Loopt, tired of falling into the shadow of location games like Foursquare and Gowalla, has just upped its ante. A lot. It's releasing Loopt Star, a rewards scheme that basically turns it into a store loyalty card, stored electronically on your iPhone.
Loopt, if you remember, was playing in this check-in/service review/social network space from pretty early on. Recently, though, the limelight has shifted away from Loopt onto Foursquare and Gowalla, thanks to Foursquare's big-name advertising "checkin" partners and tight Twitter integration. It's precisely because of these moves by Foursquare that Loopt has launched Star.
Star is a new app, requiring a new download to your iPhone or iPod Touch, but it integrates the existing checkin protocols from Loopt so regular users will find they can still update their friends on their whereabouts. The main thrust of the new service is this location-based reward scheme, and to demonstrate its power Gap is taking part in the launch with a 25% discount voucher on the second checkin to a store location—redeemable on the spot, unlike your usual stingy loyalty rewards. Universal is offering free MP3s if you checkin with Loopt friends to participating bars, and non-reward schemes are also being offered by retailers and organizations like Starbucks, which instead offer badges and honorary statuses (like Starbucks' "honorary barista badge).
The move is a significant revamp for Loopt, and it demonstrates the power of this new medium for advertising: Just a few years ago schemes like this would've been no more than intellectual curios, but now they present enough of a value proposition for participating advertiser partners that these companies are prepared to invest in multiple LBS platforms. It also shows a trend toward more relaxed user thinking about "live" location-sharing. Users grow accustomed to having advertising tagged to their location and freely sharing that location information. And this hints that in the future, thanks to systems like Loopt and its competition, the sort of semi-intelligent location- and user-aware advertising schemes that sci-fi movies like Minority Report have imagined in the future may actually arrive sooner than you think.