Wondering how that barista knew your name before asking you? Check-in-based social networking game Foursquare has taken another step toward relevancy by adding analytics tools for businesses that participate. The new dashboard feature, still in alpha testing, gives data such as total number of check-ins, unique visitors, gender comparisons, and breakdowns by time. It also shows how people are sharing (over Twitter, for instance) and can differentiate between customers and staff members.
And this is just the beginning, according to the company. Tristan Walker, director of Foursquare business development, tells Mashable  that big innovations like weather tracking could allows business owners to offer specials based on real-time events. Imagine "It's snowing, so come into Joe's for a free small coffee with purchase!" popping up on your iPhone when you're outside freezing and just a block or two away. Hello Joe.
A new staff page feature also allows venue staffers to see who is currently visiting and communicate with customers. Notice a regular hasn't been in your store in a while? Tweet them about a cool new shirt that just came in to entice them back.
The data available is great for small, local businesses, and will allow them to engage with customers in an ultra-targeted way. But imagine, too, when it's scaled up to the Walmarts and McDonalds of the world. Voluntary real-time tracking of this nature is unprecedented. (Foursquare users will have the ability to opt out of business analytics, but isn't sharing sort of the point in the first place?)
The dashboard has been in testing with 30 businesses and venues for the last week and will soon be rolled out to the other 900+ businesses that currently run coupon specials on the app. But with priceless data like this, it's easy to imagine a blow-up in participating venues coming soon. More businesses means more users, more users means more businesses, and suddenly Foursquare is the Facebook of check-ins.
[Via NYTimes' Bits Blog ]