Foursquare: Retail Quicksand

FoursquareIt was not so long ago that I first recall seeing that one of my Facebook Friends had become the “Mayor” of a local business. I admittedly had absolutely no idea what that meant. But that was then and this is now.

After doing some very cursory research into what this whole “Mayor” thing was about, I discovered Foursquare. My initial reaction was that this was merely another reincarnation of a Facebook Application that was more or less a game; a game to see who could be the virtual “King of the Mountain”. Due to my competitive side, I immediately signed up for an account and downloaded the App to my BlackBerry. What I discovered was so much more than a game.

I started out getting nowhere fast. I would forget to check in at places. I was often worried of looking like a dork to my friends on Facebook (see: “Justin just checked in at the grocery store, the dermatologist, the gas station, etc.”). I thought, “who really does this all the time?” and then I figured it out.

For me, Foursquare has evolved into a few different things. First of all, my competitive side still reins supreme. I want to be the “Mayor” of as many locations as possible. I want to have the most “Badges” out of all my friends. Ultimately, Foursquare feeds my ego.

Next, is another completely narcissistic use of Foursquare. I like to use Foursquare as a broadcast personal global-positioning tool. How is that narcissistic? Simple. I want to check-in somewhere and have someone show up because I am there. Don’t get me wrong, I am no celebrity, but it happens, especially if you have your Foursquare account connected to your Facebook account. I know that I personally have many more friends on Facebook than on Foursquare.

And now, to get to the point. The final way I use Foursquare, which is certainly the most beneficial to this user, is for discounts. My girlfriend, who ironically enough, is glued to her phone every minute of the day when she is not at work, has made fun of me for my incessant use of Foursquare. That is, until a discount I received ended up netting her some new clothes. We were doing some early Christmas shopping and I stopped in a store at the local mall. I intendd on buying a sweater and as I was looking, my girlfriend wandered into the Women’s section of the store and saw some jeans she just had to have.

In typical male style, I picked out my sweater in no time at all, and was ready to check out. She insisted on trying on her latest find, and while she was in the fitting room, I pulled out my BlackBerry and checked-in to the Store. I almost immediately saw that they were offering an exclusive promotion to Foursquare users. I couldn’t wait for her to exit the fitting room to show her how my obsessive “Foursquaring” had paid off. I was going to buy her the jeans and save some money. She wasn’t impressed. All she cared about was the fact that she was getting free jeans. She didn’t care why. She didn’t care how. But I impressed myself, and saved a few bucks in the process.

As we checked out, I showed the girl working the register my phone and she paid almost no attention. I asked if she need the coupon code, and she said she already knew it. That was an indication to me that many people were obviously using the Foursquare promotion at this venue. We exited the store and resumed our shopping.

As we went from store to store, I found myself checking-in everywhere and looking for promotions and discounts. I found myself contemplating buying things I didn’t need or want and going into stores that I had no intention of patronizing just to see if there was anything I might want to buy. My more rational side triumphed, but ultimately I had discount-fueled adrenaline running through my veins and was hoping to take advantage of a good deal.

Foursquare was like “Retail Quicksand”. I walked on it expecting to stand on solid ground of savings, but it sucked me in. Before I knew it I was chest deep in unnecessary purchases. I knew I didn’t intend on buying things, but the excitement of getting an “unadvertised” deal was appealing. I felt like I was part of a special club, an insider. I got out alive, Foursquare could have put the proverbial nail in my retail coffin.

I began using Foursquare on an impulse. The idea of being the “Mayor” of some venue, no matter how mundane, was intriguing to me. As I my usage increased, I, like many red-blooded American consumers, found out I simply can’t resist a deal.


About Justin Leshynski

Co-Founder & VP of Operations at @davantidigital | Social Media Evangelist | Self-Proclaimed Raconteur | Knowledge-Seeker | Bullet-Dodger | The Kid Your Mother Warned You About
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3 Responses to Foursquare: Retail Quicksand

  1. Bob Garrett says:

    Hey Justin great post

    I too am a Foursquare junkie (ton of check in’s, mayorship’s, friends – closing in on 5000) and I like to be an early adapter of stuff – always have. In fact I was using the Internet a few decades before Al Gore invented it.

    What I think most businesses are missing is the crowd effect of 4sq. If a business can generate enough buzz with their 4sq promotion, the surrounding businesses should also benefit, if done correctly.

    I believe we are still early on with 4sq and there is more to come. One idea is when you are in a general location, your smart phone will alert you to deals with the vicinity vs you having to check it out. Consider when you are driving down the street (or walking) and your GPS (on your smart phone) alerts you to special deals (gas shopping eating) within a radius of where you are. And whats really cool, is when connected to Facebook and you can see if anyone is there that you might know or has rated the business. I would love to get a free drink or that dinner special if others have tried it first.

    Always looking for an RSS – 🙂

    Happy Thanksgiving!

    • Thanks for the comment Bob. We are on the same page when in comes to Foursqare. I have been waiting for “deal notifications” for some time now and believe there is a ton of potential for businesses using Foursquare properly. Thanks again for connecting and please follow me on Twitter @justindigital. Enjoy your Holiday!

  2. Pingback: Foursquare: Retail Quicksand – Retail Power Tools

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