash Sale”. You set the number of Specials that you want to unlock per day, then after that its first-come, first-serve. When it reaches the unlock limit, there are no more Specials for the day. This is great for special limitied quanity sales.

Newbie Special –
This type of Special unlocks on a user’s first time visitng your venue. This is the most direct way to drive new traffic to your venue.

Check-in Special –
These are our classic Specials. They unlock on every check-in, or on whatever conditions you apply. This is great for rewarding users on their routine check-ins.

Mayor Special –
This Special is swarded to the Mayor fo your venue. The foursquare Mayor is the most frequent visitor over the last 60 days. This is a great way to reward your best customer and encouraging competition for the prize.

Loyalty Special –
There are a few ways to use a loyalty Special. You can reward a user every X times they visit, you can reward them for coming in X times in total, or you can reward them for being loyal within a certain period: for X visits over Y days.

The Newbie, Check-in, and Mayor specials seem to be most popular, I guess becuase they require the least amount of effort on behalf of both the customer and retailer.  The other types of specials require longer-term participation and/or multiple users, so they maybe the next logical step.

What’s most suprising is how few retailers actually setup Specials.  In Charlottesville, for example, there are roughly 15 specials throughout the entire city at any given time.  Also, for those that have Specials, they haven’t changed … ever!  Some retailers have had the same specials for nearly a year.  Personally, I think they would benefit from some variety, especially, given the new types of specials available.

Fast Start with Foursquare

If you’re a retailer, first visit Foursquare and find your venue by searching on the homepage.  If it’s listed you can “Claim this Venue” and make the necesary adjustments.  If your venue does not already exist on foursquare, you can create a new venue by scrolling to the bottom of the search results (bottom of page) and clicking “Add a new venue to foursquare.”

Next, think about potential Specials you can run.  Maybe run two to begin – one that’s easy for folks to achieve with a single check-in and another that requires some more work.  Make it something truly fantastic, something they’ll want to share with all their friends on Twitter and Facebook.

What do you think of Foursquare?  Do you find it useful as a consumer?  Has your business seen much success using Foursquare to drive business?

Please leave a comment below or on Twitter @steinarknutsen.