Consumers are always looking for ways to save on their holiday shopping, and they're increasingly turning to their mobile phones to find nearby deals and discounts. So while you are lined up waiting for Black Friday doorbusters, or if you are putting together your holiday shopping list on the go, take the time to sign up for Foursquare before you make your purchase. A location-based, social media check-in app, Foursquare, with more than 25 million user across the globe, allows you to socialize with friends while broadcasting your whereabouts. But it also connects its users with more than one million local businesses offering deals, discounts and specials via its Merchant Platform. Want to find out how you can get in on the action? All you have to do in check-in.
How does it work?
With the app installed on their smartphone, users can check-in to all the places they visit throughout the day: their office, a local coffee shop, the Post Office or the gym. Checking-in gives points (which have no real value, but are just a fun way to engage with friends on the networks) and can also unlock various badges. The savings come into play when merchants begin to claim their venues and offer incentives to users who check-in to their locations.
We spoke to Steven Rosenblatt, Foursquare's Chief Revenue Officer, who explains, "Foursquare is a great money saving tool, and with over 1 million verified merchants, it offers tons of specials for users to enjoy. With [the] Explore [feature], Foursquare users can find places--a particular store, restaurant or coffee shop--that are recommended specifically for them based on their location, the time of day, and the types of places they've checked into in the past."
Savings made easy
There are a variety of specials -everything from discounts, to freebies, to bonus savings- that a user can unlock with a check-in. For example, a business might run a "Newbie Special" that gives customers 20% off with their first check-in to attract new people. The "Friends Special" rewards users when they check in with their friends by offering something free or discounted to the group. Return customers can be rewarded with a "Loyalty Special" that gives out a special bonus after multiple check-ins.
Through a partnership with American Express, Foursquare offers another avenue for savings. "People that link their Foursquare and AMEX accounts are able to access specials exclusive to cardholders at over 100,000 businesses across the country," says Rosenblatt. "Once a special is unlocked by a check-in, a user simply has to load the special to their card within the app, and then they'll receive an AMEX statement credit in 3-5 days."
Making it work for the holidays
It is true that Foursquare users can benefit from these specials on a year-round basis. However, during Black Friday and the holidays, many merchants up their game to give users even greater incentive than normal. Rosenblatt elaborates, "The number of Black Friday specials continues to increase year-over-year, and businesses are getting very creative in designing campaigns."
In the past, Sports Authority has awarded $500 gift cards to 20 random Foursquare users across the country for the last two years on Black Friday, and last year JCPenney donated $25 to the Salvation Army for every check-in during the holiday season. For the 2012 shopping season, merchants are still working on their promotions. Our recommendation to FourSquare users hoping to save: keep a look out for the orange star icon (pictured at left) that denotes "Specials," then check-in on Black Friday for discounts and bonuses.