Foursquare, Loopt, Gowalla and Shopkick – they can be gamed

Having blogged about it a couple of times, I have also been ‘using’ Foursquare’s location based platform to ‘check-in’ over the past five months. I am dubiously proud of being able to claim that I am the ‘Mayor’ of the Acela club at CitiField in New York.

And I have been to the Acela club exactly three times this season which leads me to think that people who visit the Acela club do not subscribe or care about Foursquare. In fact the few people I asked who work there had never even heard of location based services like Foursquare. As Acela club ‘mayor’ I have not been offered the key to CitiField or even a free drink – alcoholic or not.

In an article in today’s NY Times, it was noted that Loopt is offering people a mobile game that rewards people for checking in frequently to particular places. And as such one can become ‘boss’ of certain locations – sort of like being the mayor. The key thing is that companies like Gap, Burger King Etc., plan to use Loopt Star to reward loyal customers. Foursquare is also working with its partners to offer real-time rewards for check-ins and frequencies of visits.

One thing the article fails to mention is the vagaries of GPS check in on these platforms. I know for example on Foursquare when I attempt to ‘check-in’ I am given a list of nearby locations even if I am smack in the middle of one on the list. (Somehow I find it really odd that if I am sitting in a Starbucks it tells me that the one I am sitting in is somehow 137 meters away). But I can also check-in to any of these GPS-enabled locations whether I am actually physically there or not.

GPS technology is set to make a major leap forward with the advent of High Accuracy-NDGPS which will enable accuracy to the centimeter level. This will be a critical enhancement since it appears that I can check in at any number of places simultaneously/concurrently (or at least in quick sequence), so that I could gain reward points at places I actually never visited.

Think about it, you are sitting at coffee shop in the middle of the city, but you check in at Burger King (for the third time that week) even though you have been to the Burger King. Now Burger King sends you a coupon for a soda with a sandwich purchase. Retailer margins will be squeezed. People will game the system – that can be guaranteed.

I understand that companies can counter that talk about the fact the patron actually purchased something, but at the same time product is being given away for nothing. And how is that a good idea?

So join up now and get free stuff – while you can.

About markkolier

Futurist, entrepreneur, left lane driver, baseball lover
This entry was posted in Customer Experiences, Marketing stuff, Social Media and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Foursquare, Loopt, Gowalla and Shopkick – they can be gamed

  1. Fede says:

    Very interesting article Mark. While I agree with you that people may abuse this type of social platforms, I also think that retailers can actually take advantage of it. If for example, they offer a bundled discount to anyone checking in to a place, they could promote additional traffic and more transactions. Remember that retailers give away coupons all the time. Yes, the gross margin is a little smaller, but the overall profitability goes up due to additional sales with no incremental fixed cost. That’s why the give away products for nothing


    • markkolier says:

      Thanks for the comment and yes I agree that retailers can take advantage of it by appealing to and attracting new customers. They need to be wary of how people will actually engage and measure, measure, measure!


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