Foursquare's Merchant Platform launched in 2010 to "give businesses an easy way to reward their customers and find new ones," but Foursquare has now revamped the system to "give merchants a way to learn more about their best customers and start offering Specials to help them get new people into their location." So says Foursquare's blog posting  revealing the revamp.
What's this all about? It's about tapping into some of the daily deals /coupons business that's big at the moment, and about increasing the attractiveness of Foursquare to advertising partners--who can now get access to richer analytic data about their customers coming via Foursquare, which is valuable for marketing.
Here's how Foursquare is making this appealing. The specials can be of five specific types to help partners draw in more customers, and two to "reward" loyal customers--though both are, at heart, ways of touting a tiny bit of loss-lead in order to earn larger future business. "Flash" specials equate to a door-buster offer, going (for example) to the first person to checkin at a location at a specific moment. "Friends" attracts groups of people to one location at once in order to unlock a voucher, and "swarms" is a similar feature that's perhaps a little similar to flashmobbing. "Newbies" is aimed at attracting first-timer checkins, but the "loyalty" and "mayor" specials are all about rewarding frequent visitors--and keeping them coming back. This diverse crop of deal types is handy for businesses who can carefully craft a deal/checkin game to suit their particular business need at that moment (got a whole batch of cakes that have an imminent "eat by" date? Try a "friends" deal to attract a bunch of customers).
All of this is managed by a new merchant analytics "dashboard" to make it simple as pie, and you can even run multiple specials at once. To see how well the special deals are working out as marketing tools, the system lets you see aggregate stats before during and after a special goes live--handy if you're the kind of business that will use recurring specials to drive sales, since it lets you tweak the terms of the next special offer based on the success of the previous ones.
The new system is available from this Friday to all "quarter million" business that're already verified with Foursquare's merchant partner scheme, as well as the "thousands more" that join every week, as Foursquare notes. Foursquare announced  its new 3.0 edition just yesterday, which includes other tweaks to its core checkin model such as a new Google-challenging Recommendations engine. Those tweaks were aimed at improving the model for its core users and keeping Foursquare relevant as a "richer" experience above and beyond the very simple core checkin game model--but this new tweak is definitely aimed at driving Foursquare's revenue earning potential, via its ad partner merchants. Earning money down the road that is--for the time being this rich kind of analytic/management system (which other services charge for) is free to verified merchants.
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