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Best Buy, JCPenney drive back-to-school in-store traffic via foursquare

Merchants such as Best Buy, JCPenney and Adidas are using mobile check-ins on foursquare as a way to drive traffic into stores and help users save money during the back-to-school shopping season.

Back-to-school is an important shopping event for merchants, and leveraging mobile can be a key way to engage with customers who are increasingly using their devices to assist with shopping-related activities. While interest in third-party mobile check-ins has waned somewhat, these merchants are leveraging foursquare as a way to drive incremental foot traffic.

?All marketers would love to know where their consumers are at any time and learn from their moving behavior to optimize marketing/advertising efforts,? said Cezar Kolodziej, president/CEO of Iris Mobile, Chicago. ?Foursquare provides some notion of this by sharing with brands where foursquare users are in relation to any business who is interested in using this data to more effectively target their potential consumers.

?This works relatively well when foursquare users are also interested in the particular brand, which is not always the case,? he said. ?Moreover, most of the time, the location-sharing feature is manual and requires an explicit action from the consumer, this inevitably eliminates a significant chunk of potential consumers.

?Others social services like Facebook also allow their members to share their location with their friends, which even further decreases foursquare?s check-in results. All of these attributes have definitely contributed to foursquare?s position today, and the waning effect speaks for itself.?

Beyond check-ins
With the interest in check-ins declining and more retailers integrating check-ins into their own apps, foursquare has been looking for ways to differentiate itself.

For example, Toys ?R? Us and Diageo recently began testing a new mobile ad format from foursquare that doles out ads to consumers after they check-in to locations (see story).

Foursquare is also trying to make a name for itself in local search with a recent mobile application update that lets consumers find businesses on a more granular level (see story).

However, check-ins continue to be what the app is most associated with as merchants look to drive in-store traffic during important shopping periods such as back-to-school.

For example, while Best Buy recently updated its own mobile app with a new check-in feature that rewards loyalty members for shopping in-store regularly, it is still running a check-in promotion on foursquare for back-to-school, offering customers who check-in $25 back when they spend $250 and use an American Express card.

A check-in at Best Buy in New York

With apparel and accessories a big category for back-to-school shoppers, JCPenney is offering customers who check in a free personalization kit when they purchase new sneakers and a backpack.

Adidas is offering $15 back for every $75 customers spend when they pay via a synced American Express card.

Utrecht Art Supplies is driving multiple visits via foursquare by offering 20 percent off a purchase to customers who check in three times in two weeks. Barnes & Noble is offering $5 back for every $25 spent on a synced American Express card when customers check in.

Additionally, T-Mobile is offering 30 percent off accessories when customers check in.

As the mobile space continues to evolve, mobile check-ins are likely to play a role, but just what that role will be is unclear right now.

?Using some other brand to promote your own is not a good idea in the first place,? Mr. Kolodziej said. "This is why big brands such as Best Buy and others integrate the checking in feature into their own mobile apps - this allows them to interact with their own customers directly and achieve brand awareness and engagement far more powerful than doing it through third-party apps, as foursquare.

?Going even further, there are technologies out there today, in which the whole check-in process can be automatic for customers who are willing to share their location with brands they really like,? he said. ?With this method, brands who are using the location detection solution have far more flexibility with approaching the customer they know is close to their business location than through any other third-party provider.?

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Marketer, New York