This week, both Twitter and Facebook have come out with big location news. Twitter is adding geolocation features and Facebook will soon let users share their location. Both of those announcements could strike fear in the heart of a mobile check-in service like Foursquare. But Foursquare is banking its success in the mobile check-in space on attention to detail. And the company also has some new features — that could be very useful for small businesses.
In the next few weeks, Foursquare is going to start sharing a free analytics tool that will help small businesses track — and communicate with — their customers.
According to The New York Times, Foursquare will soon let business access the consumer data that it has been steadily acquiring since it launched last year:
"With the new tool, businesses will be able to see a range of real-time data about Foursquare usage, including who has “checked in” to the place via Foursquare, when they arrived, the male-to-female customer ratio and which times of day are more active for certain customers. Business owners will also be able to offer instant promotions to try to engage new customers and keep current ones.
That information could be extremely useful for small businesses trying to track consumer behavior.
Thirty small companies are testing the tool, and in a few weeks that number will increase to around 900. Available information includes Foursquare check-ins to a business, time of arrival, male-to-female ratio and hourly arrivals. Other exciting features are in the pipeline, like real-time promotions. Real-time coupons and information could go a long way toward helping businesses attract customers when they want them and to selling specific items.
Furthermore, small businesses will be able to communicate with people that come into their stores — or have stopped coming in:
"'If a restaurant can see one of its loyal customers has dropped off the map and is no longer checking in, the owner could offer them incentives to come back,' said [Tristan Walker, director of business development]."
But that could also lead to some trouble with users. According to The Times, one feature will include a staff page that "will allow employees to interact directly with customers using social networks."
Marketing spam originating from Foursquare could be unwelcome for the service's users. But Foursquare is clear that businesses can only contact customers through social media connected to Foursquare accounts. And users can opt out at any time. The site's privacy settings now include the following:
"We allow verified venue owners to see statistics about checkins at their venue. These stats include recent visitors, most frequent visitors and most popular checkin times. You can always opt out if you'd rather not share this data with the venues you visit."
For Foursquare, getting features like this right is key to keeping the favor of its users and getting businesses actively using their service. Companies large and small are desperate to get into local, real-time information. But delivering personalized content in a non-intrusive way is the key to success in the space, and Foursquare is working hard to get that part right.